Class of 2003
President, College Council
I graduated from Melbourne Girls’ College in 2003 and completed an honours degree in political science at the University of Melbourne, before enrolling in the Juris Doctor at Melbourne Law School. Upon graduating from law school, I qualified as a lawyer at the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office, where I worked for several years as a solicitor practising predominantly in constitutional law. Currently, I am employed by the State Government, working directly for the Solicitor-General for Victoria.
As a constitutional lawyer, my work is varied and exciting. Much of my role involves conducting litigation in the High , Federal and State Courts and providing advice on diverse questions of constitutional validity, statutory interpretation and human rights compatibility, as well as policy and legislative development in a range of contexts.
For the last seven years, I have also been actively involved in the College community, previously as a community member of the College Council and, this year, as College Council President.
Despite my obvious attachment to the College, I don't mind admitting that, as a risk-averse 11-year-old who hated change, I had pronounced initial reservations about attending MGC. At the time, I knew nothing of the College (except of the Richmond Secondary protests) and most of my primary school friends were attending other schools (the horror!). Of course, my initial reservations proved to be entirely unfounded.
Upon starting at the College, it became apparent that the school was one that fostered curiosity, creativity and ambition in its students. I met a group of like-minded friends early and we remained close until year 12, where members of our group filled most of the positions on the Student Executive. When we left the College, many of us were fortunate enough to end up at the same university and we remained close. So close in fact, that one of my MGC friends recently married into my family and through a confusing series of genealogical events is now, technically, my aunt.
With the 21st anniversary celebration, I recently had cause to reflect on the College’s alumnae population in an attempt to identify common characteristics borne of our time at the College. A few things stood out.
First, the College seems to have a knack for producing women who rather un-ashamedly believe that their personal and professional trajectories lie completely within their control. Of my graduating class alone, there are women working in a variety of fields including medicine, law, education, history, archaeology, journalism - and, while in pursuit of different goals, they are, overwhelming, self-sufficient and remarkably well-adjusted women.
Secondly, the College seems particularly good at not just empowering its girls, but at instilling in them an appreciation of the importance of celebrating the women around them. As a woman in a professional field, this outlook is of particular significance for me. Often, it seems, women are encouraged to suppress some element of their selves in order to succeed in traditionally male-dominated environments.
Finally, girls seem to leave the College with a pronounced sense of social responsibility. When I was in VCE, Nia Holdenson established the Student Foundation, which has provided students with a unique opportunity to engage directly with communities and causes broader than those endemic to the school itself. In respect of my cohort at least, our interest in social engagement that was nurtured at the College followed us into the world when we left.
The Principals of the College have also played an important role in creating a culture of empowerment and engagement at the College. I am particularly fortunate for the opportunity to benefit from their support and guidance long beyond my years as a student.
Shortly after I joined the College Council, I was anxious about my relative lack of governance experience and about whether I was vocal enough in meetings. When I expressed these concerns to Judy Crowe, the past Principal, she matter-of-factly replied, “Maya, you don't speak often, but, when you do, you always have something important to say”. That advice was not just exactly what I needed to hear at the time, but it struck me as characteristic of the Principal Team’s understated approach to leadership and the ethos of the College generally; that is, that you needn't be the loudest person in the room in order to make a meaningful contribution to it.
So, with 21 years behind us, I think there is cause for great optimism as to what our ever-growing alumnae body will be able to put out into the communities in which we choose to engage. For my part, through my role as Council President, I look forward to working closely with the Association to try to harness the maturing and diverse energies of the College’s former students to new and exciting ends.