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| No 56 Winter 20

CONTENTS FIRBANK TODAY | From The Board From The Principal Wellbeing 2019 Results Commissioning of Rev’d Christine Croft Giving Virtual Classroom Meet the Firbank IT Team International Support Group Welcome to 2020 Twilight Fair Senior School Junior School: Sandringham Junior School: Brighton FIRBANK ALUMNI | FOGA Reunions FIRBANK NEWS | Congratulations Current Students Congratulations, Condolences, Welcome Where Are They Now Generational Families


Brighton Girls Campus • Sandringham Co ed Campus

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PREP 2021

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Thank you


THANKYOU THANKYOU! For all your hard work. Thrilled to hear on line learning will continue this week. Great opportunity for girls to settle into, and test out a full timetable.

Just wanted to say what a WONDERFUL job you have done with the girls. Pippa has been so committed and engaged with her teacher and friends. It’s a perfectly balanced timetable and our children are blessed to be at this incredible school.

Niki Mitchell-Adams Year 11 Parent Brighton Senior Campus Congratulations to ‘the Firbank team’ for the fantastic online learning delivery and continued positive approach and adaptability. You are all setting a great example to the students and wider school community. Stay well and keep safe.

Lucy Weddell Year 9 & Year 7 Parent Brighton Senior Campus

Look after yourself, be kind to yourself and thanks for ALL the work you have done for our Pippa.

Rosie & Ross Featherston Year 5 & Year 8 Parents Brighton Junior Campus

I hope you are well and a big thank you to yourself and the staff for making the transition back to school an easy one. Harper seems to have loved returning back and this makes us so happy to see.

I hope you are well and thanks so much for all your supportive contact for the girls and parents. Bonnie is doing really well with the online learning even if it is early days. She misses her friends and being at school but it’s sinking in that this is a time of sacrifice for everyone at every age and that we are all in this unprecedented situation together. Firbank is giving Bonnie a quality education under very trying circumstances. Bonnie is looking forward to returning and I will be very happy for her when she does but I’ll miss our bike rides at lunchtime. If they have to return after a few weeks I am not against that either. Change builds character and resilience. Bonnie has learnt so much from the huge curve ball we’ve been thrown. Life is full of unexpected changes and feelings of being uncomfortable. They will all be stronger in some ways at the end of all this.

Jenny Lampard Year 7 Parent Brighton Senior Campus

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All of Jack’s teachers are doing an amazing job and the past week has run very smoothly. Jack is really enjoying the Microsoft Team Meetings which allow the teachers to make lessons more like they are in the classroom and allows students to contribute and to hear and see their classmates. I have emailed his teachers to thank them but just wanted you to know how much we parents appreciate what they are doing!

Emma Pollio Year 5 & Year 7 Parent Sandringham Campus & Senior Campus

Shari Benski ELC Parent Brighton Junior Campus I want to commend the school community everyone involved in making this happen. Having experienced the online learning, the way this has been set up is just brilliant. It will take a bit of time for the kids to get used to it, but the structure is great, and easy to follow. The breaks are good, the contact with the teachers and other class members has been really fantastic. We are new to the school, but are so impressed with how this has been handled and the professionalism with how it has all been managed and communicated. Thank you so much, and keep up the fantastic work.

Susan Gorman Prep, Year 2 & Year 4 Parent Sandringham Campus I wanted to pass on my thanks to you and your staff for the way Firbank has managed this change to virtual learning. You have been fantastic staying in contact with us regularly. During this time of isolation it is much appreciated to have lots of updates and support for Mia and us as a family. The teachers are doing an amazing job. It’s a very worrying time for everyone; however, it’s clear the staff have been working hard. Please pass on our thanks.

Jodie Knox Year 10 Parent Brighton Senior Campus 3

FIRBANK TODAY | From The Board

During times of change and challenge the role of the Firbank Board and the Senior Leadership Team is to ensure that the school continues to provide exceptional education while supporting our students and community. With mindful governance of our actions today, we look to safeguarding the future sustainability of the school for tomorrow. This year, more than ever, we have had to live our Firbank values, in particular the values of courage and compassion have both been in high demand. I would like to acknowledge the courage and leadership that our Principal, Ms Jenny Williams, and her team have demonstrated. From our early conversations in midJanuary about changes to the school health and safety plan for the commencement of the school year, to a full transition to the Virtual Classroom before the end of Term 1 and returning to on-campus learning in week 5 of Term 2, the leaders, teaching and support staff have consistently been proactive in preparing our students and systems to enable continuity of education in an unprecedented time of uncertainty.

The leadership shown by the school during these times, our student’s academic performance across the years and our ability to know, value and care for each child, has inspired other families to take a ‘virtual look’ at the Firbank education. We are pleased that new families are continuing to enrol and to join Firbank during these challenging times. The 2019 VCE results were outstanding; the achievement of a median study score of 36 is among the highest in Firbank’s history. This is a testament to the efforts and hard work by the students, their families and the teachers throughout their years of schooling. Well done to the Class of 2019. We look forward to continuing to hear about your journey beyond the gates of Firbank. During our 110th year last year, we unveiled the Music Precinct and announced our next project, the upgrade to our Art Facilities. The planning and design of the new Art Precinct have been finalised and we are ready to commence our search for our partner in the building phase. Due to the COVID-19 impact on our community, the delivery of the new Art facilities will be delayed. We will keep you updated as to the commencement of the next phase of this project. To assist us with our planning and delivery of our Building Master Plan, we have invited Owen Smith to be a member of the Planning and Building Board Sub-Committee. Owen’s background in commercial property development has further strengthened our ability to provide bespoke and state of the art facilities for our students. On behalf of the Board, I would like to acknowledge and thank Julie Laycock who is retiring from the Board of Firbank. Julie first joined the Board in 2012 and has held the positions of Deputy Chair of the Board, Chair of the Marketing Committee and member of the Commerce Committee. Julie’s background in marketing and experience on commercial boards has enabled us to strengthen our governance, brand and market positioning. Mrs Jennine Ross Chair of the School Board CRICOS Provider No. 00140K


From The Principal | FIRBANK TODAY Firbank has five core values which have been part of our fabric since 1909 and underpin our School beliefs. Each year we have a specific focus on one and 2020 is Firbank’s Year of Courage.

When we commenced the school year in January, no one could have foreseen how significant this value was for 2020 – it truly is the Year of Courage – not just for Firbank, but globally. 2020 started ‘normally’ as we held two wonderful events to open the year: the three campus Community Welcome Cocktail event and our School Fair held at the Sandringham campus. These two events enabled us to engage as a community and to welcome our new families to Firbank. COVID-19 hit late in Term 1 which led to all School events being cancelled or postponed and we moved to continue our learning journey in the Virtual Classroom. With no rule book, the courage to take informed risks has certainly helped navigate these unprecedented times and I am grateful to the School Board, and our Firbank community for their unwavering advice and support. ‘Life at Firbank’, published in 1960, documents that this isn’t the first time we have been disrupted by disease. In 1919 the School opened a fortnight late due to the impact of the Spanish Flu and saw a phased return of boarders from 4 March to 23 April 1919. ‘Temperatures were taken daily and both throats and rooms were sprayed’. Then in 1937 due to the Polio Epidemic, ‘all interschool sport was cancelled and at the end of July the school closed with holidays being taken then instead of August. The staff carried out correspondence teaching in an endeavour to keep their pupils up to date with their work, and suggestions were made for reading.’ I am grateful that we are in 2020 – with the benefits of modern technology and resources and am so proud of what we, as a community have achieved in such a short space of time, from the way in which our IT Team fasttracked the implementation of Microsoft Teams, to how our students from ELC to Year 12 adopted and adapted to the challenge of a new Firbank Learning environment – and the extraordinary commitment and courage displayed by our staff as they embraced and flourished in the Virtual Classroom. During the isolation period, our boarding house was one of very few to remain operational for those girls who were unable to return home. Our School remained open for the children of frontline and essential workers and whilst our ELC continued to operate throughout lockdown, we commenced our phased return to campus on 18 May for Prep - Year 12. CRICOS Provider No. 00140K

The health, safety and wellbeing of our students and staff remained our top priorities. Social distancing, strict new hygiene procedures were put into place including temperature checks on arrival and during the day, albeit with digital scanners, in some ways it was not all that different to 1937.

Throughout all this, the Firbank spirit has continued to shine through as we found new ways for our community to connect and flourish. From our International Families holding online cooking lessons to virtual assemblies and FOGA meetings, we have all adapted. The generosity of the FOGA-Firbank Relief Fund, the fee concessions for Prep to Year 12, longer payment periods, the complimentary holiday care options for our junior school children or what will be a very prolonged year for our senior students with much of the School operating late into December are all examples of our community care. Our focus has been and will continue to be on assisting our community in the best way possible. Courage doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to be afraid, it means that you don’t let fear stop you. The School’s motto, ‘Vincit Qui Se Vincit’ calls on us to conquer challenges and embrace possibilities. I have no doubt we will continue to do so. Ms Jenny Williams Principal


I know that you will agree with me that in Kim’s time at Firbank, she has made a big impact on Turner House, be it physical - with the establishment of new learning and outdoor spaces; academic – with curriculum innovations that have led to significant results; and emotional - the bonds she has formed with students, staff and families. We are all going to miss Kim and her passion for learning and teaching very much. We will have the opportunity to thank Kim and to farewell her in a socially distanced manner next term. 5


CONQUERING IN UNPRECEDENTED TIMES Our 2020 experiences have been unusual to say the least. One of the most apt and perhaps overused words to describe our current experience has been ‘unprecedented’. I think we can all agree that we have never known or experienced times like these. In our Firbank community, in our local area, nationally and internationally we have seen entire organisations, businesses and industries evolve and adapt to navigate the ever changing environment we find ourselves in.

Above from L - R: Kate Major, Director of Wellbeing, Ollie Bream, School Co-Captain

and Jenny Williams, School Principal Education is one of the sectors that has experienced a huge shift. Our modes of operation have completely changed. In the last week of Term 1, together, we managed to successfully take our entire school into the Virtual Classroom. It involved countless experiences of doing things we were not accustomed to, did not feel comfortable with and never thought we would ever have to do. We did not enter 2020 expecting bushfires and then a pandemic which would see learning remotely for the majority of Term 2 but here we are. As we take time to reflect on what we have achieved together the feeling of awe is what fits.

“Awe is the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world” Greater Good Science Centre Berkley University https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/awe/definition#what-is-awe The feeling of wonder and marvel can be felt listening to music, experiencing art or architecture but the most common sources of awe are of other people and nature. I am in awe of our Firbank staff and our remarkable students. The work we have been able to do together and what we have been able to achieve is nothing short of awesome. Our students have displayed agility and kindness through this time. The young people we work with are resilient, creative, and critical thinkers who have shown that they can adapt. This was evident with the ease with which they transitioned into the Virtual Classroom. As adults, we are often uncomfortable with risk and change; young people are even less comfprtable. In a recent survey conducted with VCE students 94% of our Senior School students felt connected to our school and part of our community whilst working in the Virtual Classroom, 98% felt that their learning was continuing during this time. Many students have reported that elements of remote learning have been beneficial. As we move into the next phase of this response, it is important to reflect and learn from our experience.

Kate Major Director of Wellbeing


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Whether on campus, trekking through the bush or competing at House events what we do at Firbank goes beyond the delivery of traditional academic content. Part of who we are means that staff at Firbank plan and facilitate learning experiences that grow character and foster the development of relationships and resilience. The lessons around selfregulation, collaboration and adaptability will empower our students to not only survive through times of disruption, but to thrive in any environment they find themselves in.

2019 Results | FIRBANK TODAY

CLASS OF 2019 46.4%




ATARs over 90


in Australia

ATARs over 95


in Australia

Median ATAR








‘Perfect’ study scores

Grades A or A+

Study Scores over 40

Students attained ATARs over 99

Congratulations to the Class of 2019 who achieved Firbank’s best results in the last six years. Firbank is delighted that the Class of 2019 has continued the School’s tradition of academic excellence. We are proud to be in Victoria’s top 20 VCE Schools. Our girls achieved across the board, with the Top ATAR score of 99.8, the 2019 Dux was Helen Gong. The joint Dux Secunda achieving 99.75 were Christina Qian and Alexandra (Sasha) Zilberg.

WHERE DID THEY GO? Deakin College Australian Catholic University Deakin University

Monash College La Trobe University

Congratulations to our distinguished achievers who excelled in their chosen subjects and were awarded notable scores: Jiaming (Candella) Chen achieved an outstanding ATAR Score of 99.15 and Mia Shepherd achieved an ATAR score of 99.10. Chloe Hartley, Annabelle Holman and Ines Macdonald all achieved ‘Perfect’ Study Scores in Health and Human Development.


Architecture & Building Agriculture, Environmental & Related Studies Society & Culture

Swinburne University

Creative Arts Education Engineering/ Related Technologies Health

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RMIT Melbourne University Monash University

Natural & Physical Sciences

Information Technology

Management/Commerce 7

FIRBANK TODAY | Commissioning of Rev’d Croft

Above from L - R: Leandra Turner, Deputy Principal and Head of Senior School, Jenny Williams, School Principal, Rev’d Christine Croft, Bishop Paul Baker, Ollie Bream, School Co-Captain and Ciara Gilligan, Chapel Leader.

Firbank Grammar congratulates Rev’d Christine Croft who was commissioned by Bishop Paul Barker, Assistant Bishop for Jumbunna in the Diocese of Melbourne, as Chaplain of Firbank on 31 January 2020. Rev’d Croft started her career as a teacher and after the birth of her three children, followed her calling into the Priesthood. She was ordained in February 2017 and served in Werribee before becoming Assistant Curate at St Andrew’s Brighton. During her time in this role she continued the historical links between the Church and the School and became an integral member of the Firbank Grammar community. Rev’d Croft has been at Firbank since January 2018, splitting her time between St Andrew’s and the school. From 2020 she is following in the footsteps of the first female ordained Chaplain Rev’d Maree Vines as Chaplain and Head of Religious Education at the school. The Commissioning Service was attended by members of local Deanery, St Andrew’s Brighton parishioners, Firbank Grammar Principal, Jenny Williams, Firbank Grammar staff, Firbank Grammar student leaders and Rev’d Croft’s family.

Rev’d Croft encourages the students and staff to ask themselves, who they want to be? Her aim is to help them to define their character, their values and their connection with the Anglican traditions on which Firbank was founded more than 110 years ago. 8

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Embracing this important role at Firbank, Rev’d Croft lives our School’s Anglican values and is a great example to our students of the importance of faith throughout their learning and life journeys.

Giving 2020 | FIRBANK TODAY



The renovation of the Midhurst class rooms and the first stage of upgrading the Arts Precinct and Louis Williams Hall were finished over the 2019 Christmas break. This work could not have been completed without the generous support of the Bodhi Foundation.

The ongoing development of Firbank facilities and our scholarship funds have been made possible to a large degree by Annual Giving. Given that 2020 has been an extraordinary year with so many people affected by the bushfires and the pandemic, many members of our community who may have supported us in the past may not be in the position to do so this year. However, if you are able to support our Pay-It-Forward Scholarship, we encourage you to do so, every gift, no matter the size will make a difference and make the awarding of this scholarship become a reality for a girl whose life would be transformed by a Firbank education. Please CLICK here to be redirected to the Giving Page on our Website alternatively you can contact Amanda Webster on 95915148 or awebster@Firbank.vic.edu.au

The Foundation’s main areas of support are in Health, the Arts and Education. Current and future students will benefit greatly from the Bodhi Foundation’s gift to Firbank Due to COVID19, the works planned on the Arts Precinct have had to be put on hold and we look forward to work on this development recommencing as soon as possible. We would like to thank all our past students and both past and current parents who have supported this campaign and look forward to sharing our updated plans of the proposed Arts Precinct later in the year. PAY-IT-FORWARD SCHOLARSHIP AND LEAVE YOUR MARK Thank you to all those members of the Firbank community, past and current students and their families who have supported various aspects of the School’s programs. Last year the Class of 2019 established the Pay-It-Forward Scholarship. This is designed to open the doors of Firbank to a girl who would otherwise not be able to attend. We are so grateful to those who supported this initiative, as well as our Building Fund in support of the new Arts Precinct and the Indigenous Scholarship Fund. We appreciate this continued tradition of giving that has made a profound difference to generations of Firbank Students. Another new initiative is the Leave Your Mark Colonnade at the entrance to Hindley House. Past students can make a tax deductible donation of $250 towards the Pay-ItForward Scholarship. The School will add a plaque with your details and peer year to the colonnade. Generational families can have their plaques placed next to each other so representing a family’s strong bonds with Firbank. If you would like to support this initiative and purchase a plaque please contact Amanda Webster on 9591 5148 CRICOS Provider No. 00140K


FIRBANK TODAY | Meet the Firbank IT Team

We are very grateful to our IT Team, who worked tirelessly to fast-track the implementation of Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) to enable our teaching and learning to continue remotely via the Firbank Virtual Classroom. Regardless of the IT issue, be it big or small they are constantly willing to take the time to help and explain the complexities of the computer world to our students and staff and always with a smile. Our thanks go out to Mark, Rishan, Travis, Han, Harj and Leigh-Ann – let’s get to know them better.


RISHAN WICKRAMASURIYA, Systems and Infrastructure Manager


Mark started at Firbank seven years ago as an IT support contractor. He has been the driving force in fast-tracking the implementation of Microsoft Teams to create our Firbank Virtual Classroom. Mark continues to lead the IT Team who are concurrently working on new solutions to ensure Firbank has a stable foundation to deliver 21st century teaching and learning from anywhere, at any time.

Together with Mark, Rishan works closely with Microsoft on the implementation of the IT strategy that empowers our students and staff to access resources securely from anywhere to enable productivity beyond the classroom.

Harj has been our ICT technician at Firbank for the last 18 months. He provides network support, ground support and the friendly face you always see behind our IT Help Desk.

As well as being an IT guru Mark enjoys reading up on new technology and attending technology trade shows. He has a passion for music and video production, electronics, revolutionary technologies and mechanical design. 10

Qualified as an Advanced Diploma in Network/System Engineer, for the past 15 years, Harj has held positions in Systems and Network Engineering, as well as a variety of Desktop Support roles at companies such as Dell/Acer Corporate Devices. Harj shares his passion for bushwalking with his wife and 2 children aged 9 and 12.

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We are indeed fortunate to have Mark at Firbank. He is also an avid audio technician and owns a production company that reinforces production requirements for some of the world’s biggest entertainers. Whilst he has shared the stage with clients like Bruno Mars, he also has been known to help out with audio requirements for our Firbank productions.

In the past Rishan has worked as a Systems and Network Engineer with the Taisei Corporation, Hewlett Packard and a number of government and defence offices across Asia. Since moving to Australia in 2012 Rishan has worked in the education sector and joined Firbank in early 2019. Outside of the work environment Rishan enjoys photography and spending time with his young family. He enjoys tinkering with appliances when they break, however he is quick to add that if something goes wrong his wife is usually right.


HAN ZHANG, MIS Specialist

TRAVIS MCCOURTIE, IT Services Co-ordinator

LEIGH-ANN KELLY, ICT/Software & VASS Administrator

After graduating with a Masters Degree in Information Systems, Han spent many years working in the private sector with blue-chip corporate database projects.

Travis has worked in a contract capacity for Firbank since 2012. In January 2017 he commenced a short-term IT contract, 3+ years on, he is still at Firbank full time and is now a permanent member of our IT Department.

Leigh-Ann has been at Firbank for an incredible 22 years. She provides administrative support to the IT Team as well as Level 1 Technical support to our students and staff. In addition, Leigh-Ann assists with curriculum support to the VCE Coordinator and is also the VASS Administrator.

Han is passionate when it comes to working with data. We are appreciative of this attribute as he is responsible for managing our School database. He is accountable for third party data integration and staff support. When he is not managing our School CRM System Han has a green thumb and can be found pottering around in the garden. He enjoys nothing more than admiring his thick, green lawn and eating home grown veggies.

His focus is on the user experience and design elements of the technology process, Travis is also our inhouse Consent2Go guru and has been responsible for the iPad program rollout across both our junior campuses. Beyond the IT space, Travis is very good at problem solving, logic, communicating, and people – which he says is 90% of IT (or most jobs, for that matter).

Over the years Leigh-Ann has worked in many different areas at Firbank including Rowing Administration, Share Learning Centre Administration, implementation of the NAPLAN Online process and even exam supervision. She is flexible in her approach and always willing to lend a hand.

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Travis hails originally from New Zealand and has a lot of interests outside of technology. Amongst other things he studied psychology, geology, Russian language and Women’s Studies. He even won a dragon boating silver medal at the corporate games in Wellington and can always find something in common to discuss with you. 11

FIRBANK TODAY | International Support Group With 230 students coming from 18 different countries, we certainly have an international flavour through all three of our campuses. Many families arrive in Melbourne with very little support and few friends. This year we introduced the International Parents Support Group led by current parent Cristina Jimenez, whose two daughters are at Turner House. Cristina and her family arrived in Melbourne ten years ago. Not knowing anyone and knowing very little about their new city, they know first-hand what it is like to be a new expat family. Cristina plans to engage with all new International families and help them integrate into the Firbank community. Cristina launched the support group with an online cooking demonstration and more than 30 families joined the event. With the help of her two daughters Cristina demonstrated how to make Spanish Tapas; it was great fun. This was followed by a second online event where families discussed school holiday activities and learned to prepare traditional English Eccles Cakes.

Late in June parents from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Korea, Russia and Spain undertook a socially distanced walk together along the beautiful Brighton shore. Once things settle down and social distancing guidelines are eased Cristina plans to run a number of events, excursions and social get togethers. She is looking forward to creating a connected, welcoming, diverse and supportive international community at Firbank.

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Welcome to 2020 | FIRBANK TODAY

THREE CAMPUS ‘WELCOME TO 2020’ COCKTAIL PARTY Over 400 parents gathered on the mod grass court on a beautiful summer evening in February for our inaugural Community Welcome Cocktail Event. The parents were able to catch up with old friends and welcome new families to our community. The very talented Firbank Big Band provided the entertainment and Jenny Williams was able to formally welcome the parents to Firbank for 2020. We look forward to making this community event a Firbank tradition at the commencement of each year.

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FIRBANK TODAY | Twilight Fair

It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to put on a successful fair! The Sandringham Fair this year attested to how connected and committed our Sandringham Campus parent community truly is. Led by the SHPA Team Fair Manager, Emma Smith together with SHPA Co-Presidents, Cliff Trend and Emma Pollio, the Twilight Fair was a huge success. Thank you to our Fair Committee and to all the Sandringham Campus parents who volunteered their time and efforts to ensure the triumph of this event.

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We were blessed with perfect weather this year and the Twilight Fair was held on Friday, 28 February, prior to COVID-19 restrictions being in place. With a record number of attendees from both the Firbank and Bayside community flocking to Royal Avenue, everyone enjoyed all the different aspects of the fair. A new addition this year was the Centre Stage, which enabled families to gather on picnic rugs and tables to eat dinner and enjoy watching the Firbank Big Band, Bayside Seido Karate and MAD Studio Dance. All ages were

catered for with many interesting stalls, a wide variety of food trucks, numerous rides and a very special guest performance by Peppa Pig. Events like this could not be run without the support of a large number of sponsors. Firbank is so grateful for those within the school and those in the local community who supported the Fair. A big thank you to our sponsors listed below.

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FIRBANK TODAY | Senior School

Commissioning Service

When 2020 began we were excited to herald in a new school year - with our celebratory Welcome Back Assembly at which students and staff were treated to a traditional Smoking Ceremony and Welcome to Country. This was delivered by the much respected Indigenoous leader Kellie Hunter. The same week saw a very special Commencement Church Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral, at which the Commissioning of our School Chaplain, Reverend Christine Croft, was a highlight with a poignant address delivered by Bishop Paul Barker who reflected on our School Reading 1 Corinthians 13. Our Year 7s were off to camp to make new friends and immerse themselves in the transition process. The first week was completed with a new tradition of the Welcome Cocktail Party for all parents and staff – a great evening of socialising and good cheer was had – we were back! Before we knew it, we were introducing our Prefects and Senior Student Leaders who spoke of their hopes and goals for their year as they represented Senior School students with roles spanning Sporting, Music, Drama, Dance, Chapel and Boarding Captains through to International Students, SRC, Social Justice, Wellbeing, Environmental Action Group and House Captains. It is through these student leaders that we ensure a healthy culture of student voice is nurtured, this year being made all the more powerful through the regular publication of the ‘Prefect Panel’, a student newsletter aimed at communicating and promoting student platforms. Themed assemblies that enrich culture and raise awareness are an integral part of the Senior School experience.


In Term 1, these included ‘Green Week’, which introduced environmental activists and lunch time activities that highlighted issues and the ways in which we can all help to reduce our impact on the environment. The Student Representative Council (SRC) facilitated International Women’s Week, which saw highlights of Black Saturday survivor, Michelle French from Kinglake Forest Adventures, speak of her experiences and how she has rebuilt her life, as well as AFLW league player and multiple time Olympic Netball Champion, Sharni Layton, share her powerful story of sporting success amidst the need to acknowledge and accept help to overcome mental health issues along the way – both inspirational speakers and strong female role models for our community. This week culminated in Firbank’s proud support of the epic Cricket event - the ICC T20 World Cup – which highlighted issues of equity of women whilst recognising the importance of women’s sport. And just as our Senior School was settling into a rhythm in our ‘Year of Courage’ and, after a very successful preseason and Firbank Regatta, preparing for the muchanticipated Head of the Schoolgirls Rowing Regatta, our journey was abruptly diverted by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. As the reality of the far-reaching impact of the Coronavirus set in, events on the school calendar needed cancelling or postponing and the transfer to our Firbank Virtual Classroom Program, which our Firbank IT team had had the foresight some weeks earlier to begin to prepare for – just in case, began. After much planning and preparation by staff, Term 2 started in the Virtual Classroom. We had the final week of Term 1 to trial our MS Teams platform and to adjust

Sharni Layton with the SRC

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2020 Prefects

Year 7 Camp


ICC T20 World Cup to the teaching and learning needs of remote classes - needless to say we were all on an steep, upward learning curve that was scary and exciting all at once! Our wonderful Firbank staff were keen to keep their school programs as ‘normal’ as possible despite the new, online mode of communication. This meant that every class would be taught as per the usual school timetable, that we would still celebrate every week with our school assemblies, and that all SOC times and lunch time meetings with Leadership groups such as the Prefects, SRC, EAG, Wellbeing and Social Justice would also continue. All staff Professional Development and regular meetings were to run as per usual, albeit via the MS Teams medium. It has been different, and at times challenging to find the best ways around delivering different types of assemblies, meetings, classes and assessments, but it has also been a strangely liberating time, a time when we were literally ‘all in this together’ and learning and supporting each other along the way. Great group chats, blogs and webinars developed with students and staff working together on the best ways forward. Although we weren’t physically together, we were connected more than ever in our mission to ensure the quality learning and spirit building experiences weren’t lost, but rather morphed into another way of doing things. In terms of student and staff involvement and agility throughout our remote learning time, there is much of which to be proud. From our weekly assemblies which ensured our traditional Easter, ANZAC, International Student led Harmony Week and Cultural Assembly, Social Justice League, Languages and our Reconciliation Week Assemblies and activities, all were of a high

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Green Week Event

standard and celebrating inclusivity and awareness raising, our Music lessons and bands and choral groups continuing, our sports department setting fitness challenges, our Library providing borrowing opportunities for all of the Firbank Community, our Boarding House remaining open for students who could not return home when the great majority of boarding facilities in the country closed, to our Wellbeing pages and tips for all and, finally, to our House assemblies and events that have forged ways to ensure the House spirit is reinforced through alternative types of competitions and events including ‘The House of Cards’ building, the Public Speaking Competition via flip-grid recordings and, most recently, the House Cross-Country Competition that had almost 400 students compete on their ‘Big Day Out’! These achievements are things that we should not underestimate in terms of nurturing our sense of connectedness and pride in our school community. It was exciting to commence the phased return of our students in late May, beginning with the most senior Year 11 and 12 students. Once again, Firbank has been a leader in preparedness and welcomed students back whilst other schools are still planning. Importantly, we want to make sure we keep the practices which throughout the remote teaching time have added to the richness of our teaching and learning experiences. We must all take time to reflect on what we have learned about ourselves and our Firbank community so that our experiences lead positively forward. Leandra Turner Delputy Principal/Head of Senior School

Social Distancing 17

FIRBANK TODAY | Junior School: Sandringham

Year 5 & 6 Sailing

Garden to Kitchen Program

FIRBANK FAIR On Friday 28 February, the Firbank Fair was held at the Sandringham Campus. It was a most successful event led by SHPA Co-Presidents, Cliff Trend and Emma Pollio and Fair Manager Emma Smith, along with a large team of SHPA volunteers. We had perfect weather and the event attracted thousands of people who came along for the rides, food and to see the star attraction, Peppa Pig! The Fair raised approximately $22,000 and these funds will be utilised to enhance the outdoor play facilities at the Sandringham Campus. My thanks to all parents, students and staff who contributed to the Fair. YEAR 5 & 6 SAILING As part of their After School Sport program, the Year 5 and 6 students took part in a sailing program held at the Sandringham Yacht Club in Term 1. The students used cooperation and teamwork skills alongside new technical skills, throughout the 4-week program.

GARDEN TO KITCHEN PROGRAM The Year 4 Garden to Kitchen program continues to grow from strength-to-strength and, thanks to a refurbishment of the STEM Centre, we now have a fully functioning kitchen space to allow for cooking, using the produce from our vegetable garden. VIRTUAL CLASSROOM We are very proud of the work of the staff and students in the Virtual Classroom. Using Microsoft Teams as the platform, the teachers were able to teach live to the students using the latest technology. The students were able to complete their curriculum, including Specialists lessons. We were very pleased to have the students return on Campus sooner rather than later. SCIENCE LITERACY To further enhance on building science skills and knowledge into our program, ‘Information Literacy’ evolved to ‘Science Literacy’ this year. The Prep to Year 6 students now have dedicated Science lessons taught by a Specialist STEM teacher. They participate in hands-

Meet Robyn Licenblat, Director of ELC Sandringham Campus

Robyn has been teaching young children for over 20 years across numerous independent schools in Melbourne including Mount Scopus College, Tintern and Mentone Grammar. Initially she was attracted to kindergarten teaching as it provided the opportunity to link teaching with the interdisciplinary arts. Singing, dancing, music, puppetry, art and storytelling are just some of the tools she uses to engage and involve children in their learning.

Robyn sees our ELC students as young, intelligent and capable learners. She is excited to be part of our School community and is enjoying working with our youngest students and helping them become the thought leaders and creative thinkers of our future. 18

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Her experience has shown that children learn best when they are engaged, curious and interested in the world around them. It is through the creation of an environment where children feel safe, valued and their ideas heard that they can truly thrive. When educators are content, positively challenged and inspired, they can create and foster the type of environment that allows children to develop a lifelong love and engagement of learning.

Science Literacy

on experiments and science activities linked to literature which equals a greater scientific understanding. VIRTUAL CROSS COUNTRY One of the events that we would have normally held in Term 2 was House Cross Country. This year, due to COVID-19, students were required to complete the event at home. They were asked to time themselves and present their time over the required distance, depending on their age level. MUSICAL AUDITIONS It was announced in Term 1 that our Prep to Year 6 Musical this year will be Aladdin Jr. The Year 5 and 6 students have the opportunity to be the ‘Leads’ in the Musical and practised during lockdown for auditions that were held when they returned in Term 2. We look forward to our Musical being able to go ahead in Term 4.

ANZAC DAY SERVICE Without students on Campus for much of Term 2, Assemblies have been held ‘live’ using Microsoft Teams and students have been able to watch either from their home or, more recently, from the classroom. We commemorated ANZAC Day and I am thankful for Lt Col Neil Smith who spoke so eloquently on the topic of our Firbank Value for 2020, ‘Courage’. RECONCILIATION WEEK (27 MARCH – 3 JUNE) We are grateful to the Rotary Club of Sandringham and to SHPA for agreeing to purchase two new flagpoles to sit alongside our existing flagpole at the front of the Wool Wool building. The two new flagpoles will enable us to fly the Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Island flag, alongside the Australian flag. Our Reconciliation Assembly included the Year 6s reflecting on the importance of cultural respect and understanding and the need to continue to acknowledge the first peoples of Australia. Brad Nelsen Head of Campus

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ELC reading time

Virtual Cross Country


FIRBANK TODAY | Junior School: Brighton

New ELC 4 environment

LAUNCH OF EARLY LEARNING PRECINCT Expansion of our Early Learning Centre (ELC) This year, we were so excited to have expanded our Early Learning Centre to include additional 3 Year Old and 4 Year Old classes. This meant redesigning our ELC environment to include two new purpose built 4 Year Old classrooms. The rooms have been designed to specifically promote literacy, numeracy and STEM. EARLY LEARNING PRECINCT In re-examining the definition of Early Years, we have also created an Early Years Precinct that supports the developmental continuity of learning for children from ELC to Year 1. Brand new Prep and Year 1 spaces overlook the ELC and contain spaces to inquire, to create, to read, to design and to wonder. Importantly, internal bathrooms assist the Preps and Year 1s to follow important hygiene practices, ever more important during this period and beyond. NEW PLAYGROUND Works commenced on our Playground Piazza Project at Turner House over the 2019/20 summer holiday period, transforming our garden playspace into an exciting new community area. We love looking out on and enjoying our beautiful new outdoor space, complete with a piazza style paved area with café tables and chairs, multiple landscaped sandpits and a discovery garden, bench seating, picnic tables and a hard-court Sports area. Thank you to the many families who made this plan a reality by contributing financially and in kind to support the development of our new community space.

New Playground

Notably, and really significant from a learning perspective, were the 8,379 Student Comments in MS Teams Chat.

Making connections

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a variety of classes as the girls were learning from home and experience the Virtual Classroom in action. I also taught some lessons and was a student in others. It has really highlighted the extraordinary expertise of our teachers and the open-mindedness and enthusiasm of our students. I was truly astounded by the interaction of the girls during the MS Teams Meetings and amazed by some of the Firefly data over a 10 day period which showed that there had been: • 13,862 hits on the Welcome to Turner House Page • 479 Teams Meetings - providing face-to-face learning between teachers and students • 392 Attendees at Assembly - super excited to have people tuning in! • 64 pieces of Artwork submitted online - providing opportunities for creativity • 23 entries into the Online Firbank’s Got Talent Competition - wonderful to see the girls shine • 5 hours of scheduled home reading per student • 247 Daily Trivia submissions - this has been a huge hit! • 8 hours of live physical workouts - so important for wellbeing during this time of isolation. • 73 towers, bridges, catapults, sneaker designs and boats submitted as part of the STEM Daily Challenge - demonstrating the girls’ interest in STEM and in participating in extracurricular activities even online. • More than 10 student birthdays celebrated in the Virtual Classroom - ensuring that the personal milestones were celebrated even from afar.

JIP Event

This relates to questions students asked and responses from peers and teachers, and feedback that they have given each other and that teachers have provided over this period. I am very proud of this statistic as one of the hardest things to provide in remote learning is ‘feedback’ but it is one of the most important factors for growth - and we did this in spades. ASSEMBLY - LIVE TEAMS EVENT We continued to host Assemblies each week, sharing the contributions of our Year 6 Captains. We were able to share positive messages with the community, sing songs, promote wellbeing and provide reminders about how to interact online. There was significant student and parent feedback from these sessions THE BIG DAY OUT SUPER CHALLENGE We held an invention contest for students and/or families The challenge was based on the Smithsonian ‘Inventit’ challenge and provided students with a purposeful learning task during the ‘Big Day Out’. This contest was open to students and families from Turner House and was judged by an external expert, Dr. Ryan Dunn, from the University of Melbourne. We are so excited to be collaborating with Dr. Dunn on this initiative. I recognise and acknowledge the incredible support and effort of families in facilitating the learning from home, in partnership with the extraordinary back-end preparation, research, planning and delivery requirements from our end. I am so proud of the way our teachers have pivoted to a new way of teaching during this period and acknowledge the enormous effort in ensuring that the

School and House Captains

experience was positive for all students. Kim Wheeler Head of Campusa

Meet Sarah Wallace, ELC Director Brighton Campus Sarah has always loved children and is passionate about Early Childhood Education. Even as a 4 year old she wrote, ‘one day I want to be a teacher of children’. Almost everything she has done academically and professionally has been in pursuit of this purpose. With a global teaching career spanning across Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom Sarah joined Firbank as ELC Director in January 2020. Sarah was drawn to the opportunity to work in an ELC which places play and inquiry at the heart of all learning. She knows the early years are a crucial stage in a child’s life and appreciates the essential relationships that develop between families and educators. Sarah is delighted to be part of Firbank Grammar community and feels privileged to be in a position where she can help to shape and nurture the curiosity, awe and wonder of our students in these Early Years. Helping to lay the foundations for our girls to be kind, confident, risk-taking individuals.

FAREWELL FIRBANK Miss Wallace with ELC children

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I will never forget the incredible privilege it has been to have led such an amazing community, and it is with mixed emotions that I am leaving Firbank. While I am excited about my next step and know it’s the right decision for my family, I’ll miss all of you so much. Thank you for your never-ending help and support during my tenure here at Firbank. - Kim Wheeler 21


During these difficult and unprecedented times our alumni are adapting and assisting. For the first time in FOGA’s history, our AGM was held virtually. We wanted to ensure the Association continued to operate in 2020 without too much interruption.

I feel it’s important to acknowledge the work the Association has been undertaking over the past few months. In particular the FirbankFOGA relief fund, in partnership with the school, has provided assistance to families who are experiencing financial hardship and require school fee relief at this time. This would not have been possible without the generous donations the Association has received over the years from our members. It is our vision that we can continue to provide financial support and funding in the future. That said, we can only do so with the support of our members. I would also like to thank the FOGA members who put their hand up to support other members in need during this period of social isolation we have all been thrown into. When we put out the call to our members, we had an overwhelming response across all generations. Thank you to all those women who came forward. Your eagerness to assist was very much appreciated. It is in times like this that we reflect on the communities to which we belong and truly realise how important communities can be to get us through difficult times. The FOGA community is strong and ever growing. I remind all our members that the purpose of FOGA is to support you. Anna Borthwick Acting President of FOGA



ANNUAL SOUTH AUSTRALIAN FOGA LUNCH Saturday 17, October 2020 Torrens Arms Hotel, Kingswood

ANNOUNCEMENTS We are always pleased to welcome new additions to the Firbank family. Please let us know your happy news by contacting Amanda Webster on 9591 5148 or email awebster@firbank.vic.edu.au so we can send your new baby a welcome gift.

Firbank alumni and their pre-schoolers are also invited to join in Playgroup at either the Sandringham or Brighton Campuses during term time (Free of charge for FOGA members). 22

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At Firbank we are always delighted to enrol children of alumni to Firbank. Due to increasing demand, we recommend you register your application for enrolment as early as possible. As valued members of our community, the application fee for children of FOGA members is waived. Applications can be completed online by visiting www.firbank.vic.edu.au


50 Years | Class of 1970

40 Years | Class of 1980

10 Years | Class of 2010

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STAY IN TOUCH If your details have changed update them at firbank.vic.edu.au or contact events@firbank.vic.edu.au or telephone 9591 5148

REUNIONS 2020 In early March we were in full swing ready to celebrate many milestone reunions in 2020. Much preparation and excitement had gone into the 40 Year, 10 Year and 50 Year reunions which were due to be held at the end of March and early April. However, with the emergence of the COVID19 crisis and as the school continues to hold the health and safety of all our community members as the highest priority, all Firbank events had to be cancelled. We have included some of the photos from 1970, 1980 and 2010 that would have been a part of the reunions. As the year progresses and things become clearer, we will publish our calendar of events for 2021 including those reunions scheduled for 2020. We look forward to welcoming many of our past students back to Firbank in 2021 .


FIRBANK NEWS | Congratulations, Condolences, Welcome Ivy

Olivia Lulu



Congratulations to Olivia, Class of 2019 who was awarded the first place prize in LCI University’s Creative Folio Awards 2019. Liv received a Scholarship to study at LCI Melbourne, a feature on Year13 & LCI Melbourne’s website so everyone can see her hard work and 10 x hours of one-on-one mentoring with a creative legend from LCI Melbourne, Max Amner. Congratulations to Senior School student Alea (Year 7) who was selected to represent the Victorian Schools triathlon team at the School Sport Australia Championships in Hervey Bay, Qld. Congratulations to Senior School student Lulu (Year 8) who has been selected by Hockey Victoria in the U15 2021 State Development team.


Congratulations to Senior School student Ivy (Year 7) who represented Firbank at the recent Victorian Inter-Schools Equestrian Jumping Competition. Ivy achieved the 6th place ribbon in a field of more than 75 competitors. Congratulations to Senior School student Grace, Year 9 who won a silver medal in the 200m hurdles at the State Athletics Championship.

QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY HONOURS Carolyn Douglas (1969) for Service to the law and the judiciary. Carolyn retired as a judge of the County Court in October 2017 after a career on the bench of 20 years. Carolyn was admitted to the bar in 1978 and was appointed prosecutor for the crown in 1986, serving for 11 years in that role. She was the longest serving female Crown Prosecutor. We congratulate Carolyn on her award and for her long and distinguished legal career.

easing of restrictions has created a renewed interest in the property market - across both sales and rentals,” he says. “Market sentiment is positive, and we’re seeing good upward movement in demand.”

THANK YOU TO OUR BOARD SPONSOR FOLLETT & CO In unprecedented times, expert knowledge is more important than ever. As the Director of Follett & Co., Justin Follett has an insider’s perspective on the post-Covid 19 real estate market. He believes the ability to adapt to the changing needs of clients, the community and the real estate industry has been the key to retaining strong results in uncertain times.

Justin says the market has adapted and re-calibrated, and he’s now seeing clients rethink their spaces, and decide on upgrading, downsizing or embracing a change. “The recent 24

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n pleased to $2,500 donatihoen a g Follett & Co are in k a m f o ce n w a of Firbank the Pchay-It-Forward Scholarship Fund to the Firbank sell through Follett & Co. are a they know that you we can el ch a R r o in st Please let Ju irbank Community so that member of the F make this happen. CRICOS Provider No. 00140K

“We’ve certainly needed to re-think the way we do things over this period,” he says “Staying flexible, building networks and being creative with communication has enabled us to support our vendors and landlords, and bring them together with buyers and tenants.”

“As market leaders with a wealth of local knowledge and experience, I’m proud of the way our team has performed in recent months and I know we’re well-placed to deal with whatever comes next. We welcome the opportunity to assist Firbank families with their property requirements. Whether it’s sales, leasing or just a viewpoint on the Bayside market, we’re here to talk.”

Congratulations, Condolences, Welcome | FIRBANK NEWS CONDOLENCES Our heartfelt sympathy is extended to the family and friends of the following Old Grammarians: Anne Ryan (Harrison) On 29 September 2019. Peer Year 1953 Elizabeth Abel On 12 October 2019. Peer Year 1961 TURNS 100 Helen Lamont (Eastwood) 1934 We send our very good wishes to one of our past students Helen who turned 100 on 23 May. Helen started at Firbank in 1930 and at the age of 14, in 1934 was forced to leave school due to the Depression. Her older sister, Letty, also attended Firbank. Helen remembers being very happy at Firbank and enjoyed tennis, athletics, and swimming and meeting up with the BGS boys on the way to school! She has special memories of some of her teachers including, Miss Tonkin, Miss Cameron, Miss Nash and Miss Veal. After Helen left Firbank, she went on to night school where she completed a shorthand and typing course. Helen still leads a very busy and active life: she is the founding member of the Solo Club at the RACV Club where she has played for 21 years. Helen takes a keen interest in horse raising and can hardly wait to get back to attend the races with her friends soon. Unfortunately Helen had to cancel all her birthday celebrations due to the Covid-19 lock down, however, was thrilled to receive letters of congratulations from the Queen, Prime Minister, Governor General and the Governor of Victoria as well as many cards and calls from all her friends and family. Helen certainly lives by her mantra “Life goes quickly, try to just enjoy yourself”! Congratulations Helen.

Claire Jackson (Homburg) On 23 October 2019. Peer Year 1949 Pam Crosthwaite (Zwar) On 26 October 2019. Peer Year 1944 Jenny Clayton (Birtles) On 21 November 2019. Peer Year 1968 Susan Hargrave (Marks) On 28 December 2019. Peer Year 1963 Leith Reading (Thomson) On 1 January 2020. Peer Year 1945 Alison Saunders (Francis) On 19 January 2020. Peer Year 1962 Doreen Jackson (Muhihan) On 21 May 2020. Peer Year 1934

WELCOME Sarah Watts (Thoms) Class of 2001 and husband James Watts welcomed a baby boy on the 17th November 2018, Toby James Watts, born at Sandringham Hospital.

We love sharing our community’s news, achievements and notable events.

Please forward your news and an accompanying photo to communications@firbank.vic.edu.au We look forward to hearing from you.

FIRBANK NEWS | Where Are They Now


From a very young age Susannah Huse (Class of 2014) knew she wanted to pursue a career in music. This passion was nurtured by the music teachers during her time at Firbank. Originally, she studied classical music, however it was during Year 12 that she developed a love of Jazz music. After studying Jazz Voice at Monash University, Susannah moved to Scotland where she is currently undertaking a master’s degree in jazz at Glasgow Royal Conservatoire. From September, Susannah will be working as a teacher’s assistant in the music department of King’s Ely, near Cambridge. Her primary role will be to look after the junior choristers. She is loving both the degree itself and this wonderful opportunity of living in a new country with many different challenges and experiences.


Above: Rachel with her son, parents, and sisters Sarah (2003) and Libby (2009)

Rachel Toovey Milsom (Class of 2004) received her PhD in Physiotherapy at Melbourne University in December 2019. Her thesis focused on a unique program whereby Cerebral Palsy children learn to ride bicycles without training wheels. She is highly regarded in her field and is a sought after conference speaker on her area of expertise. In the midst of her studies, Rachel gave birth to her first child Ernest in mid 2018.

Erica Wagner (Class of 1980) is a visual artist, publisher and creative consultant to story tellers. She commenced as a trainee editor at Penguin Books and finished her time at Penguin as Associate Publisher. Moving to Allen and Unwin in 2000 Erica became Executive Publisher of Children’s books and Young Adults and now works as a freelance publishing consultant. In 2017 Erica was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for outstanding achievement in creation of Australian Children’s books. Recently Erica was awarded the ABIA Pixie Harris Award for exceptional contribution to Children’s literature. Congratulations Erica.

Congratulations Rachel


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Generational Families | FIRBANK NEWS Enid Plante (1936) was Head Prefect and Dux of the Year in 1936. She then went on to study Science at Melbourne University. Her original intention was to study Medicine but due to family circumstances was forced to do the shorter Science degree. She later went on to complete her Masters. Enid began her career as a 21-Year-old graduate at the CSIRO where she was the first female appointed to the Physical Chemistry Division. She made a significant contribution to the work of the CSIRO and for much of her career worked as a researcher at Fisherman’s Bend. She was a pioneer for her time and essentially after many years as a CSIRO Research Scientist she went on to invent a wetting agent that is now the reason we have dishwashing detergent, amongst a number of other uses. Enid’s granddaughters are Firbank girls, Stephanie Wallace (2018) and Brigitte Wallace currently in Year 11. Her sister Helen Plante (1937) was Co-Head Prefect and Crowther House Captain in 1937. Her interests lay in the humanities and she went on to major in languages, particularly French and German at Melbourne University gaining first class honours. Her daughter Phillipa Wisdom (1968) also attended Firbank. Firbank has many families who are committed to continuing their family’s relationship with the school. We are indeed lucky to have had and to continue to have families who have shared the rich Firbank education through the generations. This year 10% of our students are either sons or daughters of past students. We thank these families for their commitment to Firbank and its future.

Below: Sons and daughters of past students currently at Firbank. Photo taken February 2020 for the transgenerational photo

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The Firbank Archives have recently been relocated to a property in Middle Crescent next door to the school. This space will provide a display area and plenty of storage as well as a workroom for the sorting and cataloguing of all the items. We are very appreciative to the FOGA volunteers who are working tirelessly to sort through and set up an abundance of historical items to preserve the history of our School. If you have any Firbank memorabilia or items that might be useful for the archives please email Amanda Webster on awebster@firbank.vic.edu.au 27





Profile for Firbank Grammar School

The Firbank Grammar Magazine | The Green Gold & White No.56 | Winter 2020  

The Green, Gold & White: the Firbank Bi-annual Magazine

The Firbank Grammar Magazine | The Green Gold & White No.56 | Winter 2020  

The Green, Gold & White: the Firbank Bi-annual Magazine

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