Boarders Can Shape the World

"My time boarding at St Catherine's provided the grounding to deal with the unexpected,” - Flynn O'Brien

ST CATHERINE’S School has built a reputation for providing a caring and supportive environment for students. Boarders at Illawarra enjoy a ‘home away from home’ where their emotional, physical and academic wellbeing are at the core of the boarding experience.

“Whether it is through academics, sport or the student’s development as an individual — wellbeing is central to our school philosophy,” head of boarding Sue Collister said.
“It is about developing independence, tolerance, resilience and the confidence to try different things.”

Former student Flynn O’Brien, who completed her VCE in 2019, relished her four years boarding. “I loved the fact that whenever you needed someone to talk to, there was someone there,” she said. “I developed a lot of independence from boarding, as well as learning to live as part of a team. It provided me the opportunity to shape how to take care of myself and how to manage time.”

These skills have been invaluable to Flynn during her gap year in 2020. After spending the first six months living and working as an au pair in Paris, her time in France ended with lockdowns and uncertainty due to COVID-19. After six flight cancellations, Flynn was finally able to return home, spending early December in mandatory hotel quarantine before reuniting with her family.
“Although the experience was difficult, my time boarding at St Catherine’s provided the grounding to deal with the unexpected,” she said.

“It was also lots of fun and it did wonders for my French. I had an awesome time with my host sister and I struggled to say goodbye.”

Life at Illawarra provides a foundation for girls to flourish. The supportive environment of the boarding house underpins St Catherine’s capacity to offer the girls the opportunity to build great study habits, and a diverse range of life skills; but to also create fun memories and build friendships. This support provides a bond between the girls, where connection becomes a large part of the boarding experience. The girls become friends for life.

“Being surrounded by so many different cultures really widened my perspective and opened my eyes to a more multicultural world,” Flynn said. “This has definitely shaped who I am and the way that I see the world today.”

Recommencing in 2021, the Experience Illawarra overnight stay program offers prospective students the chance to experience life in the boarding house before they enrol at St Catherine’s.
Matched with a boarding buddy, prospective boarders can experience a full day in the senior school participating in academic and co-curricular programs before spending a night in the National Trust-listed Victorian mansion — Illawarra.

Mrs Collister said the program helped girls feel confident and comfortable with the idea of boarding. “It is just a normal night in the boarding house, so they can see exactly what boarding life is like,” she said. “They experience the camaraderie of both dinner and study time as well as the range of after-school activities that build community spirit and enrich their learning.”

Applications for 2022 boarding scholarships close on February 5. To find out more, phone registrar Jeanette Boehm on (03) 9828 3917, email or visit

Riverine Herald

Friday 22 January 2021

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