This week it has been a privilege to celebrate the academic and co-curricular achievements of the Years 7 and 8 students at their Awards Assembly on Monday, in addition to honouring the contribution of the Year 6 girls at their Graduation Ceremony. The Christmas Concerts in our Early Learning Centre have also contributed to the end of year festivities and towards the later end of this week, the Senior girls commenced preparation of the much enjoyed, and lively, House Arts Competition scheduled for next Tuesday evening, with our Year 11 students stepping into their leadership with enthusiasm, creativity and energy.

I include for our community members some words below from my Address at the Years 7 and 8 Awards Assembly this week:

“She arrived, in the middle of the night, seemingly out of thin air. Her arrival was quiet but calculated as the following day was International Women’s Day, March 8 2017. Millions now know her as the Fearless Girl. Standing roughly 130 cm tall, hands triumphantly placed upon her hips and facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull statue, she took the world by storm. She has, of course, drawn consistent crowds since she first assumed her bold stance in the heart of New York City’s financial district; the Bull, well recognised as a symbol of power; power in a very masculine sense.

The Fearless Girl statue quickly went viral online, garnering over 1 billion Twitter impressions in the first 12 hours and eventually reaching 4.6 billion Twitter impressions and more than 215,000 Instagram posts over 12 weeks.

Installing Fearless Girl on International Women’s Day, certainly captured my attention, as did the ensuing dialogue in the media. I was, of course, most impressed with Fearless Girl ; well firstly, I loved the name and the association that girls are fearless. I wish this for every St Catherine’s girl.

Fearless Girl was commissioned by an investment firm to send a message about workplace gender diversity and, to encourage companies to recruit women to their boards. The plaque below the statue originally said:

“Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”       

This original plaque caused some controversy, because the word SHE doubled as advertising for the firm that commissioned the statue as it trades under the letters SHE. The firm was accused of creating a branding exercise, albeit a very clever one.

The artist, Kristen Visbal, commented that she made sure to “keep her features soft; she’s not defiant, she’s brave, proud, and strong, not belligerent, nor arrogant.”

I applaud the efforts of anything that draws people’s attention to the need for improved workplace gender diversity and encourages women to step into leadership roles and Board positions. Coincidentally, also in March of this year, a study revealed that a man named Peter or John is 40 per cent more likely to be at the helm of a company than any woman, regardless of her name.

Gender diversity data from the Australian Institute of Company Directors reveals that among this country’s 200 richest publicly-listed companies – the ASX 200 – just 25 per cent have female directors on their boards – a figure that has climbed a teeny 0.1 per cent from last year. There are 11 companies out of 200 that have appointed no women at all.

We know that Australian women are graduating from university at higher rates than men, so it seems reasonable, that in the near future there will be enough highly-educated and well-qualified females out there to fill more senior executive roles.

And beyond the Board room, author, Clementine Ford, recalled the story of a UK writer who sent her manuscript to literary agents using her real name “Catherine” and repeated this process under the name of “George”. George’s book received 17 responses, whereas Catherine – her actual name – received just one. This happened in 2015, not in the olden days when women didn’t rate book deals, statues or much else.

As far as statues go, journalist, Tracey Spicer recently pointed out that less than 3 per cent of Australia’s public monuments depict famous women. She also noted the troubling statistic that worldwide there are more statues of animals than there are of female historical figures. This staggering statistic has been termed the ‘marble ceiling’.

A marble ceiling, even the metaphorical kind, would be a lot harder to shatter than a glass one, one might think. The marble and glass ceilings may seem impenetrable today but the values that underlie them, while hard to change, are not set in stone.

I firmly believe strong, resilient girls become strong, resilient women. Competent to handle not only the joys, but the challenges that life will throw at them. I believe we are in the business at St Catherine’s, not only of educating young girls in their academic pursuits, but also working with parents to help shape the character of the girls in our care.

How do we prepare girls to be fearless?

All too often, a fear of failure can undermine an individual’s effort to achieve. However, some people give up at the first failure and, therefore, do not experience the success that comes from persistence; that is to keep on going. A lot of the time, as we know, success can come hand in hand with failure; so a significant part of achievement is actually endurance. One can either take failure as a setback and allow it to get the better of you, or one can take it as a motivation and prove that failure wrong. 

I encourage our Years 7 and 8 students to be persistent, to learn from your errors, to take responsibility for your attitude towards learning and to enjoy challenging yourselves and trying to improve in everything you do.

So girls, for all of you who have engaged in the learning process this year, and tried new things, persisted in the face of difficulty or just been prepared to challenge yourself, congratulations on being committed to the learning process. That willingness to learn will stand you in good stead for School next year and beyond.

In closing, I return to the inspirational image of Fearless Girl. She was originally given just a one-week City Hall permit that was extended to 30 days. Later, it was announced the statue would remain in place through to February 2018. A petition continues asking for the statue to be made a permanent reminder of the artist’s original intention “keep her features soft; she’s not defiant, she’s brave, proud, and strong,” as I wish for all St Catherine’s girls in Years 7 and 8.”

Annual Thank you Evening

On Monday evening, the School acknowledged and thanked our many parents and community members who have been directly involved with volunteering at St Catherine’s in 2017. In attendance at the Annual Thank You Event were members of our School Council, and Council Sub-Committees, committee members of the PFA and associated Class Representatives, committee members of each of the Parent Auxiliaries, members of the St Catherine’s Old Girls’ Association and a number of staff who also directly work with our many volunteers.

On many occasions this year, the success of our School activities falls to the tireless work of many parents; this commitment is so visibly demonstrated through the support provided to our Sporting, Performing Arts and Visual Arts programs; this time is greatly appreciated. I provide below a brief snapshot of the contribution of all the Parent groups generously giving of their time this year.

Parents’ and Friends’ Association

The teamwork of the PFA, under the leadership of Mrs Nicole Begley as President, in creating and hosting the annual Ruth Langley Lunch and Parent Welcome Evening in Term 1 was certainly evident. The Ruth Langley function is a highlight on the School calendar for many Old Girls, as well as past and current mothers.

The work of Class Reps in creating closely connected parents for each cohort, certainly enables a community level of care for our girls. The support and strength of our parents in creating these events is greatly appreciated.

The School is enormously grateful for the very generous PFA gift of $100K pledged over three years for the development of the Village Green in the new Junior School; this will not only provide a wonderful sporting oval and play space but a wonderful vibrant hub to host PFA events.

The PFA’s enthusiasm to undertake the role of coordinating the Second Hand Uniform Shop is also greatly appreciated and I personally thank Mrs Lisa James, Mrs Amanda Thompson and Mrs Lara Stocco for undertaking this weekly task. I am sure our families appreciate the very personal touch of repairing, washing and ironing the uniform items to be sold.

Heyington Club

Throughout the Rowing season, the Heyington Club, under the leadership of Mrs Rachel Robertson, welcomed supporters to the St Catherine’s marquee at each regatta including the Head of Schoolgirls (HOSGs) weekend and their successful fundraising HOSGs Dinner. Generous donations raised funded the purchase of a new quad, two new oar sets and contributed to the ongoing refurbishment of our boats.

Sports Auxiliary

This year, the Sports Auxiliary, under the leadership of Mrs Libby Stopp, supported three events. The inaugural ‘Blue Ribbon Fun Run/Walk’ in May, around the Tan, was a great community event attended by many students, parents, brothers, sisters and dogs! The event also raised funds for Motor Neuron Disease through donations and sale of beanies.

In June, the Sports Auxiliary also supported the biennial St Catherine’s Father and Daughter Dinner in the Long Room at the MCC. A very popular night in a wonderful venue with guest speakers Kim Brennan (Olympic Gold Medallist Single Scull,Rio) and her father, Max Crow (AFL great).

Music Auxiliary

In 2017, the Music Auxiliary, under the leadership of Mrs Carolyne Devlin has supported and provided assistance to many and varied events in the School’s Music calendar, including the MAD Night (in collaboration with the Drama and Art Auxiliaries), our very successful Gala Night, and the 2017 House Arts next week. Their support is defined by their creativity and flair, evident at the recent HONK Jnr Musical.

Drama Auxiliary

The highlight for the Drama Auxiliary this year was offering support for the three Senior Play performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – which was a fantastic success. In providing food and drinks at Drama events, they have generously gifted Drama stage boxes for 2018.

Snowsports Auxiliary

The Snowsports Auxiliary, with Co-Presidents, Mrs Miranda Lansell and Mrs Rebecca Clark, were instrumental  in coordinating the community based event, the annual Snowsports Swap in May. The Committee worked hard to tag over 1,600 recycled items of Ski gear with the profits going to support the training sessions at Mt Buller.

In April this year, at the Australian Ski and Snowboard Awards, (SSA) St Catherine’s School was awarded the 2017 School Club of the Year Award. The Award recognises the strength, depth and commitment of the Snowsports program which has been developed over the past 20 years.

Art Action

The Art Action Auxiliary had an active year supporting a range of School events, including Open Studios and the VCE Art Show.

The auxiliary was also heavily involved in the School’s biennial hosting of the Yulendj Art Exhibition this year in May, where funds of just over $25,000 were raised to support the School’s Indigenous Scholarship Program. Community support for the second Yulendj Art Exhibition was outstanding and it was clear the Exhibition captured the interest of all visitors to Sherren House.

Thank you to the Exhibition Committee, headed by Mrs Lisa Steven, curated by Mr Shaun Dennison and supported by a great team of staff, parents and alumnae.

I would also like to congratulate Lisa on receiving a Higgins Community Service Award earlier this year, for almost 20 years of exemplary voluntary service to our School.

Past Parents’ & Families’ Network

For the Year 12 parents departing this year, you can look forward to your membership of the Past Parents’ and Families’ Network, kindly coordinated by its Chair, Mr Scott Reinke. This highly effective Network enables the friendships and engagement with St Catherine’s to continue.


This year, SCOGA have hosted over 450 Old Girls for reunions at School and at international, regional and interstate events. SCOGA have generously pledged $50,000 toward the Junior School campaign, to be specifically used for the tiered seating area on the Ground level, in honour of the much loved Red Steps currently in Barbreck.

Auxiliary Alignment

With the guidance of both Ms Becky Hyde, Chairing the Community Engagement Committee and Mrs Jane Newton-Brown, Chairing the Auxiliary Liaison Committee, the School has endeavoured to strategically align the work of our auxiliaries, streamlining some of our processes and events for next year. I would like to also personally acknowledge the work of our School Council and Council Sub-Committees who generously provide their expertise, stewardship and commitment towards the governance of St Catherine’s School, and we look to the future with much excitement with the opening of the new Junior School – the School’s most significant undertaking in over 50 years.

Her Future Begins Here

I also wholeheartedly thank the ‘Her Future Begins Here’ campaign team, Chaired by Mrs Sally Joubert and Mr Cameron Bertalli who were assisted by Mr Lachlan Armstrong, Ms Sherrie Zeng, Mr Jim Shergold, Ms Claudette Passon and Foundation Board Members Mr James Chen and Mr Andrew Demetriou, and School Council Member and Chair of the Foundation Board, Mr Wayne Kent.

To date, the campaign team have raised $2.85 million dollars for the Junior School and we look forward to attaining our $3 million target in the closing months of the Campaign. It is with much excitement that School students, parents and staff have witnessed the development of the new Junior School over recent months. The building project remains to schedule with the intention of the Barbreck girls enjoying classes in their new rooms from Term 3, and the Village Green, associated sport and play spaces finalised during Spring, 2018.

A Reflection of 2017

This will be our final Blue Ribbon for 2017, although I shall communicate the VCE achievements of our Year 12 students in December. Next week, I look forward to the House Arts Festival on Tuesday evening and the Church Service for both Barbreck and the Senior School on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Over the past weeks, the ELC Concerts have also been a joy for parents to attend.

This year, it has been a privilege to witness the growth and development of each St Catherine’s girl and children in our ELC. All students have experienced the opportunity to discover their individual passions, interests and talents in the classroom and in their co-curricular pursuits. In my role, I am acutely aware of providing each student with a network of support and care as they navigate their way through their adolescent years, their tween years and their childhood years. The significance of establishing a strong community to support our students can never be underestimated. With our careful guidance and nurturing of over 750 students, our School remains enduringly steady and strong to its mission.

I wish to also thank our teaching staff for their wisdom, dedication and passion for teaching and our general staff for their continued support of the School. I believe it is the inspiration, encouragement and energy of all staff that enables our students to flourish. In an earlier Blue Ribbon this Term, I acknowledged the work of staff departing the School and I wish to again farewell and thank those staff members retiring from their most significant careers in teaching: Mrs Sandra Allen, Ms Lisa Barker, Mrs Jan Rouse and teachers departing St Catherine’s who accepted roles in other schools: Mr Adrian Puckering, Mrs Jenny Mathers, Ms Lana Laios, Mr Tim Hay and Miss Kylie Flavien. I wish the following staff the very best with the safe and happy arrival of their babies in the new years: Ms Ingrid Hildebrand, Mrs Lilly Dusting and Mrs Katrina Davey.

Following 13 years of leading the School Gymnastics program, Cherie Johnstone has decided to relinquish her role as Gymnastics Coordinator. Her commitment and contribution to the program has been outstanding and greatly appreciated. Cherie will continue in her role as a part time Mathematics teacher.

I also take this opportunity to thank Mrs Vikki O’Neill who has coordinated and managed the Uniform Shop at St Catherine’s School for 16 years. Vikki has provided a welcoming and personalised service to our families and the school wishes her the very best in her retirement.

In our ELC, Mrs Fiona Barker steps down from her role as ELC Co-ordinator. During her time in this role, Fiona has provided great expertise to the curriculum leadership of the ELC programs. She will return next year as a part-time teacher.

I wish to also thank the School community for their generous support of St Catherine’s this year, I look forward to 2018, and the opening of two new Science Laboratories in January and in July and the opening of the new Junior School, with much enthusiasm and eagerness.

I wish everyone in St Catherine’s School community a relaxing and joyous Christmas celebration, a time when friends and family spend some precious, valuable time together.

Merry Christmas.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal