Success Magazine Semester 2 2023

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semester two 2023

Cultivating Creativity in Early Childhood Education with the IB PYP 4 Unite and Ignite Breakfasts Launch at HVGS! 5 Grandparents and Special Friends Day 6 The Math Marvels in Senior School! 7 Book Week at HVGS! 8 Creating a Master Plan 9 Celebration and Service 10 Meet Our Team 11 Meet our 2024 School Captains 12 Student Success 14 There Was A Time When Nature Spoke To Us By Emily L 16 Valedictory Dinner 18 Presentation Ball 19 Heather Maclaren 20 Alumi Reunion 21 Alumni Success 2023 22 Success is a Hunter Valley Grammar School publication. Editor: Rebecca Plumridge 42 Norfolk Street Ashtonfield NSW 2323 PO Box 458 East Maitland NSW 2323 P: 02 4934 2444 E: < Cover: Meet our 2024 School Captains 4 12 14 22 8 10

If you are anything like me, you have likely been overwhelmed by media reports over the last few months. Whether regarding the Voice Referendum, the growing conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip or the rapid onset of bushfire season, we have been witness to a depth of human emotion through news reporting and social media. At times reporting on current events taps into our shared humanity and compassion; at others time they focus on division and discontent. In reflecting on how to navigate the complexity that is our world at present, I keep returning to the importance of kindness and, as the International Baccalaureate Mission Statement states, staying true to the idea that “others with their difference may also be right”.

When we, and our children and students, are bombarded with social media feeds and news accounts that highlight conflict, pain and human suffering, it can be hard to remember that a simple act of kindness for ourselves and each other can ground and centre us in the here and now. It can also help us focus on what we can do within our locus of control. We feel most hopeful when we have a sense of agency. Agency comes from knowing where we have the power to influence our world, and recognizing what we are unable to change. If we know what we cannot change and let go of the desire make a change that we cannot influence, then we re-direct our energy (our actions and our thoughts) towards what we can influence. We confront this all the time: we can see our children head down one path that we really don’t want them to go down or have different beliefs and values to ourselves.

Homework has often been a battle in our house, especially when I get involved. It seems my educator brain turns off and I turn into the hovering, controlling parent I don’t want to be! Afterall I can see just how that task should be done or how much revision should be happening right now! However, I have learnt to step back from conflict by letting go of trying to control my child’s learning and instead letting his learning journey happen. It makes for happier evenings, but also more powerful learning. All kids are a work in progress and will make mistakes along the way but are more resilient when we step out of the way.

To take this to a larger scale, as we engage with the seeming chaos and conflict across the world (and most recently in the Middle East) and look ahead to the challenges of a hot summer

The World

Beyond Your Head

From the Principal

and extended fire season, we can reframe the conversations with students and children around building empathy and understanding. We can also not shy away from having the tricky conversations. In our homes we can control the remote (so what news we watch and when, including recognizing when we need to step back from seeing images of trauma) and our children’s devices. Knowing what our children are viewing, listening to and generally engaging with, and putting limits on this is important.

Likewise, within our control is the nature of the conversations we have at home about national, regional and global events. We can explore open ended questions that support both critical thinking and empathy building such as:

• What leads you to think that way?

• What might we want to know about that social media influencer or journalist before believing what they say?

• How might others be feeling who think a different way?

• How might we support those people?

• What more might we want to know before making a judgement about that person or group?

• How are these images and words making you feel?

• How might you know when it is all a bit too much for you?

• What could you do right now to take of yourself and/or others?

The last questions are really important.

When we take control by asking the right questions, we help our children pause, reflect, and tap into how they are feeling and open the space for them to explore ways of taking better care of themselves. This builds self-awareness and agency and is a powerful gift we can give our children. Likewise, for ourselves: slowing down, checking in with ourselves, and making the choice to listen to or do something that is healing and centering supports our own health and role models the same for our children and students. It is also gives us the energy to give back to our family and friends.

As we look at what is happening around the world, it is important to refocus on our shared humanity, our own selfcare, and building the agency and empathy of our young people.

From the Principal Success 2023 | 3

Cultivating Creativity with the IB PYP in Early Childhood Education

Step into the mind of a young child, where the everyday world transforms into a place of wonder and possibility. This is place where a cardboard box is a rocket ship, where a stick is a wizard’s wand, and the garden is an uncharted wilderness waiting to be explored. In this magical place inside the mind, the ordinary becomes extraordinary and it’s here that we witness the untamed creativity of a child. Fostering creativity in early childhood settings is akin to tending a garden. The fertile soil of imagination, curiosity, and wonder needs to be nurtured and cultivated. The importance of igniting the creative spark in our youngest learners cannot be overstated. It is in these formative years that the foundation for a lifelong love of learning and inventive and inquirybased thinking blossoms. Creativity


is not just a skill, but a fundamental human capacity. It is the wellspring of progress and innovation, driving technological advancements, artistic expression, and problem-solving. These are attributes beautifully supported by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP), which places a strong emphasis on fostering a holistic approach to early childhood education. In our Early Learning Centre, creativity is encouraged and nurtured through playbased learning experiences.

Play is the work of the child and through it, children experiment, make decisions, solve problems, and learn to adapt to new situations. The ELC is a place where creativity flourishes offering the freedom to build, paint, dress-up, play in the rain, and pretend. Our team of

Male Educator Excellence Award

Jason Naismith

Large Community Regional Service Excellence Award a third consecutive win in this category


Young Female Educator Excellence Award – India Rae

Educational Leader Excellence Award – Kirby Lantry

Team Excellence Award – Regional/Rural service

Excellence in Inclusivity

Excellence in Partnerships with Families & Communities

Excellence in Educational Program and Practice

experienced Early Childhood Educators play a pivotal role in this process. Our educators guide children towards their own understanding, encouraging them to ask questions. Throughout 2023, our youngest learners expressed their creativity in numerous ways, for example: creating dress-up costumes from fabric offcuts, building structures, role-playing, getting messy with paint, and then loud with homemade musical instruments. What fun! As we continue to nurture the creativity of our students, we also celebrate the wonder, curiosity, and innovative spirit that sets the stage for a lifetime of exploration and discovery.

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Breakfasts Launch at HVGS!

This year, Hunter Valley Grammar School united and ignited passion for rigorous and thoughtful conversations with the launch of our new series of hosted events. Our Unite and Ignite Conversation events bring staff, parents and students together over breakfast for a morning of inspiring and insightful conversation. This year our central theme focused on inclusion and belonging.

Our inaugural guest, Dr Amy Thunig, is a proud Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi woman and an accomplished author, media commentator and academic, shared her insights, drawing from her recently released memoir, ‘Tell Me Again’. During the conversation between Dr Thunig and host, Adam Fletcher (HVGS parent), her personal narrative unfolded against the backdrop of early life challenges. Dr Thunig emphasised the pivotal role of extended family and community networks and challenged our thinking in how we can push aside bias to set high expectations for all students, and ourselves.

Our second breakfast featured Clinical Psychologist Mariane Power, a passionate advocate for leading a purposeful life and unlocking human potential. Mariane’s personal journey as a twice-exceptional gifted and ADHD woman, and the insightful questions posed to Mariane by our student leaders, Isabelle and Phoebe, offered a sincere, funny, powerful and at times emotional series of provocations. Dr Power challenged parents and educators to believe

in and encourage the capabilities of neurodivergent individuals in the classroom and at home.

Both mornings were filled with authentic and engaging discourse, and we look forward to continuing this tradition of fostering discussions that bring together diverse perspectives.

Keep an eye out in 2024 for the announcement of our next Unite and Ignite Conversations event series which will focus on holistic education and the future of learning.

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Grandparents’ and Special Friends’

Day! Day!

Of the many interactions and activities families enjoy at their child’s school, it is the occasions filled with emotion that have a deep and lasting impact. Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day is one of those occasions and is also one of our very favourite days of the year!

Our day unfolds with the entire Junior School taking centre stage, a vibrant spectacle of music, dance, and drama that leaves our audience brimming with pride.

Following the performance, families came together for a picnic lunch on the Rugby Oval, strengthening the spirit of

togetherness. As the afternoon unfolds, a journey through the classroom awaits where students can share their learning with loved ones.

Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day brings such a sense of pride, not only in the student’s accomplishments but in the strong sense of community that has been cultivated over the years.

Grandparent’s and Special Friends’ Day is more than an event; it is a celebration of community, of the generations that tie families together and of shared values and the experiences students are having at school.

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Mathematics provides our students with opportunities to develop their logical, abstract and critical thinking skills. An emphasis on inquiry and application builds skills and techniques that have value beyond school.

The study of Mathematics is more than learning formulae or rules. Students should actively engage in searching for patterns and concepts. In the spirit of this, our Year 7 students embarked on an adventurous journey into the world of probability. Armed with cards, spinners, coins, dice, and their boundless creativity, they took probability to a whole new level. Our young math wizards have designed their very own probability games, each more intriguing than the last. From games of chance involving cards to spin-the-coin challenges, these students have mastered the art of predicting outcomes. But it’s not just about luck; it’s about understanding the underlying mathematics. These hands-on activities have not only been fun but have also instilled a deep understanding of probability.

In Year 8, work on measurement provided opportunities to experience the joy of exploration and discovery. The students have taken a hands-on approach to understanding the intricacies of measurement. While each class had its unique activities, One class ventured into the world of geometric solids. The class constructed classic prisms – rectangular and

triangular, pyramids, and cylinders using nets. Students then applied this learning to building their own three-dimensional puzzle.

Year 9 students dove deep into algebraic fractions, and tackled surds and quadratics head-on. It is important that students explore authentic applications of Mathematics and be able to see how it is useful in their lives. To support this, students embarked on a “domino” style surd puzzle adventure, solving intricate mathematical puzzles that look like a game. This activity not only challenged their mathematical prowess but also encouraged teamwork and critical thinking.

Our dedicated Maths teachers are passionate about helping students develop their curiosity and appreciation of the elegance and power of mathematics. Our teachers’ enthusiasm for their subject is contagious, fostering a vibrant and rigorous environment where every student can thrive. This year has been one for developing students’ confidence, perseverance and problem-solving skills in maths. We look forward to continuing this in 2024.

Remind me again! What is a surd?

Answer: An irrational number that cannot be expressed as a finite fraction. ?

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Bok Wek at HVGS

Book Week is always a wonderful opportunity for students and staff to celebrate our favourite books while cultivating a love for reading across the school.

The Book Character Parade was, as always, a spectacle, with students from the Junior School donning creative costumes from their favourite books, while others wore costumes that embodied the Read. Grow. Inspire theme of the year.

This year, Book Week featured a range of lunchtime activities such as creating pet rocks, designing lyre bird tails, planting seeds, and sketching botanicals; and the annual Library competitions received numerous entries, showcasing exceptional thought, creativity, and talent among students.

A highlight of the week was the book launch event for “Reach for the Stars” - an anthology of stories from young Hunter writers including HVGS students: Amelia Michell (Year), James Michell (Year), Lucinda Oost (Year), and Audrey Lewer (Year). Our young writers read excerpts and discussed their writing processes to parents and students in attendance.

Beyond the festivities, HVGS fosters a love for reading through the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. Students from Kinder to Year 9 participate annually, reading 20 books over 10 months. Teacher Librarians promote the challenge with every student across all grades annually through their borrowing program.

Students who complete the challenge in four separate years are awarded with a gold certificate, while students who complete it over seven receive a platinum certificate. The highest award possible is the Premier’s Reading Challenge Medal, which is only awarded to students who complete the challenge every single year from Kinder to Year 9. It is a wonderful achievement for Willow Shepherd (Year 9) to receive the Premier’s Reading Challenge Medal which highlights her dedication and love for literature nurtured at HVGS by our Teacher Librarian team. Congratulations Willow!

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Students, ranging from Kindergarten to Year 11, together with staff members and parents engaged in several interactive sessions to share their thoughts and insights into the school’s future Master Plan. The new Master Plan will serve as a blueprint to guide the future growth and success of HVGS over the next 20 years.

The inclusion of student voice in the process is particularly noteworthy, as it underscores the belief that the individuals who navigate the grounds and classrooms everyday possess valuable insights and perspectives that can help

shape the school’s learning and social spaces. By fostering an environment that values opinions and ideas, HVGS aims to cultivate a sense of ownership, belonging and empowerment among the student body.

The development of our Master Plan is a key focus of our Future Directions Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan can be accessed through our website. It provides an in-depth overview of the school’s vision, mission, and core values, as well as the specific goals and initiatives that will guide its growth in the coming years..

Scan to Read StrategicPlan Success 2023 | 9


Dress Like a Farmer Day! AND SERVICE

Our Student Leadership Team came together to support Rural Aid in a unique way with Dress Like A Farmer Day. Students gave a gold coin donation to support the cause. Senior Students gathered on the School Rugby Oval and participated in games such as Wheelbarrow races, an obstacle course, boot throwing and the biggest Nutbush Dance the School has ever seen.


Senior Hospitality students put their cooking skills to good use as they prepared meals for Hunter Food Relief. Year 9 Food Technology students prepared 44 serves of pasta Bolognese and Year 7 Food Technology students prepared 47 services of butter chicken and rice to support those doing it tough. “This service opportunity allowed students to reflect on the community and positively impact others, allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing their local community,” said Louise Hemsworth, TAS teacher.

Our students embody a deep commitment to service learning, recognising it as an essential aspect of their education. They actively seek opportunities to give back to others, understanding the profound impact of contributing to the wellbeing of their community. As a school we also share moments that connect our community (like sporting events or celebrations), in a way that makes us feel like we belong.

Here’s a few ways students gave back and celebrated this year.


We're so thankful for all staff and student contributions to our Toy Drive this year. Together the entire school has come together and donated an abundance of toys to those less fortunate at Christmas.

Rallying Behind the Matildas:


HVGS came together to celebrate Australian Women’s Football team the Matildas on their incredible accomplishment of making it to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi-Final.

Year 9 student, Jade O especially supports the team, being a Junior Matilda herself. “Being a Junior Matilda and a young footballer and to see my role models and people that used to be in my position now playing at this scale, it’s amazing and so inspiring,” she said. Ultimately the Matilda’s placed fourth in the Women’s World Cup which was an incredible effort.

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Robyn Hope: School Registrar

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I have been employed in the Education Sector for the past 20 years. During this time, I have worked for NSW Department of Education, Independent Schools, and Catholic Schools. I love the work of schools and am passionate about education and learning. I enjoy spending time with my family, travelling, catching up with friends and reading. One of my favourite travel memories is seeing the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway.

What’s your Treetops order?

Soy Latte

What have you loved about working at HVGS?

There are so many things – so, in no particular order:

• The collegiality of all staff

• The support, wisdom and patience of the Advancement and Marketing Team

• The friendly polite students who say hello when I am touring prospective families around the Campus

• The beautiful well-kept grounds and all the green space

• The visibility and action of HVGS values

• Strong, consistent and supportive leadership.

Jennie Rohr: Head Of Drama

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a passionate drama educator and theatre maker. With over 20 years’ experience working in a range of educational contexts, including performing arts, academically selective and comprehensive high schools. I have come to HVGS from the University of Newcastle, where I was lecturing in Specialist Studies in Drama Education and Creativity in Practice. I enjoy devising original and site-specific theatre with young people. Going to the theatre with my family inspires me to be curious about the world and our place in it.

What is your role here at HVGS?

As the Head of Drama, I get to suspend my disbelief daily! I am invited into the imaginations of our talented students, where I meet quirky characters and create diverse and inclusive theatrical worlds. My role involves developing

innovative programs for elective Drama students, facilitating Speech and Drama and implementing varied co-curricular opportunities. An absolute highlight of my position is directing and producing school productions. ‘Puffs’ was a truly magical opportunity to collaborate with the vibrant HVGS community.

What’s your Treetops order?

Soy flat white. Although I am known to replace the coffee with an early morning soup of the day! It’s so nourishing on cold mornings. My favourite is the nostalgic Pumpkin, it reminds me of my mum.

What have you loved about working at HVGS?

The people. The space. The possibilities.

OUR TEAM Success 2023 | 11


2024’s School Captains! Unveiling Hunter Valley Grammar School’s Dynamic Duo!

Which one of our School values do you most identify with and why?

JACK: Two of my favourite HVGS values are respect, and courage. I feel I most closely identify with courage as I often try to face difficult and frightening challenges whenever I can. When you are courageous, I believe it helps you to further improve yourself while also helping the learning, and growth of others around you.

ISABELLE: I believe I most align myself with the value of optimism. I have a positive outlook and like to think that anything is possible. I think we can get bombarded with negativity at times, but I think that you need to be optimistic about the future - about the possibilities, the innovations and the potential for good things to happen. I think positively about the future, and optimism are essential for happiness.

Why are you proud to be a captain of HVGS?

JACK: I’m proud and firstly honoured that I was selected as HVGS captain. What makes me most proud to be captain is I can lead such a successful school with and great reputation and have the opportunity to make a contribution that allows for us to grow even further. I’m also really proud that I get to be apart of such a great community and have the chance to create a positive environment for my peers in which they feel safe and can strive to be the best versions of their self.

ISABELLE: I am so proud to be a captain of Hunter Valley Grammar School because I love this school. The opportunities I have had here, the friendships I’ve made and the relationships with my teachers make it a unique school which I’m proud to represent and lead. I think it’s an honour to give back to our school community and promote the values of HVGS.


How do you explain social change leadership and how do you lead from this perspective?

JACK: Social change leadership goes beyond speeches or titles, involving a collaborative process that intertwines individual, group, and community values. At school, my approach is to create a safe, supportive environment by fostering psychological safety, open communication, and ensuring all voices are heard. In my role, I actively support students in turning ideas into action and extend these values to the broader community, requiring a commitment to goals and adaptability in our ever-changing environment.

ISABELLE: Social change leadership is leading with a purpose and in line with my values. I would lead from this perspective by working with others to make a difference and reflect our core values at Hunter Valley Grammar School.

What is your go-to Treetops order?

JACK: I often change it up with my Treetops orders but my go-to is a chicken parmi.

ISABELLE: My go to Treetops order would have to be a chicken parmi! I also do love the chai lattes that Treetops make.

How do you hope to be the voice of your fellow students?

JACK: I am always open to any students from the school and I’m more than happy to listen to any concerns. My aim is to create the best possible space that promotes a positive environment for students to work and feel safe in. Even if you just want a general chat, I’m more than happy for that as well. Any issues I’m willing to be the student voice at events such as leadership meetings and more.

ISABELLE: I am always open to any students from the school and I’m more than happy to listen to any concerns. My aim is to create the best possible space that promotes a positive environment for students to work and feel safe in. Even if you just want a general chat, I’m more than happy for that as well. Any issues I’m willing to be the student voice at events such as leadership meetings and more.

What’s your favourite subject and why?

JACK: I love all my subjects, but my favourite would have to be agriculture. It has a good blend between both theory and practical work which makes it enjoyable. I also find it interesting learning about different animals and real-life applications of farming systems. One of my highlights of the course so far has been our trip to Agquip.

ISABELLE: My favourite subject is PDHPE. I am very passionate about sports, keeping healthy and focussing on mindset and Wellbeing. In PDHPE I not only get to have fun and burn off some energy, but I learn about the fascinating human body system and my teacher is so passionate about it, it’s hard not to love this subject!

Where can students usually find you at lunch to come have a chat?

JACK: Usually at lunch time I’m either on the rugby field or hanging around Treetops. I am always open and happy to have a chat.

ISABELLE: I am usually at the tables in or near treetops and I love to meet new people, so please come and have a chat with me. I hope to think that students will find me approachable and kind. I think everyone has an opinion that matters, and collaboration and inclusiveness is what also makes our school so special.

What are your personal strengths?

JACK: I pride myself on my integrity, authenticity, and determination, which I consider to be my personal strengths and very important traits and values that I follow every day. During my year as captain, and into the future, I will endeavour to embody as many values as I can and work on my weakness for benefit of both my own personal growth and the HVGS community.

ISABELLE: I’m enthusiastic, positive and like to get involved in everything. I like to try new things even if they seem a bit daunting at first but through my experience, it is these moments that make you stronger and allow you to learn about yourself and others. I am a “People person” and as I said, optimistic about the future!

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Ryan K from Year 5 and Zoraiz M from Year 6 attended the Newcastle Permanent Primary School Mathematics Competition special award ceremony on Tuesday, 31 October, where they were presented with District awards in recognition of being high achievers in this year’s competition.

The annual mathematics competition gives Year 5 and Year 6 students from across regional NSW the opportunity to test their numeracy and problem-solving skills. It attracts almost 21,000 students from across NSW. Congratulations Ryan and Zoraiz!

Future Project Concert in the

Selected Year 10 students recently became project management consultants and worked on a real project that an organisation (in this case Pacific Smiles Group) needed to resolve. They were given project management training and were supported by a facilitator, in this case, by HVGS parent, Cameron Geddes.

They then had three days of intensive work to develop their solutions and presented their findings to the organisations board, their project focusing on raising cybersecurity awareness in their business.

Wizards! Park

Masters Performance

Representatives from the City of Maitland Pipes and Drums attended our weekly Show Band rehearsal to present a cheque in appreciation of the HVGS Show Band and Year 12 Rock Band performing at their annual “Concert in the Park”, held in July.

This is the second year in a row that HVGS Ensembles have supported this wonderful community event, and the organisers City of Maitland Pipes and Drums sought to show their appreciation via a donation to be used towards the purchase of music equipment directly benefiting the students.

HVGS students are grateful for the opportunity to perform and support this local community event and look forward to future involvement!

Rubie’s Stellar

During the recent school holidays, Rubie (Year 9) represented NSWCIS at the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League Championships! The week-long event took place in Port Macquarie with Rubie playing in the second row and performing well in every game. In the Semi Final against Queensland Secondary Schools Rubie was awarded the NSWCIS player of the match! The NSWCIS team finished 3rd with a great win over Victoria. Congratulations Rubie!

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Unstoppable Stirling

Congratulations to Sterling S (Year 9) who scored an UNBEATEN 119 in the Round 1 Wiburd Shield clash against St Philips Cessnock!

In a winning team performance Oliver W from Year 8 also collected 4 wickets! Well done boys and congratulations team!

Science and Engineering

Discovery Day!

Year 5 and Year 6 students attended the Science and Engineering Discovery Day at San Clemente High School in Mayfield. This exciting day was facilitated by The University of Newcastle, Australia and provided an immersive STEM engagement opportunity to introduce students to practical, hands-on applications of STEM via design-and-build and problem-solving ‘challenge’ activities.

Event activities are designed to foster skills for 21st-century learning, in particular collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

To top it off HVGS placed 2nd of the eight teams from the five schools represented! Congratulations!

Grand Final Winners

HVGS Magentas were convincing Grand Final Winners in the Maitland Netball Association B1 competition recently!

On a particularly hot Saturday, the girls played with determination and skill and were proud to be crowned Champions.

Congratulations girls and Coach Mrs Keith!

Tennis Winners!

Our Year 3/4 Team A WON the regional Todd Woodbridge Tennis Event in Singleton recently!

Our Team B also came in third! A total of 14 schools competed in this event in extremely hot conditions and we couldn’t be prouder of all their efforts.

A big thank you to Coach Lauren Pickering who prepared the teams and helped them achieve these amazing results!

Rugby Gala Day

HVGS held the Digby Rayward Primary Rugby Festival - an amazing day with our Junior School students showing amazing sportsmanship and determination.

Our 12s team had one win, draw and a loss while our 10s team had a win, draw and two losses.

We couldn’t be prouder of all staff and students for their participation on the day, and a giant thank you to all parents who came to cheer us on!

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There Was A Time When Nature

Spoke to Us

She sits on the beautifully crafted wooden stool in that peaceful garden. The autumn leaves pooled around her feet, infiltrating the space around her. Light stretches to reach the damp grass and the Willy Wagtail jumps from branch to branch, flittering along the ground. The girl squints at the children playing tag in between the trees; the old couple strolling along the concrete path. All is well, nature comforts oneself like a mother to her newborn. Yet moments later, her attention is snapped by the mobile phone clutched in her hand. Her TikTok feed becomes more enthralling than the wonderland around her.

This scene is synonymous with our modern world and yet a simple glance into the history of art and literature suggests that composers have been interrogating humanity’s disconnection with the natural world for centuries.

William Wordsworth, Vincent Van Gogh, T.S. Eliot, Claude Monet, John Keats and David Attenborough – Steve Irwin even – all used various mediums to represent the intersection of humanity and the natural world. They preach to humanity to realise the importance of their perspective and take the time to reconnect with nature.

Wordsworth’s poetry can seem somewhat repetitive as his admiration for nature is confessed again, and again. He says, “Nature never did betray/The heart that loved her” and “Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away” to combat human’s prioritisation of wealth and worldly possessions and prompt society to recognise the power that nature has to offer. He suggests that reconnecting with the natural world will heal all wounds, spiritually reconnecting us to all life has to offer.

But is nature as all-powerful as he makes it seem?

One hypothesis from biologist E.O. Wilson suggests that for evolutionary reasons, humans sought out experiences with nature by instinct. Due to the hunter-gatherer roots of humans, we sought beautiful landscapes because they provided food, shelter and comfort.

The importance of this connection? Studies suggest that time spent in nature attributes to the flourishment of social, psychological and emotional components of our lives, contributing to the overall well-being and success within an individual’s life.

In the busy and bustling days of our lives, I think we tend to forget this connection to nature and yet the time we spend in mundane activities, driving to work or school, for example, offer an opportunity to appreciate the world around us. I think most of the time, it is ignored as we search for a distraction, the phone sitting in our hand.

In the modern world of technology, this connection to the natural world is becoming increasingly strained. My dreams to travel are fuelled by the travel influencers I follow online. It fills me with inspiration and a need to explore beautiful landscapes of places such as Vietnam or Greece. However, it evokes a sense of frustration at the fact that I am currently stuck in high school when so much is available elsewhere. A while ago I was sitting in my hammock, scrolling through Instagram when I realised that the same sun immortalised on my phone was setting over the paddocks in front of me. That instead of admiring the world which surrounded me in my own backyard, I was wishing to be elsewhere, in a place that was staged so

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beautifully for me by an influencer. I think we all become entranced by our devices or the possibilities of what could be rather than what is right in front of us.

As a whole nation our disconnection to nature has become exacerbated by the infiltration of technology into our everyday lives. The concept of relaxation and rejuvenation has been redefined. My way of relaxation is to put on my pjs and nestle in bed, watching the film ’10 Things I Hate About You’ on repeat. Perhaps it’s time to replace that with a picnic in the garden or tea on the balcony.

Many cultures within society are bearing the brunt of our apathy towards the natural world. The First Nations peoples of Australia display a loss of culture and connection to Country due to a forced disconnection to the natural world.

For First Nations peoples the Australian landscape surrounding us is their spiritual guide as well as their spiritual partner. The concept of Country encompasses both the physical land and the space in between.

Relationships with country are grounded by reciprocity, exhibiting a mutual respect and exchange. In other words, the relationship between humans and the natural world is one of give and take, a symbiotic relationship. Many of the hunter-gatherer practises of Indigenous Australians are incredibly regenerative. They never took more than they required to survive and would rotate hunting grounds to allow for restoration of populations. The First Nations culture is beautiful and to be admired, yet the sad reality is that as society becomes increasingly disconnected from nature; this culture is at risk of being lost. There is so much that our

modern world could learn from their concept of Country and their relationship with it, not only for the good of the environment but also for the good of the people.

This could be adapted into our modern world, Aboriginal peoples utilise a Yarning Circle to connect to the world around them, as a space of acceptance and gratitude. The circle itself is a symbol of the interconnectedness of all forms of life, practising similar ceremonies could be the first step into regaining our connection to the natural world. The Yarning circle could be the one place where no-one, as a universal rule, takes a technological device of any kind. Access to a Yarning Circle could become enriching for everyone, reinstating the sense of community and gratitude for the surrounding landscape – even those mesmerised by their phone.

She dodges the small children playing in-between the trees. Following a well-known track worn into the dirt of that small park. The autumn winds threaten to break the barrier of her woollen trench coat and, as she rounds the corner, she breaks into a small clearing. A circle created by white gravel absorbs the space and rocks outline the shape. An old lady sits on the furthest rock, beside her a small boy is weaving grass into a crown. Others crowd the area, mingling, faint laughter infiltrating the space. The girl smiles to both, taking a seat next to the small boy. The ceremony is about to begin, and the world seems brighter.

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As the school year draws to a close, two exceptional milestones stand out, embodying the culmination of our students' academic and persona l journeys – the Valedictory Dinner and the Presentation Ball. These significant events not only mark the end of a chapter but also serve as poignant celebrations of achievement, growth, and camaraderie.

Valedictory Dinner

The Valedictory Dinner and Presentation Evening holds a special place in the hearts of our students and the entire HVGS community. Throughout the years, this cherished event has taken on various forms and found its home in different locations – from our very own school grounds to Newcastle's City Hall, and now at the Rydges Resort.

The event allows HVGS the opportunity to recognise and acclaim each student for having worked hard towards the completion of their Higher School Certificate over the last two years of their time at HVGS and offers an appropriate sense of occasion to celebrate this significant milestone.

During the evening, our students are not only acknowledged for their hard work and dedication but also bestowed with well-deserved special awards and scholarships. These accolades represent the recognition of their exceptional achievements and serve as a testament to their outstanding accomplishments.

The Valedictory Dinner and Presentation Evening is a testament to the strong bonds forged within the HVGS community. It is a time to reflect on cherished memories, honour achievements, and look forward to the bright futures that await our remarkable students.

To read 2023’s CELEBRATEmagazine scan the QR code!

Tertiary Scholarships:


A new prize was presented this year, kindly donated by the McGavin family:

The McGavin Music Industry Prize –Sophie Hawthorne

The Jason Johnston Tertiary Scholarship for Health Sciences –Lucy Hungerford and Harrison Allomes The Cameron Tertiary Scholarship for Built Environment, Design Technologies & Engineering –Jack Cotterill and Mitchell Parish Harrison Allomes University of Newcastle Prize –Amber Higgins
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Dux based on internal assessmentsFinnegan Slattery-O’Brien

Presentation Ball

The Presentation Ball, held yearly since almost all HVGS’s existence, holds a significant place in the hearts of our students as they transition from Year 11 to their final year of schooling. It symbolises a rite of passage, a moment when they step closer to the culmination of their educational journey.

Moreover, it serves as a symbolic handover of student leadership within the school community. During the evening, the incoming Year 12 group takes centre stage as they are officially presented as the new Student Leadership Group, ready to guide and inspire their peers. The Presentation Ball is a testament to the vibrant community spirit that thrives within HVGS. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and anticipation as our students embark on the final chapter of their school years.

A long-standing tradition at HVGS, students attend in the colour theme of Black and White, and dance alongside their families and peers. Students regularly comment on how this event, along with the Modern Jive in Year 10, help to bring the group closer together and to forge deeper ties.

Among them this year were Isabelle Donohoe and Jack York, our new School Captains who proudly did their first speeches to the new cohort. (Read more about Isabelle and Jack on pages 12!)

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Heather Maclaren

At the foundation of our school's success lies the tireless dedication of our founding staff, and no one embodies this commitment more than the esteemed retired Board Member, Heather MacLaren OAM. With over 30 years of selfless service to our community, Heather has played a pivotal role in shaping the very essence of who we are today. Wearing multiple hats – from teacher to school leader, Board member, parent, and grandparent – Heather has been a living embodiment of the values that define the HVGS identity. In recognition of her extraordinary contributions, we are thrilled to announce the renaming of our Music Building to the Heather MacLaren Performing Arts Centre.

Heather's impact on our School, particularly in fostering the growth of music from its humble beginnings to the exceptional facility we have today, is immeasurable. As Heather graciously accepts this accolade, her words echo her deep connection to HVGS and her profound gratitude for the collaborative efforts of families, staff, and students that have contributed to the school's outstanding reputation.

The following extract from Heather’s 2023 Presentation Day speech perfectly articulates how much HVGS has meant to Heather over the years.

“I have had an amazing and unique 33-year journey from the first day of life of Hunter Valley Grammar School as the Head of the Performing and Visual Arts and Recreational Studies and as a parent. I was appointed to Deputy Head /Head of Senior School and briefly as Acting Head of School and became a Director of our School Board and a grandparent. Everyone, both past and present, have all combined and contributed to build this outstanding school that is highly respected today in the Hunter and beyond.

I am humbled and appreciative to be honoured in having this creative Performing Arts Music Centre in my name.

So, in the words of ABBA:

‘Thank for the Music, the songs I’m singing, Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing, Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty, What would life be?

Without song and dance, what are we?

So, thank for the music, For giving it to me.’

Hunter Valley Grammar School, thank you for this great honour.”

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Past students from the classes of 2022, 2018, 2013, 2008, 2003, 1998 and 1993 caught up with old friends and teachers at this year’s Alumni Reunion.

The Reunion reflects a blend of past and present, with past students amazed at the advancements and improvements that have taken place since their time at Hunter Valley Grammar School.

It was a wonderful evening filled with reconnections, laughter, and a celebration of HVGS’s unique identity as a school known for its rigor, inclusivity, and strong sense of community.

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Breanna Forbes, a proud graduate of Hunter Valley Grammar School’s Class of 2018, has been on an exciting journey since her school days. After graduation, she ventured to Sydney to pursue higher education at Macquarie University where she pursued a Bachelor of Commerce, with a focus on Finance and Marketing. In her third year at university, Breanna embraced an opportunity as a Residential Advisor at Dunmore Lang College. Breanna’s role entrusted her to provide support and act as a role model for fellow students. The role involved offering pastoral care to students adapting to university life, studying, and living away from home. This experience proved to be one of the most rewarding of her life, allowing her to foster a vibrant community and shape unforgettable memories. Breanna has developed a strong passion for advocating the representation of women in business. During her time at Macquarie University, she joined the society “Women Entering Business.” This society’s mission is to create a network of connections for high-achieving and ambitious women, preparing them to become transformative business leaders.

Breanna served as an Events and Marketing Director, using her platform to organize events that aligned with the society’s mission and positively impacted the lives of her fellow students. During her last six months at university, Breanna secured an Internship with Adobe, working in their Marketing Team. Her impressive performance during the internship led to an offer to continue as a Graduate, a role she currently holds and is halfway through. One school memory that remains close to Breanna’s heart is her participation in the musical “Grease” during Year 12.

Sharing this unforgettable experience with friends in their final year of school has left her with cherished memories to look back on. Breanna Forbes’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and seizing opportunities for personal and professional growth. Her dedication to advocating for women in business and her commitment to lifelong learning continues to inspire her peers and the community. We eagerly await her continued success in her career and beyond.

22 | Success 2023 Alumni ALUMNI
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Isabella McGavin: From HVGS to Center Stage

Isabella McGavin, a former student from the graduating class of 2019, has been making waves in the world of music since leaving Hunter Valley Grammar School. Despite the passage of time, it feels like yesterday when Isabella bid farewell to HVGS. In the four years since, she has embarked on a journey filled with determination, challenges, and remarkable achievements. After discovering her acceptance into a college in New York City during year 12 at HVGS, Isabella dedicated herself to working and saving money to pursue her dream of studying music overseas. However, the global pandemic caused a pause in her plans.

Undeterred, Isabella relocated to Sydney, a place she never anticipated calling home. Now in her third year there, she has taken the reins of her music career, working multiple jobs and successfully completing one semester of university before realizing it wasn’t the right path for her. Isabella expresses gratitude for not venturing overseas for education, as she would have encountered this realisation later. Currently, she devotes 95% of her time to her music and creative pursuits, with the remainder filled by odd jobs like her work at HVGS’ Treetops Cafe. Reflecting on her time at HVGS, Isabella recognizes the invaluable lessons she learned from the music and drama faculty, who supported her throughout her high school journey. Arriving at HVGS as a timid, aspiring performer in Year 7, Isabella credits Mr. Gidney, Mrs. Laundon, Mr. Parkinson, and Mrs. White for taking her under their wing and offering unwavering support every step of the way.

She believes that without their guidance, she wouldn’t be pursuing her passion today. Their belief in her talent and potential transformed her into the confident 21-year-old musician she is now. They instilled in her the belief that what you put in is what you get out, and how you approach

anything reflects how you approach everything. Recently, Isabella had the honour of being invited back to HVGS to participate in the Symphony Orchestra Concert as Alumni. She was humbled to join the HVGS Choir and be a part of the evening’s performances. Isabella felt that nothing had changed—in the best way possible. Isabella expresses that the HVGS music department remains incredible and inspiring, while the students involved exhibit the same passion as ever. Isabella said The Symphony Orchestra Concert served as a testament to the impact the music faculty and staff have on every student’s journey and overall music experience at HVGS.

“The fact that so many students, both past and present, willingly returned to take part in the event speaks volumes about the faculty’s influence and the lasting connections formed”, says Isabella.

Isabella McGavin, a vibrant and talented alumnus, continues to blaze a trail in the music industry. With her unwavering passion, authenticity, and dedication, she serves as an inspiration to all aspiring musicians and creative individuals.

Our sincere thanks to Isabella and the McGavin Family who presented the new McGavin Music Industry Prize to Sophie Hawthorne at this years’ Valedictory Dinner.

Alumni Success 2023 | 23 ALUMNI
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Box 458 East Maitland NSW 2323
02 4934 2444

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