Recognising outstanding achievements

This week, the School celebrated the Years 9-12 Annual Speech Night. An evening such as this is an essential opportunity to recognise the outstanding achievements of so many of our girls and rightfully celebrate their unique and diverse talents, and the personal success of all of our Senior School students, particularly our Year 12 girls, as they move forward in their journeys but forever a part of St Catherine’s School.

During the evening, it was my great pleasure to announce Ms Kristy Forrest as the 2017 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. As an English, Literature and Philosophy teacher, Ms Forrest is well-regarded and highly respected by all her colleagues. She has made a significant and outstanding contribution to pedagogical practice in the school and sustains an insightful vision in providing an outstanding education to all the students in her care. She was recently described by one of our Year 12 students: “she can see the flame in her students”. This is a most deserving Award and when announced on Tuesday evening, Kristy was met with delighted applause by the students when she walked onto the stage to receive her gift from Chair of Council, Mrs Jane Hodder.

Our School Captain, Mackenzie Leyden and Vice-Captain, Georgie Sitch, both provided inspiring speeches for the audience. As the voice of the student body, an evening such as this provides opportunity for the girls to articulate all they have enjoyed about their experiences. I trust you will enjoy sections from their speeches below.

“The beauty of tonight is that we have the chance to stop. We can stop, and pause, amidst the frenzy of our fast-paced lives. Tonight is a night where we celebrate who we are and what we are capable of achieving as a united force. And I think that 2017 is the perfect representation of the character and integrity of St Catherine’s.

In my opinion, it has well and truly been a year of going ‘beyond’. This notion shaped our year in many ways: as students, as individuals, as a collective.

Our tenacity, conviction and determination became evident in everything that we put our minds to: the Year 12s stepping up as leaders whilst simultaneously committing themselves to their VCE studies, the Year 11s working tirelessly in the lead up to House Arts, the Year 10s raising awareness and reaching out for support for broader social issues through their Leadership Diplomas, the Year 9s experiencing the small, yet potent, joys of life in the Fijian highlands.

But, while we stop tonight to reflect on the year that was, it is important to remember that none of this was achieved alone. Our parents are the ones who attended every Gala Concert and music recital, just to hear your 3 minute rendition of Waltzing Matilda on clarinet. Our teachers are the ones who spent the extra time with you to fully explain that Maths concept, or redraft that essay. Our friends are the ones who sent us their notes when we missed a class, who we exchanged stories and laughs with at recess and lunch…

Today, we become part of this process, the Class of 2017. And while one day we may return and realise that we no longer recognise our Year 12 English classroom, or that our Year 7 locker is long gone from the Clocktower, there will still be that inextricable connection between this school, and the people that we have become.

Because what links us together is our experience of this school: the amalgamation of every small detail and memory of St Catherine’s. We share this common zest for life and its inevitable challenges. To be a ‘St Catherine’s Girl’ is much more than to proudly wear a blue ribbon. It is an attitude, an approach to life that is characterised by a yearning to be the very best that we can be.

Today, as the Class of 2017 says goodbye to St Catherine’s, our hearts are filled with pride and love and the utmost respect for all the individuals who contribute to this community, but more than anything, we leave with the knowledge that we are never saying goodbye for good.

As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. As the final chapter of my narrative comes to a close, I leave here tonight knowing the place that is St Catherine’s better than ever.”

Mackenzie Leyden, 2017 School Captain

“So, what inspires this St Catherine’s instinct to see beyond the call of duty in every endeavour? I put it down to our ‘togetherness’. A quiet fortitude, a profound mutual respect. A web of individuals, staff, parents, girls, past and present brought together by their school, but bound together by an almost familial bond. An ecosystem of intellect, wit, innovation, empathy.

This ‘togetherness’ affords us a rare ability to enjoy the present. To take pause, look around, connect and care about each other. We seek opportunities to spend weeks hiking, studying and building off the grid and abroad. We do so knowing that our belonging is transferable – we can take this feeling anywhere.

For years, our girls have used their understanding of true kinship to explore a global citizenship. Investing themselves wholly in and asking questions of these experiences – how do the French celebrate Christmas? What issues matter most to teenagers in Connecticut? What does family mean to the people in Fiji? In our commitment to these new places and relationships – and the insights into ways of being and seeing what they offer – we begin to wrap others in our sense of belonging. We rarely allow these connections to be lost and so, this togetherness s- it transcends borders – enveloping students in France, England, Japan – children in Fiji and Nepal. Our St Catherine’s family is intercontinental.

There is a real firmness to our school. I find this is important at a time when so much surrounding femaleness is contrived or uncertain – when young women seek to perfect, filter, mask, assimilate, remain a-tonal and online. As our social media influencers are painting in broad-brush strokes of ‘the good times’ St Catherine’s teaches its girls to embrace life as intricate, messy, slow-moving at points. We understand that joy and stimulus can be found in good conversation, contradiction, critical thinking and risk – as Ms Carroll might put it ‘daring to do’- not just the constant digestion an Instagram feed. Through these teachings, we have created a small haven of strong femaleness and herein we are unafraid to show our congratulations, our thanks, our support, our enthusiasm, our individuality.

This place is so sure of itself – and that surety outwardly projects through the kindness and enthusiasm of our girls. We face the future as a unified, feminine force. Eager to attack this world using all the goodness, creativity and open-mindedness in our infantry. 

And so, as leavers we front up to the world fearless with the understanding that these relationships will flex, morph and translate to support us in whatever the rest of our lives might bring.  We understand that the wider world is brimming with generations of this St Catherine’s togetherness; in every industry, every milestone, every career change it will be felt. Our schooling – it is longitudinal, it does not stop here. Each day, the humanity and empowerment taught on campus is applied to the workforce by our old girls. Years from now, we will continue to pull each other up, seek each other out, back each other up. This resounding fortitude – it will always be ours to access.

I recently heard a line from singer Patti Smith that seems fitting as we gather tonight at this new beginning – ‘”Where does it all lead? What will become of us? It leads to each-other. We become ourselves.”

Georgie Sitch, 2017 School Vice Captain
Mrs Michelle Carroll


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