It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to celebrate the 21st birthday of Melbourne Girls’ College. We are thrilled that you could join us to mark this milestone in the history of our school. I would also like to extend a very warm welcome back to Cavell Zangalis, Jan Parkes and Judith Crowe, our past principals who are also here today, and of course, Karen Money who is our current Principal.
Cavell Zangalis was the Foundation Principal of MGC and the former principal from Richmond Girls’ High School who created the school from the empty shell that once was once Richmond Secondary School. Cavell was instrumental in the development of the original Charter Goals in 1994 which focused on providing “an outstanding curriculum for girls, with an emphasis on programs which [prepared] them for leadership roles in areas where women [were] traditionally under-represented, including science and technology”. This ethos still endures today.
From 1995, Jan Parkes led the school as Principal for seven years, developing it into an innovative educational college. Jan Parkes’ energy and passion was influential in shaping the identity of Melbourne Girls’ College.
Judy Crowe joined the school as principal in 2002 where she introduced a new curriculum structure and developed several new facilities. Under Judy’s direction, the school facilities were also developed, including this auditorium where we are sitting today.
I would like to extend a warm welcome as well to our current and former staff who are also here today.
I would also like to acknowledge the enormous amount of hard work Linda Brown, our Assistant Principal and Trevor Howlett, a foundation staff member, have contributed to the planning of today’s events. Linda and Trevor were also the key drivers in creating the Melbourne Girls’ College Alumni Association which was officially formed earlier this year. I would like to thank the members on the Executive Board who are also all here today for their efforts and input into assisting with the planning of today.
I started at Melbourne Girls’ College in 1994 – the year the school opened, when the entire student population consisted of just 300 girls and there was one computer room.
Today I can see the many physical changes that have occurred since I finished school, including the arts and technology wings, the double court gymnasium, the Performing Arts Centre, the year 7 Lyceum, the café and the Gillard Centre.
Far more important than the buildings were the teachers that were constants within the school day, and thus made the school’s atmosphere so special. While they were always in the same place physically, their influences reached far beyond. Cheryl Dipasquale, our year seven7 foods teacher was kind and caring and the perfect person to introduce overwhelmed 13 year olds into the world of secondary schooling. Richard Ryan, who greeted everyone he passed in the corridors with a huge smile and a bonjour even if you weren’t studying French. There was also Eva Hookey, our VCE Maths teacher who would donate her evenings and weekends to tutor us before exam time or when an assignment was due. There are too many others to name individually, but I have no doubt that these committed and dedicated people equipped me with the tools I needed to get into law school and build a successful career.
As I reflect, I realise that times have indeed changed dramatically. Students now have Google and Wikipedia at their fingertips. All we had was a big fat encyclopedia which the entire class had to fight over or, if we were extraordinarily lucky, ten minutes on Encarta. We didn’t have all the fancy athletics equipment or a new gymnasium that we can see here today. Our PE lessons consisted mainly of doing forward rolls on ridiculously hard blue gym mats or getting excited when the multi-coloured climbing apparatus was set up.
When today’s students have an art project for school, most of it’s done on Photoshop. We had PVA glue, sequins and an art set with half of the felt pens not working. Watching something on TV at school was also rare and of very low quality. VHS tapes with crackly, outdated documentaries were considered a treat. Now, students can just hop on to YouTube to find thousands of educational and entertaining learning resources.
Back in our day there was no big cafeteria for us. We just had a plain old boring canteen. And nowadays it’s pretty easy to send a sneaky text to your mate in class. For us, we had to make do with the archaic, and seriously risky, system of note passing. It never ended well either, especially if the note we were passing about a certain classmate somehow landed on their desk by mistake.
But in all seriousness, my 6 years at Melbourne Girls’ College were some of the most enjoyable of my life. The school wasn’t just a place to me, but a community. Almost like an oversized family, with the teachers always trying to keep us in line, but only because they cared. It felt like a second home that was always full of smiling faces and open arms. The building even seemed to shrink as the years went on, from a gigantic place that was filled with strangers – to a small community in which friendships could be made that will endure a lifetime. Melbourne Girls’ was a place that offered us plenty of opportunities to explore and did its best to point us in the right direction on our journey to adulthood.
Melbourne Girls’ College has always instilled in its girls that there are no limitations on what they can accomplish and inspires them to be their best and to help others be their best. Today, our graduates can be seen in all walks of life. We’re volunteers, we’re in the medical and legal fields, we’re in business, we’re in government and we’re parents. But regardless of where our lives have gone after graduation, our shared educational experience draws us together.
The next couple of hours are an excellent opportunity to mingle, reconnect with old friends and teachers, and take a stroll through the corridors and school grounds. There are digital displays in many rooms that will take you through the ages with early photos of what the school was like at various times.
There will be sign in books as well and we will have the netbooks set up for past students to sign up to the in the café. Souvenirs will be sold out of the Café area. Our current students are also here doing various performances and showing off their school. I hope that each of you, as you wander the hallways and classrooms, remember the students and staff that shared your high school years.
Thank you. Have a wonderful day.
Suzie Rule, President