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A Word from our Principal - Traditions

Last Sunday, I spent the afternoon baking and decorating a two-tier chocolate cake, the reward for the winner of the annual Year 12 boarder-versus-day girl tug-of-war competition. This event has claimed a special place on the annual sports program since 1922. In the 1930s and 40s, girls even used to practise, so keen were they to win the cake, or, as they described it, the “spoils of conquest”! At the inaugural tug-of-war, the boarders were victorious but this year it was the day girls who won. The Wider View, an historical account of the school, doesn’t give any indication of who used to bake the cake but, in recent years, it appears to have become a reward provided by the Principal. Thankfully, I have an old family friend’s recipe for a chocolate cake and, so, on Monday the Year 12 day girls received the accolades, and more than enough chocolate cake to share with their boarder friends.

1928 Tug of War 2021 Tug of War

Preparing the cake allowed me to reflect on the range of traditions that form part of the Girls Grammar experience. Traditions allow us to pass on what we know and what we care about. They play a role in building our sense of community and they provide the sense of connectivity, of coming together to observe and honour important milestones.

2005 Formal 2021 Formal

Many of Girls Grammar’s traditions, including the tug-of-war and its prize, are reserved for our Year 12 students, rites of passage before they graduate. This year, our seniors have worn the yellow berets and formed a candlelit semi-circle around the edge of the cenotaph. They’ve led the younger girls in the ANZAC Day parade and walked the red carpet at their formal. They’ve inspired their Houses at the swimming, cross country and athletics carnivals and entertained younger girls with their creatively themed costumes and props. Later this year, they will participate in a range of end of year milestones, including the Pink Gate fundraiser and cricket match, re-designing their uniforms and throwing their hats in the air before running up the hill for the final time.

2009 ANZAC Dawn Service 2021 ANZAC Dawn Service

For our Year 11s, on the cusp of their leadership year, we are reintroducing a social tradition in the form of a semi-formal. This event harks back to the social dances of yesteryear, which some Old Girls may remember attending up at “the Old Grammarians”. Our semi-formals will be held at Girls Grammar, with our Year 11 students inviting a guest from any school of their choice. Just as past students have, we are sure our girls will enjoy the light dinner and we know they will have a lot of fun dancing with their guests in McKeague Hall, which will be beautifully decorated, complete with fairy lights.

This weekend’s musical also reflects a much-honoured tradition, dating as far back as the 1920s. The Girls Grammar shows have always been acclaimed, not only for the actors but for staging and costumes. This year’s performance of Annie Jnr will build upon our fine cultural tradition of melody, drama and song and we hope that many of our students and their families are able to join us for its staging.

1920s School Concert Today's Musical

There are other whole school traditions open to even our youngest students. Foundation Day, which we celebrated last term, provides an opportunity to reflect on the hard work and sacrifices of the founders, and to give back for future generations. Whilst we couldn’t circle Paterson House this year due to the scaffolding, the girls from Year 12 all the way down to Prep enthusiastically covered the CAB. It was wonderful to see the joy on the faces of the Preppies and Year 1s as they enjoyed their first experience of donating Foundation Day coins.

Over the last 130 years, many, many traditions have been incorporated into the Girls Grammar experience. Many of these have fallen by the wayside, including once loved activities and competitions, such as drill lessons, the annual needlework competition, fencing and playing Jacks and marbles. Times change and perhaps some traditions lost significance for the community, perhaps there were social, legislated or legal reasons why they had to change or, more simply, new traditions could have formed, quietly replacing the old ones. Of those traditions that remain, most have transformed and morphed as each generation of students, staff and school leaders have looked to our school’s past but interpreted and applied traditions in new ways that look to the future.

Regardless of whether they are 100 years old, adaptations or completely new traditions, Girls Grammar traditions serve to connect us to our community, they help us to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, they give us special moments and they help us to acknowledge our roots. Our traditions are special and unique, they help shape the Girls Grammar experience, and they create memories that will last a lot longer than Monday’s chocolate cake!

Deanne Johnston




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