12 minute read

A trailblazing spirit


Shankari Chandran (1992)

I was so lucky at Girls Grammar — teachers like Mrs Hartshorne and Mrs Thompson fuelled and supported my love of books and words. Mrs Tregonning never kicked me out of the library when I forgot to leave. Mrs Virr told me that every country and its people were connected to others. She said the world was about ecosystems, not just land masses. Mr Kent made science relevant to the world so I could care about it enough to (pay attention) and try harder. Mrs Greenwell put the world into its historical context, challenging us to ask what happened in the past that has led us to the present. These are all themes that are in my book, The Barrier. Mr Joyce and Mrs Rose, after I lost my confidence, took me aside and told me I was my own worst enemy and that I needed to learn to be a better friend to myself instead. Mr Joyce also said Hawthorn was the best, forget the rest. Mrs Vandermark in Year 5 gave me my first journal and told me to just keep writ ing. Perhaps the greatest things I took from Grammar were an understanding that women can do anything, an excitement about learning, and a group of friends who are my family. I graduated from CGGS in 1992 and went to UNSW where I studied Law and Commerce. My friends and I are still wondering why Commerce? I travelled the world for a year and met a lovely boy who would go on to become my husband. This kept me in London for ten years where I worked for an international law firm. In 2010, we returned to my home in Australia where we had our fourth child. In about 2012, I came up for air and started writing my first novel. As my old English teachers may remember, I’ve always loved words. They thrill me. That might seem weird to some, but passionate readers will understand. Writing is my therapy. It is meditation and exhilaration in equal measure. I wrote my first novel, Song of the Sun God, because I felt I had a duty to my community in Sri Lanka and in the diaspora to tell one of our country’s many narratives. This book is my love letter to my ancestors – it is also a gift to my children. I want them to understand where they came from. I think it will help them work out where they’re going. I wrote my second novel to set out my fears for the world if we don’t learn from the mistakes of our past. My work as a lawyer helped me understand the role and limitations of international humanitarian law in conflicts. It also showed me what happens to society when governments subvert civil liberties. To the students of CGGS, I offer the same unsolicited (and unheeded!) advice I offer my four children: Be grateful, be kind, be honest and be brave.

Perhaps the greatest things I took from Grammar were an understanding that women can do anything, an excitement about learning, and a group of friends who are my family .

SUMMARY OF SHANKARI’S NOVELS Song of the Sun God is a story of three generations of Australian Sri Lankan women and the choices they make to survive Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war. It follows their lives from Sri Lanka to Australia as they flee one home to create another. It weaves together themes of family love, duty to homeland and the moral compromises and consequences of war.

The Barrier is a gripping, near-future thriller that intertwines war, disease, biotechnology and religion. It asks, what would happen to the world if an Ebola pandemic and religious wars converged? Set in the year 2040, a new world order has emerged. The West has built a wall between itself and the East, the movement of people is banned, there is a virus, a vaccine and an apocalypse. But in what order?


DIMITY AZOURY (2006) shared the lead role in The Australian Ballet’s Production of The Merry Widow in Canberra in May 2018.

Dimity Azoury began dancing at the age of four in her home town of Queanbeyan, New South Wales. She studied for eleven years at the Kim Harvey School of Dance in Canberra before moving to The Australian Ballet School 

in 2005. She was accepted into The Australian Canberra Girls Grammar School

Ballet in 2008, where she has had the opportunity to travel to Paris, London, New York, Japan, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Dimity was promoted to soloist in 2015 following her debut as Baroness von Rothbart in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, and to senior artist in 2017.

ANNABEL BUTLER (1985) held a solo exhibition, Barnacles, at Stella Downer Fine Art in Sydney during August and September 2018. More of Annabel’s art has been featured in past Grammar Reports (issues 96 and 101). Annabel Butler has exhibited extensively in Australia, as well as internationally in New York and across Europe. Her work features in a number of private and public collections in Australia.

Dimity Azoury (2006)
Photo courtesy of The Australian Ballet.
Katerina Babajoanov (2015)

KATERINA BABAJANOV (2015) has been training with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy since 2017 and earlier this year, performed on the Bolshoi Theatre stage in Moscow, Russia – dancing in Don Juan.

ALIX BIGGS (2012)headed to the University of Oxford to start her Masters in Migration Studies in September 2018. She is attending thanks in part to a Gowrie Scholarship. 

AMY BRADDON (2002)graduated from the University of Southern Queensland in 2016 with a Master of Arts specialising in Editing and Publishing.

Barnacles #1 (2018) by Annabel Butler.

SARAH COUPLAND (1981) Professor Sarah E. Coupland is a senior Consultant Histopathologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (RLUH) and is also the George Holt Chair of Pathology at the University of Liverpool, England. Her areas of expertise include Haematopathology, Ophthalmic Pathology and Oncology, Molecular Pathology, and Biobanking.

She leads the Ophthalmic Pathology referral service at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals which has one of the three referral centres in England for adult ocular tumours. She is also Director of the North West Cancer Research Centre at University of Liverpool.

"The main influence school has on me was to not even raise the suggestion that as a woman I should be limited in what I could achieve in life."

Helen Curtis

Professor Sarah Coupland (photo courtesy of Liverpool Ocular Oncology Research Group).

Sarah recently won the prestigious International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) Ophthalmic Pathology Award.

HELEN CURTIS (1982) was awarded the 2017 ACT Women Lawyers Association Woman Lawyer of the Year – Government category. Helen attended CGGS from 1977 to 1982. She was involved in many aspects of school life – sport (hockey, softball, netball, and athletics), debating, ballroom dancing (after school in the old gym), house plays, the school magazine editorial team, Robertson House Captain as well as receiving reasonably good marks.

“I was pretty chuffed to get voted by my Year 12 peers for the school spirit prize given by the Old Grammarians Association,” said Helen. To this day, Helen is still close friends with girls she met on her first day of Year 7: “Many might remember me as Dino – a weird nickname that stuck.”

At the end of Year 12, Helen applied to study PE teaching as well as Law – because she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. It was her father who suggested that law might be the better option for her.

Helen feels honoured to have received the award for ACT Women Lawyers Association Woman Lawyer of the Year – Government Category, particularly as these were the inaugural awards for the ACT.

Top: Helen Curtis.

Above: Sally Hirsch.

Sally Holbrook.

“I believe it was in recognition of both my practical approach to helping clients as well as the contribution I make to the development of more junior lawyers. I have now ended up working in the same Department my father was in for many years – so some kind of synchronicity!”

SALLY HIRSCH (CRESWELL, 1995) completed her Doctorate in Education in 2016 from the University of San Francisco and moved to Malaysia with her husband, daughter and two dogs in March 2017. Since being in Malaysia, she has enjoyed getting to know the local community, and experience tropical living after ten years in Switzerland

and five years in the USA. She has founded an edtech start-up, Tracker Apps, which develops software for schools who use the International Baccalaureate programmes. The company specifically focusses on apps that support student agency and help students and teachers track skill development. 

SALLY HOLBROOK (1997) was awarded with a commendation at the ArchiTeam Awards for her PerfPad project in 2017 and made the shortlist for the 2018 Houses Awards for the same project. Sally established her architecture and interior design practice, NORTHBOURNE, four years ago.

VERITY MCWILLIAM (1994)was appointed as ACT Supreme Court Associate Judge in June 2017.

Verity began at Canberra Girls Grammar School in Year 5 and continued her schooling at CGGS all the way through to Year 12.

From there she went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Hons I) and Bachelor of Laws at the Australian National University followed by a Master of International Law at the University of Sydney before starting her career at a local Canberra firm. She practiced at the NSW Bar from 2006 and previously worked as an associate to two Federal Court judges, a solicitor in the NSW

also one of the SRC reps for my cohort in Year 12. " said Katrina. "I was also fairly studious though. I liked doing well in my subjects, especially English, History and Legal Studies”.

On graduating from CGGS, Katrina went straight to the Australian National University (ANU) where she studied Arts/ Law and also obtained her Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. Towards the end of her time at university, she helped found ANU Volunteers, in part with fellow Grammarian, Jessica Saunders (2007).

“I really enjoyed engaging with the ANU and broader Canberra community in that

students is to, “Pursue what it is you want to do, and to always maintain a degree of self-belief. While we all doubt ourselves from time to time, have the confidence that you can achieve. Trust your own judgement and values, and make sure you have fun.”

GEORGIA O’BYRNE (2012)was awarded 1st Class Honours in Classics from the University of Queensland in 2017 and this year was awarded a University of Queensland medal. This recognition is a reflection on the love for ancient history which was instilled in her at CGGS.

Verity McWilliam speaking at the CGGS Founders’ Day assembly, May 2018.

Katrina Marson.

Crown Solicitor’s Office and for PwC Legal in Sydney and DLA Piper in London.

CGGS was delighted to welcome Verity back to the School as the keynote speaker at both Junior and Senior School Founders’ Day assemblies in May 2018.

KATRINA MARSON (2007)was named the 2016 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year.

When she was at school Katrina says she was always ‘pretty active’ in co-curricular interests.

“I did netball, piano, coxed rowing for a while. I occasionally did debating. I was

way. I then did my legal placement at the ACT Department of Public Prosecutors (DPP) and went on to become a prosecutor there, most recently as a family violence prosecutor. I’m now on secondment at Legal Aid ACT in the criminal practice.”

When asked how she felt about being awarded the 2016 ACT Young Lawyer of the year, Katrina said: “It’s a real privilege. There were many stellar nominees and the Canberra legal community has a lot of talented young lawyers, so I feel honoured.”

Hana Sayers.

HANA SAYERS (2002)was named ACT Midwife of the Year 2016.

After receiving her award, Hana was featured in HerCanberra’s Women in Work segment, where she talked about what it was that made her want to study midwifery at the University of Canberra and, what she does to support women and families during and post pregnancy.

Not only does Hana support and empower women to make the most of their birthing experience, but she also works hard to raise awareness about the benefits of

skin-to-skin contact and its ability to increase breastfeeding rates.

Within only three years of being a midwife at Calvary Hospital, Hana increased skinto-skin contact for a group of mothers who often miss out on this: those who’ve had caesarean sections.

In addition to this Hana has also been working on a project raising money to purchase a Cuddle Cot, a piece of equipment which allows parents to spend time with stillborn babies to say a proper goodbye. Hana says she instigated training around how they support these families in a very compassionate and sensitive way.

GAIL TREGEAR (1957) has written a book titled No Time for Toys, about her ancestor Sarah Thatcher. The book, which was launched at the Commonwealth Club on Wednesday, 29 August 2018 is available through Xlibris and Amazon, among other outlets. KYLIE WALKER (1991) is the CEO at Science & Technology Australia and in October 2017 was named Chair of the Australian National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Kylie had always wanted to be a journalist and after leaving school she moved to Bathurst to study for a journalism degree at Charles Sturt University. After graduating she

then that I wanted my next steps to be in this area," said Kylie.

“Now, as CEO of Science and Technology Australia, I’ll be working to lobby and raise awareness on behalf of all Australian scientists and technologists, and to improve public understanding of science.”

When asked what made her choose this career path Kylie said that she has always pursued work which is meaningful and in which she can learn more about the world, challenge herself, try new things, and meet really interesting people.

At school she studied all the mandatory Science subjects up to Year 10, and then took

Veronica Tamsitt (photo courtesy of UNSW Research).

VERONICA TAMSITT (2007) defended her PhD at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego on 1 March 2018 and has returned to Australia to take up a threeyear postdoctoral research fellowship at the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Ocean Research, based in Hobart.

Gail Tregear.

won a cadetship with the ABC and spent the next ten years in journalism, culminating in the federal press gallery where she was the national health, medical and science reporter for Australian Associated Press.

“I got a real kick out of reading about medical research, in particular, and knew


f Saturday, 4 May 2019 – Chapel Service, School Tours, Reunion Lunch and Music Academy performance

f Monday, 6 May 2019 – School Tours, Founders’ Day Assembly, Lunch and Badge presentation

Kylie Walker.

Chemistry and double Maths in Years 11 and 12 (along with double English, Media and Politics). “Although I’ve always been fascinated by science, I wasn’t actually very good at it. Just ask Mr Kent.”

Kylie’s advice to current CGGS students – “Don’t be afraid to test new ideas and try new things – and don’t be deterred if you fail, because failure is a really great learning tool. If you are true to yourself, follow your passion, work hard and have fun, you can’t go wrong.”

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