28th April 2023

Girton Grammar School in Bendigo celebrated its 30th Anniversary in style on Friday 28th April with a whole school assembly attended by the School’s founders, past students, staff, and current students. The assembly was followed by the launch of a documentary, The Girton Grammar Story, that captures the School’s rich history.

In her Assembly speech, Girton Grammar School Principal, Dr Emma O’Rielly, reflected on the resilience of the School’s founders to keep the Girton name alive despite the closure of Girton College in 1992, the remarkable achievement of the last 30 years of education, and the many stories that have contributed to the School’s rich history.

“The story of Girton Grammar School is one of determination and perseverance,” said Dr O’Rielly. “Founded in 1884 by two remarkable women, Mrs Marian Aherne, and Miss Alice Hill, they created an exceptional school for girls called Girton College at a time when there were already twenty-one private schools in Bendigo. Over the next century, the School developed an excellent reputation and drew students from all over the Bendigo region.”

“However insurmountable financial problems arose in 1992, and the School doors would be forced to close, leaving students heartbroken and the Bendigo region in mourning,” she said. “Perhaps it was the Girton motto, Per Aspera Ad Astra – through hardship to the stars – that inspired a group of parents and staff to refuse to let the news of the School’s closure defeat them,” she said.

“This band of courageous visionaries believed so strongly in the power of education and its ability to transform lives that they would do everything in their power to keep the heartbeat of Girton alive.”

These visionaries became the newly formed ‘Friends of Girton’ led by Mr John Higgs OAM, Mrs Jan Thomas, Mr Christopher Morey and Mr Richard Trigg, closely followed by parents and staff. In the months between the announcement of the School’s closure and the commencement of the 1993 school year, the Friends of Girton performed the miraculous task of establishing Girton Grammar School through persistence, hard work, lobbying, fundraising, and countless hours of voluntary labour. Fittingly, the decision was made to retain the ‘Girton’ name, the School song and the long-standing School motto Per Aspera Ad Astra.

The School’s 30-year celebrations included the cutting of the 30th Anniversary cake with the School’s founders, followed by a group photo in front of the School’s historic Peppercorn tree and the official launch of the documentary.

The Girton Grammar Story documentary was produced by Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) in Bendigo and became a passion project for Daniel Roche and Joel Nicholson.

SCA Senior Director, Daniel Roche said: “From our earliest conversations we discovered that this was a special story, and as the project grew so did our level of appreciation for the altruistic actions of the founders’ friends and community of Girton Grammar School. To be able to immerse ourselves within the rich recounts of each participant was a privilege rarely afforded, and to then be able to package all that up with archival film stock, tabloid headlines and historic imagery was abundantly rewarding. The process fast became a passion project of which we are immensely proud.”

The Old Girtonians’ Association plays a crucial role in preserving and disseminating the School’s history as custodians, and sponsored the production of the documentary as their major contribution to the School for 2023.

The 30-year celebrations ended with a sense of pride and gratitude for the incredible community that has built and sustained Girton Grammar School.

“The dedication and hard work of Girton Grammar’s founders, and the leaders who have followed, have stood the test of time,” said Dr O’Rielly.

“Today we celebrate 30 years of Girton Grammar School, a wonderful place where children from all around the region come to learn together, grow together, and dream together. A School that has impacted the lives of countless students, staff, and families.”

Watch The Girton Grammar Story: