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Founded in 1890, Kingswood College is a mainstream coeducational independent school with a long and proud history of delivering an innovative, collaborative and engaging program for girls and boys from Kindergarten to Year 12.
Our ethos is to encourage and support each student to achieve their personal best, to be self-aware, enquiring and resourceful, a well-rounded individual with an independent mind who respects and empathises with others.
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Kingswood College traces its history back to New College, which opened its doors on 4 February 1890. New College is established as a boys’ school for day students and boarders in Rose Street Box Hill. Box Hill was then an isolated agricultural community but was beginning to boom with the establishment of a train line in 1882.
In 1902, New College changes its name to Box Hill Grammar School (BHGS) (however it reverts to New College again between 1907-1920).
Re-badged as New College, the school launches its popular, handwritten magazine The Tatler.
School excursions are part of the curriculum and include the Colonial Sugar works at Yarraville; Mitcham tile works; Melbourne Observatory, and the Herbarium.
The school has a choral society, debating and literary societies and a chess club and its dramatic society proudly produces a scene from The Merchant of Venice.
The school is in the shadow of WW1 and Stephenson’s son is killed in the Battle of Pozieres.
A new state school opens nearby so Gravenall changes the name back to Box Hill Grammar School as he fears prospective students could be directed to the wrong school.
The school is listed for auction in December 1921, but just three weeks later it is revoked and new headmaster Rev Charles Zercho arrives in the new year.
A parents and friends council is established to ensure that the school is no longer solely controlled by the headmaster.
In 1928, the Council enters negotiations with the Methodist Church about relocating from Rose Street.
In June 1929, the Methodist Church buys Gwynton Park – the new home of Box Hill Grammar School – for the sum of 10,000 pounds a sprawling 9.8 hectares (24 acres) in 1929 on the intersection of Piedmont and Station Streets.
A new school building – the Cato Block – is built in 1930 and the school moves from Rose Street with 25 students including three boarders.
1933 sees girls admitted as boarders and the school becomes fully co-educational – a move that is almost unheard of in mainstream Australian church schools.
During the Depression and WW2 years, Gwynton Park evolves into a self-sufficient farm which also provides students with a rich educational curriculum.
Many children’s lives are disrupted by war but sanctuary is found in the family atmosphere provided by C.F Walker, his family and the BHGS staff.
83 boys and 52 girls are enrolled at the school. For four shillings per week day students can join the boarders for a hot midday meal.
Between 1963 and 1968 enrolments more than double.
At the close of 1964 the school (with the exception of the kindergarten) reverts to being a boys-only school.
In 1965 the school is renamed Kingswood College. From the mid 1960s, the curriculum meets traditional academic demands but broadens to allow each student the space to develop individual skills and potential.
In 1966, the school becomes a foundation member of the Eastern Independent Schools of Melbourne – the largest sports association of any independent school grouping in Victoria.
Junior School opens.
Coeducation is the new education platform for Senior College and proves a popular choice with growing enrolments. A defining feature of the school is a focus on care for the individual.
To more effectively nurture students, three separate sub-schools are formed: Junior School, Middle School and Senior School.
New Year 10 building is completed.
Coeducation is re-introduced and offered in Prep and Years 1 and 7 then subsequent years until the school is fully co-educational in 1984.
Construction of the Stephenson Resource Centre and the gymnasium building.
In the 1990s the Early Learning Centre is opened for three and four year-olds.
Official opening of the Food Technology Centre in the Cato building.
CD-Photography, electronic storybooks, computer animation and desk-top computer newspaper productions were exciting new additions to the media program.
Work commences on the design and construction of the new Technology Centre with the opening on 30 May 1996.
The College enters the Human Powered Vehicle race in Maryborough for the first time.
Middle School Centre opens.
The new Multimedia Centre opens in December 2008.
The Annette Bennet Science Centre, a world class purpose-built facility, opens in March 2009.
In 2011 a state-of-the-art Hospitality Trade Training Centre opens, complete with a commercial kitchen and dining facilities.
In 2014 Kingswood College announces the launch of a vibrant new approach to education delivery – the Learning And Teaching Through Innovation, Collaboration, Engagement (LATTICE) framework.
Kingswood College celebrates its 125th anniversary with the vision of being a 21st century, world-class school ‘where potential soars’.
In 2016 Kingswood College welcomed our first Indigenous student into the Senior School.
In 2017 we welcomed several Indigenous students into the Middle School from the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School. We also welcomed our first cohort of international students from Gaoxin No. 1 Middle School in Xi’An China into Year 9. LATTICE 2.0 an evolution of the LATTICE framework was also implemented across the curriculum.
In 2018 Kingswood College was awarded Best Large Business AND Best Overall Business in the City of Whitehorse. The College was also a finalist in the Australian Education Awards Innovation in Curriculum Design for the LATTICE framework.
In 2019 the College undertook a review of the Secondary School and a series of recommendations were endorsed including moving Year 10 to become part of the Senior School in July 2021. An enhanced focus on student wellbeing that encompasses physical, mental and digital wellbeing for students across the College was also supported by the decision to implement an activewear wardrobe for all students in 2021.
The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world and hit Australia in March 2020 and the College moved to online learning and teaching from home for all students and staff at the College. The use of the video screening platform Zoom allowed teachers to continue teaching their classes via video and able to see all their students on-screen. There were two extended periods of lockdown and online learning in 2020.
In July 2020, Kingswood College was thrilled to be recognised in the United Nations Action Solidarity Awards as one of the 50 most inspiring stories of solidarity. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College held a House food drive and students were asked to donate items. The contribution from the Kingswood College community was overwhelming – more than 1300 items were donated. The College was selected by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Campaign as one of the featured stories for the Solidarity Awards.
2021 The activewear wardrobe was launched and students started wearing new items from the range in Term 1 2021. The activewear wardrobe was overwhelmingly endorsed by the general public and the College community applauded for leading innovation in education.
After an extensive redevelopment of what was previously the driveway through the school grounds, The Forum is a new modern outdoor piazza, with seating areas, performance amphitheatre, wyvern mosaic centrepiece and recreational spaces for students to relax, and was officially opened at Open Evening in 2021.
Welcome to 131 years of Kingswood College.
It has been a remarkable journey. Founded in 1890, the small school which began as ‘New College’ has managed not only to survive – but to thrive – in 131 years of change and challenge.
Today, Kingswood College is a strong and progressive school that delivers vibrant, 21st century-focused education. But as history shows it is underpinned by an ongoing commitment to individual wellbeing.
A caring, holistic education is a common thread throughout the story of Kingswood College. It is one of the strengths of this unique school.
This online archive attempts to tell some of the Kingswood College story.
It would not be possible without reference and reliance on two important publications: ‘Farmers, Ringmasters and Builders’ by Dick Cotter, and ‘So Much More Than a School’ by Frances Millar.
These insightful and well-researched books were invaluable references in tracing the school’s history. They are publications that now hold their own place in the school’s history.
Our modern take on the narrative of Kingswood College would also not be possible without the advice, assistance and recollections of several contributors. We sincerely thank:
Annette Bennet, Sue Harriage, Mavis Chappell, Jean Provan, Ruth Bartle, Kathleen Beanland, Evan Walker, Anne Walker, Fran Millar, Robert Walker and Nick Georgiadis.
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1926 brought in a complete change of staff to Box Hill Grammar School and of the 53 students enrolled, 23 were new. Charles Fitzroy Walker, a 26 year old teacher from Scotch College and local to the Box Hill area, was appointed headmaster and taught all subjects in the school’s senior section. Although Walker went […]READ ARTICLE
In 2014 Kingswood College announces the launch of a vibrant new approach to education delivery – the Learning And Teaching Through Innovation, Collaboration, Engagement (LATTICE) framework.READ ARTICLE
After 14 years of racing, the College wins the Open Division of the Human Powered Vehicle.READ ARTICLE
A state-of-the-art Hospitality Trade Training Centre opens, complete with commercial kitchen and dining facilities.READ ARTICLE
Ms Elisabeth Lenders commenced as principal at Kingswood College in January 2011. Elisabeth is President of the Centre for Strategic Education (CSE), a leading provider of teacher professional development, publications, and consultancy in education. She was previously deputy principal at Carey Baptist Grammar School (2006-2010) and head of middle school; head of English at Billanook […]READ ARTICLE
The Annette Bennet Science Centre, a world-class purpose-built facility, opened in March 2009.READ ARTICLE
My greatest memory is of the freedom we had. There were a lot of children there but our free time was our own. We were part of the house and my mother was always available. I liked being part of a bigger family and school – and being with other children of my own age. My mother was a mother to the whole boarding school but I never felt like I missed out – I loved it. And sometimes on the holidays there’d be other children who were boarders and couldn’t go home and they’d stay there too. Mum was always the backup. Dad had all the ideas – and she made them work
In many ways Dad was ahead of his time. There were all sorts of people who couldn’t afford to pay full fees to be at the school and there were children who had been quite neglected. (It was war time.) There was one boy who couldn’t really talk properly but Dad managed to get him to play chess – there were all sorts of stories of how he helped kids.
I did all my schooling until Leaving (Year 11) at BHGS and then I did my teacher training. Then, before I married, when Mum became ill I came back and helped look after all the smaller children: the four-, five- and six-year-olds. Their parents couldn’t look after them and I knew if they weren’t there at the school they would have gone to public care.
After I married, Bill and I lived there at the school. I did sewing and made school dresses and helped with the school menu. Then a couple of years later I became a teacher in the prep school. My own two children went to school there for their primary years. For me it was a very happy time, and although part of the Walker family I regarded myself as one of the boarders and identified with them.
Dad couldn’t have done his job here without my mother and also Mr Brunning. Brunning was a very important part of the school and we regarded him as family.
I lived at the school from the age of three until the end of my schooling in 1946. School and home life was a blend of both. My fondest memories are of my contemporary friends at school, other boarders and Mr Brunning (Brunno). He played a vital role. He took public transport from Caulfield each day, rang the school bell, worked out timetables, was warmly popular and assessed the character of each pupil.
My father’s vision for the school included introducing co-education as well as the concept of blending day and boarding pupils. Co-ed boarding was then almost unique in Australia: the only other example was a school in Hobart.
My mother was totally supportive of Dad, and the boarders were also our family.
In my final year at school D. B. Coutts (former Headmaster of Huntingtower) came to our school to teach. His style was to dictate a lot of notes – but I passed anyway!
Later on Dad asked me to help in the boarding house for a time. There were a lot of little girls, often from broken homes. My job was to look after them. By then I was studying at the Conservatorium of Music at Melbourne University. It was in the evenings after uni lectures that I helped in the boarding house.
I remember that individual parents would often visit their daughters separately, bringing gifts and hoping to impress. I found that very sad.
For a while I slept upstairs near the Box Room, then ‘over the road’ in Grandma’s house. Later I moved to the Princess Mary Club in the city to complete my degree.
My teaching career involved teaching English and Music at Camberwell High, then at Warragul High where I also produced a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta each year. In 1956 I went to England to study in Selly Oak and work at Kingsley Hall in London’s East End, a community centre founded by Muriel and Doris Lester (see It Occurred To Me by Muriel Lester). Anne joined me there in January 1959. Then I worked in Edinburgh until my return to Melbourne in late 1961. I was at BHGS for Dad’s last years. It was a difficult time to be there. Dad was under a lot of stress.
I did all my schooling at BHGS. Living there with all the students and a big family I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything. Mum and Dad never put any pressure on me to follow a certain career. I think I was lucky because I became the school pianist, and then when Dad went overseas I worked in the office at the school. Before then Dad didn’t have any office staff – and he always taught full time as well!
Mine was the first year that students had to do an extra year (Matriculation) to qualify for university. I felt that was unfair: Jean had got in with Year 11! But if I had stayed on I would have been the only girl with one other boy, and we would have had to study at another school. Anyway, I wasn’t academically minded. Instead I did a year in the boarding house to help Mum. It was quite good really. I was sleeping ‘across the road’ with Grandma.
Instead of university, because I was good at Maths I did a course in comptometry (I got 100%) and got a job at the Department of Civil Aviation. There wasn’t enough work for me there, though, so I transferred to G.J. Coles. But when Dad went to England for further study for 12 months, he insisted that I become the school secretary while he was away. It was less pay, but I enjoyed the job. In fact during that time Mr Brunning, Mum and I really ran the school.
Before I started in the school office McCutcheon’s office in Queen Street had sent out the accounts to parents. As secretary I had to look after all that. Every boarder had an envelope with their name on it. If they needed money they would write out a chit, put it on a spike and I would give them cash. Each term when the accounts went out, those amounts were added to their account.
I also ordered material for girls’ uniforms. The uniforms were made and sold at Walkers’ Department Store (no relation).
It was during my time as secretary that I found out the school was struggling and that Dad was personally running on an overdraught. On his return, when faced with the facts, Dad told me: “Kath, my money is invested in my family, and that’s where I want it to be”. He had given scholarships to kids who couldn’t pay their fees! In fact Dad helped a lot of families who couldn’t afford the fees – money wasn’t a thing with Dad or Mum.
Mum was a fantastic lady. Apart from looking after all of us she had to look after all the boarders too. She was a wonderful person and she never complained. She wasn’t dominant at all but she always supported Dad.
Mr Brunning was very important too. He often used to stay at the school until the boarders had done their homework. Then he’d head home to Caulfield. The service that was given to school by Mr Brunning was everything.
I always love coming back to visit the school.
I was born in 1933 when the family and the school had already moved to the new Gwynton Park campus, so that was my home for my first 30 years of life. This included four years (1951-53) at BHGS as a student teacher before joining the Education Department and going to Melbourne Teachers College.
We had a very privileged life. A great variety of students from many places became part of our extended family. The boarding house really ran on family lines. As children we were part of the whole. Our parents lived in the centre; they had no private residence. Our extended family came from everywhere. I never doubted we were loved and valued. One of the great strengths from this has been that our large family has remained mutually supportive.
I know that my father was impressed by A. S. Neill and his writings about freedom and learning through experience. He also knew the importance of co-education; but sometimes his visions were over-shadowed by the struggle for survival.
Our mother was amazing. She really cast a mantle of love and safety over the whole operation. I remember her remarking that if one boarder was away, one of maybe 40, she felt a lessening of responsibility. I remember one August-September school holiday during an epidemic when the dining room became a hospital ward for measles sufferers who couldn’t go home. She was on duty 24 hours of every day. If the cook didn’t arrive, the meal happened anyway. First-aid was provided by her for minor injuries, impetigo infestations, and bruised egos. She also hosted the Mothers’ Club meetings.
The list of what she did is very long but she did have staff help in the house such as cooks, cleaners, laundress, and a matron who had responsibility for child care. Selection of these was not always easy. Local trades’ folk were also an integral part of the team and there was a succession of grounds maintenance men.
We had a great deal of respect for Mr Brunning. Dad and Brunno shared all knowledge. If one could not answer a question the other could. In our family the clincher in any argument about a fact was, “Mr Brunning said!” (However he did insist that travel to the Moon could never happen – but we’ll let that pass.)
Brunning joined the school when I was six months old, a fact he loved to remind me of. He took a personal interest in everyone. We often remember the aphorisms that appeared along the top of his blackboard for months at a time.
He never drove a car and travelled from Caulfield every day on two trams and a bus, or tram, train, bus: a time he valued as it was his reading time. His ageing father lived near him and he visited him daily on the way home from school. Any person hospitalised could be sure of a visit.
He taught Geography and Science, he was a Grade Six teacher for a time, he managed school supplies, he was sports master, and he was the time-keeper in charge of the bell. The list is much longer. There were frequent interruptions at his classroom door for stationery, information – whatever – all dealt with kindly. On Tuesday nights he stayed late to supervise prep and to give our parents a bit of time off. School excursions, summer camps, all featured large in his responsibility.
His premature loss to cancer was very sad indeed.
My father had natural – or built-in – authority. And yet he espoused the ideals of a non-authoritarian community where the mildest and least assertive young person could be encouraged to express him or herself. He downplayed personal competitiveness and fostered universal participation. This particularly applied to sporting and athletic endeavour where the only measure of success was for the individual to strive to improve on previous best performances.
To those who attended the school over the C.F Walker years, particularly the boarders, the school was more like a large family and there was no doubt who was the ‘father’ – or more affectionately, ‘The Boss’!
But my father did not work alone. He had two outstanding deputies – his wife and, from 1935-61, deputy headmaster Rupert Brunning. Together this triumvirate managed every facet of the school. Walker managed the school at large: the finances, the property, the public responsibilities, the educational policy; while Brunning managed the day-to-day organisation: the timetable, the ringing of the bells, the sporting equipment, school supplies, sport and athletic programs.
C.F. Walker and Brunning both taught full teaching loads, the former in Humanities and maths-related subjects, the latter in Sciences and Geography.
My mother, Ethel Walker, managed the boarding house and, more generally, the people issues related to it: the hiring and firing of staff, all the ordering and much of the cooking. She cared for boarders, mended socks, nursed the sick, prepared for special occasions, packed for camps, created wardrobes for concerts and plays. In short, she cared for the well-being of all involved while raising her own eight children: truly a remarkable woman.
Co-educational boarding at Box Hill Grammar was not a first in the country but it probably became the most comprehensive as it developed. Beyond the sleeping arrangements, the integration of boys’ and girls’ activities was complete. Classrooms were mixed at all ages, dining and recreational facilities were fully integrated, and to the degree that it was possible, so was sporting activity. Indeed, we were a small enough school to often need mixed teams to make up the numbers.
Under C.F. Walker the curriculum took on a distinctive appearance. Learning was not confined to the boundaries of the property. Whatever skills teachers had were utilised.
This community is richer for the work of our forebears. So many students have been given the confidence and capacity to go on into all walks of Australian life with self-confidence they might not otherwise have developed – and with a strong sense of service that was the common thread through all those decades and that extraordinary group of leaders.
What follows is a brief summary of Evan’s life after he left the school:
Evan did a Matriculation year at Melbourne High School in 1953 and then gained entry into the Architecture school at RMIT (known as ‘the Tech’ in those days). He completed his Bachelor’s degree at Melbourne University.
Soon after entering the architecture profession Evan won a scholarship to study for a Masters in Canada and completed that with first-class honours at the University of Toronto. He then returned to Australia and commenced setting up in practice in Melbourne.
Toronto University invited him back to Toronto in 1964 to rewrite his thesis as a book for publication, and although the book was never completed Evan did some other very important things while back in Canada: he set up the Canadian wing of his architecture and planning practice; and he met and married Judith Outerbridge, his partner for life.
In 1969 Evan and Judith, with two of their children, arrived back in Australia. Evan threw his efforts into the burgeoning practice that was to become Jackson and Walker, Architects; but he also engaged extensively in almost 10 years of social activism and the rebirth of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party.
From 1977 until 1991 Evan was a senior member of the Victorian Parliamentary Labor Party. First in Opposition and then in Government, Evan held a great many ministerial portfolios and held other significant positions including Government Leader in the Legislative Council. He was much admired for his collaborative style of leadership.
After his parliamentary work Evan served some years as a professor and Dean of Architecture, Building and Planning at Melbourne University. He also chaired a long list of committees including the National Capital Planning Authority and the Port Arthur Authority.
In 1996 he has appointed as ‘an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia’: that is, he got to put ‘AO’ after his name. He was also awarded several honorary doctorates.
In 1998 Evan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and spent his next two decades focussed, more than ever, on family, art and social justice.
Evan died on 16 February, 2015, aged 79.
Living for my entire childhood – from birth until the age of 16 – at the school with my brothers and sisters plus many boarders and day pupils, I was actually uneasy when I was away from the school! Even after going off to college, I lived across the road with my Grandma. and with Evan and Frances for a time while they were at university. There were frequent visits from our mother who would come over the road to see us in the evenings after putting the little children to bed in the boarding house.
On some school holidays I often stayed with friends amongst the boarders when they went home to their country farms. We had a lot of holidays staying on farms. So yes, I had to share my life with a large group of people but I can’t say I resented it. I loved it when all the kids came back after the holidays. I’d usually already staked out the bed I wanted in the dorm … I was always dying for that moment when they’d all turn up.
Our mother was enormously important. She was the one who held it all together. She was a quiet woman, very solid and always there for everyone. You could go to her with anything. She was always available and heard everyone’s problems. She stepped in when things would get a little bit unruly. She was an extraordinary presence. She was not always an exceptionally well person but she had great inner strength – very generous and extraordinary in many ways. I don’t think my father could have run the school without my mother. He had a strong personality too but she was the rudder.
My father was very keen on getting things done. He helped build the school and I remember helping with the construction and painting of the classrooms during many holidays.
He always wanted the school to be co-ed and he wanted it to be more progressive. He wasn’t terribly keen on uniforms – he was a child of the Depression and World War I when he lost his beloved older brother Ivan in Flanders – and so he wasn’t keen on anything to do with régimes, uniforms … he was very much a peacemaker and a pacifist. He opposed the war. He didn’t preach at us but we knew that was at the back of his theory. He would seek input from the students and get a combination of ideas to consider what he thought should happen at the school. Sometimes he used our ideas and sometimes he didn’t; but he was a progressive educator – there’s no doubt about that.
The school’s concert trips and tours were a highlight. I remember the incredible concert tour of Norfolk Island on 1952 when I was 14. We stayed with locals, travelled around the island on the back of trucks, putting on concerts that included short plays, recitals, musical trios with violin, cello, piano, poetry…. you name it! I met some people from Norfolk Island years later, in Fiji, and they told me that visit (that also included dances, church services and feasts put on by the locals). It was something they had never forgotten – all due to Mr Wilson, Governor/Administrator of Norfolk Island at the time and father of Nancy, Billy, Anna and Stan Wilson who were all once boarders at BHGS.
At the school we had horses, cows, vegetable gardens. Nugget was Dad’s draught horse – he’d mow the oval with a mower contraption that the horse pulled along, and he also ran the farm section of the school. He liked nothing better than to be on the farm. But the next moment he would be teaching Latin. Or reciting Shakespeare. He had a brilliant mind. That was just Dad.
Of course there is another person in all this: Mr Brunning. Brunning was enormously important to the school. He taught and administered alongside Dad for almost the entire time my father was at the school. And Brunning was important in another way: he had a much more sensitive nature. He could see if you were in trouble or needed to talk and he’d sit down and talk with you.
Brunning would arrive early in the morning and often leave very late at night. His classroom was full of supplies. There were always people knocking on his door to ask for something.
One of his main subject areas was Geography. I’ve travelled the world widely since then and I have many times thanked Mr Brunning for the basic knowledge I gained from his classes. Often, I would arrive in a new country in Africa, Asia or Latin America and remember what he had taught us about the capital city, the culture, minerals and resources, politics. He was a superb teacher and he played a core role in the school
After my initial tertiary education at the Kindergarten Training College in Kew, I travelled to England, working at Kingsley Hall with my sister Jean for a while, then as a relief teacher in primary schools in the East End of London. I also worked in the office of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea for some months, spending summer months hitch-hiking throughout the UK and Europe. With my friend Ruth Lechte, we then went as ‘landed emigrants’ to Canada, sponsored by my brother Evan who was a graduate student at the University of Toronto.
In late 1961 I worked briefly in the Box Hill Grammar School office, and I played in the Box Hill Methodist Women’s Cricket Team on the BHGS oval with my sister Frances. We were the opening bats!
In February 1962 I flew to Fiji, where I lived and worked for 11 years, jointly founding with Ruth Lechte the Fiji YWCA, which included the establishment of multi-racial kindergartens. We also engaged in youth work and women’s rights activities.
Awarded a scholarship to Indiana University in 1972, I studied development communications, gaining an MA and Ph.D in Education from the school of Instructional Systems Technology. My dissertation focussed on development communications in Fiji.
While still at Indiana U I participated in 1975 in the first UN world conference on women and was subsequently invited to New York to start the International Women’s Tribune Centre (IWTC). I spent the next 26 years there as director, working with women worldwide on issues concerning gender equity, development and peace. IWTC’s focus was on information, communications, technical assistance and training with and for rural and low-income women in Asia/Pacific, Latin America/Caribbean and Africa. IWTC also played a major role in the organising of the three UN world conferences on women and NGO forums in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).
This deep interest and concern for international affairs and human rights undoubtedly came from my early learnings at Box Hill Grammar School and most specifically from discussions with my mother and father, who were both integrally involved with global issues. Dad was a founding member of one of the first United Nations Association branches in Australia (Box Hill Branch) and was a great admirer of Dr Herbert Evatt, Australia’s President of the fledgling United Nations General Assembly from 1948 to 1949.
Note: in 2004 Anne was nominated as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) ‘For service to the international women’s movement as a pioneer in the areas of human rights and economic and social justice, and as an advocate for the advancement of women in developing countries’.
I lived either in the boarding house at the school or ‘across the road’ at 352 Station Street, Box Hill, from my birth in 1939 until my marriage in 1961. By then Dad had bought a little house next door to 352, opposite the school gates, and my husband Alex and I rented it for a while.
By the time I had reached Year 7 my older sisters had already left school for further education, but they each had various roles still to play on the staff of the school. Mavis was assistant matron (1946-52), then became a primary school teacher there (1960-64 ). Jean served as assistant matron (1950-1951) then much later as English teacher in the Senior School (1962-63). Kath was assistant matron during 1944 and was the school pianist, and then school secretary (1952–1956). Ruth worked full-time as a student teacher in the primary school (1950-1953).
Being closer in age to Evan, Anne and Robert I shared more school experiences with them: catching yabbies in the dam and cooking them in the laundry on the old stove, picking blackberries in the dam paddock, riding Miss Tunbridge’s horses, climbing trees or sitting in groups on the grass and chatting. Their friends became my friends. Between us we helped care for the new boarders – and felt the sadness as our friends moved on: to other schools, or ‘home’ again, sometimes overseas.
The school, so free in many ways, also had an established routine that gave it a sense of stability. The boarders all helped with regular duties such as ‘rosters’ to set the tables, make the porridge and toast for breakfast and to wash up afterwards, and to serve the evening meal and do the dishes afterwards. After the war, when there was little money for kitchen equipment, Dad had wooden plates made at the Station Timber Yards – and a rack to drip-dry them after washing.
Ice was delivered to the school regularly for the small ice-chest (no refrigerator until the ‘50s) and meat for the midday main meal was delivered daily and Mr Bonner the baker called every day with fresh bread.
We walked up past the tennis courts to school in the morning and were back for a hot midday lunch. Dad would sit at the main table during meals, ensuring that we did not waste food and maintaining order. The meals were good – and on roast dinner days we would gather in the ‘Library’ waiting for the dinner bell. The first at the dinner table could then claim any extra roast potatoes by saying “bags first over”.
When lessons finished there was always bread and jam or a piece of fruit for the hungry boarders served from the kitchen window at the boarding house.
After the evening meal and before homework we had free time. When the weather was cool we would play board games or ‘jacks’ on the carpet or read books in the ‘Library’ next to the ‘Breakfast Room’ – the one room where Dad and Mum could sometimes have some peace. If things got noisy Dad might appear at the door to say “Keep it down to a dull roar”. It worked.
On long summer evenings we could play outside: often ‘Kick the Tin’, or ‘British Bulldog’ on the oval. But at 7pm sharp there was ‘prep’, homework time, in the dining room; and mostly Dad, but occasionally Mr Brunning or (later) George Wilson would supervise and give help where needed.
Then off to bed. Unlike most kids in families we did not have our own room. We slept with the boarders and, as the numbers and ages changed, we moved to the appropriate dormitory or area of the boarding house or, in the boys’ case, to the ‘Pav’ or the ‘Cottage’.
I was sick from time to time, and at such times I was moved onto a folding iron bed in an alcove in Mum’s bedroom. I felt very secure there, even though at times Mum had to roll Dad over to stop his loud snoring
The highlight of the week was the school dance in the assembly hall. The chairs were pushed back and the floor waxed to make it slippery. We could practice the foxtrot or the waltz after school.
Our church, being Methodist, did not approve of dances on church property but Dad could see the benefit of the social experience. So the BHGS dance became very popular for the church youth club members as well as the boarders.
There were also concert trips to country areas. As well as being fun (we sang, showed school movies, did gymnastics, presented drama pieces etc) these were a way that Dad devised to help advertise the school – particularly the boarding sector.
Dad also had a saying that ‘to produce teamwork one must have a project’. One such project was the yearly drama production (often quite adventurous) presented in the Box Hill Town Hall. We gained a lot from being involved with stage performances and from elocution taught by Mrs McKenzie.
So many memories …
Dad left BHGS in 1963 and he and Mum moved into 352. Those last few years prior to the move had not been easy for Dad. The council had wanted him to go and said they would turn BHGS into a boys’ school, knowing that Dad had said: “If the girls go, I go”.
In fact in the end he accepted his fate philosophically, watched the comings and goings at the school with interest and was visited from time to time by Rev. Michael Norman, an exceptional replacement and inspired choice as principal of BHGS. Michael rebranded the school as Kingswood College, and my brother Robert taught there in 1967 and 1968, which was during the Michael Norman era.
It was a privilege to return to Kingswood as a teacher myself (1977-1993). Looking back I realise how fortunate I have been.
I arrived at the school in 1942, a few days after my birth, and occupied the wicker cot beside Mum and Dad’s bed until I was old enough to join the other students in the little boys’ dormitory.
I spent my last couple of years as a student living in the Cottage at the top of the property, helping to supervise the younger boys who slept up there with us – just as I had been beautifully supervised by older boys along with a ‘matron’ years before.
Dad and Mum were both deeply moral, upright people, both highly articulate and both caring. I didn’t know until years later (when I was doing a research paper on the school for my education diploma) that they often took on kids that they knew were never going to able to pay the low fees charged by the school.
Dad had always said there weren’t many good reasons for running a private boarding school, but there were a few: to keep families of kids together; to rescue kids from unsatisfactory home environments; and to satisfy the needs of kids from rural and remote places. But at the time, living with those at-risk kids, I had no notion that they needed the school the way they did. They were just kids. Dad and Mum never talked to me about why they needed to be there with us.
School life was home life: no question. I think I was as close to the friends of Frances and Anne as I was to Fran and Anne. And we certainly shared our Mum with hordes of kids over the years. Even when we went camping over the school holidays there were usually a few ‘stragglers’ from the boarding house with us: kids who for one reason or another were not holidaying with their own families.
Dad once taught us an interesting lesson about rules, strictness and fairness. He got us (the boarders) to make up a set of rules for the boarding house that we would have to agree on and then adhere to. Of course we went at the task with alacrity and made up a list of nasty, strict rules: we were kids! Then when life became downright unpleasant and we hated our own rules, he pointed out that there is a lot about strictness and rules that just isn’t necessary.
I think Dad and Mr Brunning had a shared vision about curriculum and direction – and parenting too, I suspect. I actually think they were ahead of their generation. I think Dad was quite advanced in his understanding of what education was. He was a huge supporter of co-ed and he really did believe that boys and girls should grow up together. He also had a kind of mission to country families to keep their kids together – I think BHGS was the cheapest non-Catholic boarding school in Victoria, if not Australia! Mum and Dad ran this place on a shoestring. They were constantly thinking of innovative and economical ways to run the school – growing vegies, selling milk, running pigs to utilise food scraps – and they were both aware that these activities were also a marvellous experience for kids
And the arts were big at our school too, especially the performing arts. Along with the horses, the cows, trees and the vegie garden, art, farming and creative play were all part of life.
After school and university I worked as a teacher of humanities and music in various inner-suburban high schools; and at Kingswood College I taught English, French and Biblical Studies for a couple of years. I also taught in England, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for a number of years.
While I was teacher-in-charge of a busy English Language Centre in Melbourne’s western suburbs during the Kennett years I was instructed to declare half of my staff in excess: a very nasty task. I did what I was told, and I registered my protest by including my own name on the list of excess teachers; and began a new career as a book-editor and Hansard writer.
My next career move was a move back to Turkey where I set up a hazelnut orchard and became the first person in my village to get onto the Internet. During those few happy years I did some writing: first collaborating on a book about child-rearing patterns in 44 cultures represented in the Australian community, and then collaborating along with my sister Frances and sister-in-law Judith on a long personal memoir by Evan. (Now on sale!)
Evan Walker, AO (11 October 1935 – 16 February 2015) was the fifth child born to Kingswood College’s longest-serving principal Charles Fitzroy (C.F) Walker and his wife Ethel.
He arrived at the (then) Box Hill Grammar School property a few days after his birth where he was raised and educated along with his seven siblings (Mavis, Jean, Kathleen, Ruth, Anne, Frances and Robert), fellow students and boarders.
Attending the school between 1941 and 1951 Evan achieved excellent academic results and was also a keen sportsman.
After completing school, he studied architecture at RMIT then a bachelor’s degree at the University of Melbourne where he topped his final year in 1959.
Awarded a Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship, Evan then moved to Canada’s east where he undertook a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Toronto, graduating with first-class honours in 1962.
From there, his career as an architect spanned almost 18 years across both Canada and Australia.
After founding a Melbourne practice in 1963, Evan moved to Toronto expanding the practice to specialise in university projects across Canada and the USA. In 1965, he married his wife Judith, a social worker. Together, they raised three children – Chris, Ben and Rebecca.
On Evan’s return to Melbourne in 1969, he was commissioned by the Victorian government’s education minister to assess the needs of schools in inner Melbourne.
This was the catalyst for the young architect to try his hand at a more influential role in planning and development issues.
Standing as a Labor candidate for the seat of Hawthorn in 1973 and 1976, he entered State Parliament in 1979 after winning the Upper House seat of Melbourne Province and was soon appointed Deputy Opposition Leader.
With the election of a Labor government in 1982, Evan held a broad sweep of portfolios over the next eight years including planning and environment, agriculture and rural affairs, Aboriginal affairs, arts, post-secondary education, conservation, major projects, and industry, technology and resources.
As Planning Minister, he was instrumental in Melbourne’s CBD planning controls and played a pivotal role in the transformation of the Southbank precinct.
In 1990, Evan resigned from the state government ministry and in 1991, moved to academia where he was professorial fellow and Dean of Melbourne University’s faculty of Architecture and Planning until 2000.
During the 1990s Evan contributed to numerous boards, committees and taskforces within the planning, housing, arts and community sectors.
He was a strong advocate for the involvement of young people in the arts and served as president of the Council of the Victorian College of the Arts from 1995 – 1999.
Evan’s achievement and contributions attracted numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Technology; the Lord Mayor’s Award for contribution to planning of Melbourne; the President’s Award from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, a Centenary Medal, and in 1996, an Order of Australia (AO).
But a stellar career and lifetime of public and community service did not diminish his fondness and regard for Kingswood College.
He was the architect behind the College’s C.F Walker suite of buildings and remained in close contact with many from the Kingswood College community.
While recent years of ill-health forced him to withdraw from public life, he continued to work on family history research and writing his memoirs.
Evan is remembered with great affection and admiration by the members of the Kingswood College community who are very proud to call him one of their own.
I migrated to Australia from Greece in 1953. As far as I can recall, I arrived at the school in mid 1950’s at the age of 10 or 11 and was left at the school by my mother and step father with a small bag of clothes and a Greek/English Dictionary (at the time I did not speak a word of English).
On arrival I met the “Boss”, C.F Walker, the then-principal at the front gate. He took me under his wing and showed me my new home at the ‘Pav’ (Pavilion) then he introduced me to my fellow boarders. I had no other connections or knew anyone else there.
This school was chosen for me because it was one of a very few boarding schools that was willing to have me (as I was from a migrant family with zero language skills).
As far as I remember, I was the only boarder there from a European family and the only one who could not speak the language. As I recall, I was also recovering from a broken leg at the time which had just been taken out of plaster and had unfortunately left me unable to run and with a slight limp – at that time, I was unable to participate in any sporting activity.
My first impressions of the school were terrifying … trying to communicate, read text books, understand what the teachers were talking about, let alone getting used to school rules, different food etc proved rather challenging.
I spent most of my years as a boarder and left school after completing year 11. During my time at the school I became a prefect, sports house captain, captained the schools Aussie Rules team representing Box Hill Grammar against other schools. I represented the school boys team in the Victorian under 16 Athletics championships, and obtained all swimming awards between novice and the Victorian Life Saving Awards – later I joined the St Kilda Life Saving club.
As boarders we were like a family and although the school facilities could be described as primitive compared to modern standards, we enjoyed the freedom we were allowed after school and on weekends, football, marbles etc. As there was no TV at the time, we listened to radio’s top 40 and were allowed occasional trips to the pictures at Box Hill and to watch our teams play sports outside the school.
I spent some of the school holidays at the school as my parents were overseas some of the time and shared meals with the Walkers, who also had a (family) house across the road from the school. The rest of my time was spent making crystal sets and model aeroplanes until the rest of the boarders returned from their homes.
Some of my stand-out memories are:
I have until recently been a member of the Alumni committee who amongst other projects are involved in compiling from the archives and previous students recollections a most important historical record of the schools 125 year existence.
I feel that we must try to retain as many of these memories as possible before most of them are lost one way or another. The Alumni community represents many old friends who I lived with, enjoyed my school years, shared emotional highs and lows and can still meet with after so many years and continue our friendships as though it was only yesterday.
I have observed from recent visits that what continues to make Kingswood College so different from other schools, is its indefinable spirit and distinctive friendliness between teachers and students, which I experienced there during my time as a student more than 50 years ago.
David Pollock was a student at Kingswood College from Year 7 (in 1979) to Year 12 (1984).
In particular David remembers liking the way that the Senior School operated for Year 11 and 12 students. Students were treated more like independent adults—for example, there was no daily morning assembly or uniform.
‘We didn’t feel “forced” to do things we didn’t want. The focus was more on trying to get us to see the value of attending classes and doing homework rather than being “forced” to. Also several teachers allowed us to use their first names.’
David felt that although this philosophy may not have been suitable for everyone, it helped prepare students for the ‘real world’. The more relaxed regime did suit David, and he did well academically (except in English, as he disliked writing essays!).
One of the benefits of Kingswood College’s policies at the time was that David feels he learnt a lot about being considerate of other people in different situations, such as those with disabilities. David found the atmosphere very positive, and felt accepted. He suggests that he was ‘respected for just being myself and not criticising others’.
In describing his values and attitudes, David says, ‘I’m not religious but I strongly believe in the age-old maxim that we all need to treat others as we’d like to be treated ourselves. That extends to treating future generations with respect—in other words leaving the world in at least as a good a shape as we’ve enjoyed’.
On leaving Kingswood College David did a Science degree at Monash University, inspired by his love of wildlife, and worked studying native animals. But by the age of 25 David changed track and went to do his teaching qualification in Darwin. He chose Darwin for ‘something different’, and because he never liked the cold winters of Victoria. David then taught science at Darwin High for several years, travelled to Africa discovering the animals and culture that is so different to the ‘developed’ parts of the world, and later taught in a small remote Aboriginal community in Central Australia.
David has suffered from ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 15 years and finds it a real struggle to work half-time (at most). At present he is a lecturer in screen and media (film-making) near Darwin at a tertiary Institute for Indigenous adults.
David and his wife have two young boys, and expect that they will be kept busy being a family for at least the next 10 years! He is considering moving back to Victoria, but finds real-estate prices very high compared to the Territory.
In 2000, David took time off to travel around Australia. A couple of times he joined protests in Victoria and Western Australia including ‘sitting’ (and sleeping) up in some very tall old trees to help prevent logging of old-growth forests. He says, ‘hearing the chain saws nearby and the giant trees falling throughout each day was hard, but it was more effective than signing a petition! Of course we all need logging for the paper products we use, but let’s use plantation timber—not trees that are 100–300+ years old!’
David’s recipe for happiness and fulfillment is to keep things simple: ‘The simple life is best, rather than rushing too much to do things or buy things that aren’t really needed anyway’.
The following is an edited account of Alistair Hopkins’s memories, and involvement at the College. It is interesting to note that during Alistair’s time the College worked to extend students to think broadly and achieve their best. Although things have changed with the physical presentation of the College, it is encouraging to note that the College ethos has been maintained throughout the years, encouraging students to achieve their personal best and providing a whole and extended curriculum. I commend you to read about Alistair Hopkins, our featured Wyvernian, in his words.
When I joined the staff at Kingswood College at the start of 1972 I knew very little about the school and certainly had no idea that I would be there until I retired in 1998.The previous two years had been difficult ones for a variety of reasons, not least that I had come to the realisation that in studying theology, being ordained as a minister of the Presbyterian Church and then accepting an appointment as a school chaplain, I had taken a wrong turn. It had been an enriching and valuable nine years but they ended with the recognition that I was by conviction a secular humanist rather than religious and certainly did not have a vocation. Michael Norman’s offer of a position teaching senior English was very welcome.
I found the atmosphere at Kingswood College congenial from the start. There was something a bit improvised about it with buildings acquired from a variety of sources, but it had an energy and openness which was attractive. It could be challenging – twice a week the students in Years 11 and 12 abandoned their usual classes and participated in electives – ‘things worth doing’. So, out of the blue, I had to come up with two things I could offer which would be attractive to a group of students and worthwhile. If my memory serves me right I devised a philosophy segment (‘great thinkers’) then spent another afternoon coaching and playing squash. That was Term 1!
Some schools seem to exist for the staff, parents or institution with the students expected to conform to expectations. I have long believed that a school’s primary responsibility is to help students discover and develop their potential rather than attempting to impose a pattern upon them. (Education v Indoctrination). My perception was that was how Kingswood College operated and was why I felt so comfortable there.
During 1973, largely on the initiative of Leigh Speedy, changes were mooted in the organisation and functioning of the school, in particular the re-introduction of co-education and the establishment of a senior college to cater for the needs of Years 11 and 12 students. Without doubt participating in the planning for the senior college then being part of its implementation was the highlight of my teaching career. I am full of admiration for the vision that made it possible and for the freedom we were given in deciding the modus operandi. The quality staff who came to teach at the College and that of the students drawn from other schools are testimony to the attractiveness of the concept.
I lost count of the number of parents who said during parent-teacher interviews, with a mixture of pleasure and surprise, ‘my child enjoys coming to school now.’ It assured me that we had the essentials right. Between 1978 and 1984 three of my daughters attended the senior College and all were enthusiastic about the experience. I had the great pleasure of teaching all three in Year 12 Literature.
I retired in 1998. Since then I have become involved with the University of the Third Age (U3A), a great organisation. For several years I was a member of the cycling group going on rides of up to 100 kms and exploring parts of the city I had not known. I am ‘tutor’ of a poetry appreciation group which has been a great source of pleasure and I have learnt an enormous amount. I often catch myself thinking ‘I wish I had known that when I was teaching Year 12 Literature!’
Annette Subhani, née Davis attended Kingswood College Senior School from 1983, completing Year 12 in 1984.
She has strong family links to the College as both of her brothers David (who is now the Victorian Health Minister) and John (who starred in ‘HMS Pinafore’) had attended Kingswood College and left prior to her arrival. Her father, Adrian Davis was School Council Treasurer during this period.
Annette had been offered a place at Kingswood College in Year 7, but her parents preferred a girls’ school at that time. By Year 10 the family felt she had grown out of the girls’ school environment, which seemed very protected and controlled. It seemed to be stifling her creativity and ability to find her independence, so Annette moved to Kingswood College for her final years of high school – she soared!
During the first year at Kingswood College (1983) Annette gained great confidence thanks to the more independent learning environment on offer. The broader, artistic program was excellent, and she played the role of Mrs Bedwin in the school musical ‘Oliver’. The production experience was a highlight of her time at school.
In Year 12 Annette studied Maths and English, Biology, Art (textiles) and Home Economics and Human Development and Society. Annette coordinated most of her art course because although the textile program was available it was limited, however there was much flexibility for her to manage the program under the guidance of an experienced teacher/parent which was really appreciated.
Annette’s daughter started is an Alumni of the College. Kingswood College was the perfect place for the co-educational school experience and holistic approach, which considers academic achievement just one of the goals of education, that they wanted.
Annette has a strong desire to serve the community in all aspects of life to help contribute to an evolving world. She believes both her upbringing and Kingswood College’s strong philosophy of social justice gave her this, and even now she considers the path to happiness and fulfilment is in serving others.
Annette has spent the last two decades involved in the education of children from birth and beyond. She has a Diploma in Education (Prim) and Post-Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education and has worked in various industries including health, retail, community development, management and human resource development and recruitment.
Annette has a desire to contribute to the character development of children from an early age, as she believe this helps to build a community of responsible and caring individuals. Twelve years ago she initiated a character development program known as Sharing Circles (www.sharingcircles.com) that contributes to the character and spiritual development of children from the age of two.
She now spends most of her time in community development activities through Sharing Circles involving running educational programs through preschool playgroups, school-aged after-hours programs and holiday arts programs. The program provides stimulation through songs, music, dancing, rhymes, books, plays and arts and crafts centred on themes relating to the virtues and feelings, and all ages focus on ‘the virtues in me’ and explore the question of ‘who am I?’ and helping children to see how they fit into the world.
Sharing Circles also offers professional development programs in the Early Childhood sector to enhance early childhood education around her philosophy of education, and provides a range of creative teaching resources.
In recent years she has received acknowledgement for the far-reaching results of the Sharing Circles program, including (2013) receiving one of six Outstanding Community Service Awards from the City of Boroondara; and (2011) an Award for Excellence from the Victorian Multicultural Commission for Sharing Circles and its impact on building multicultural awareness and ties.
Maree Abonyi is a former Kingswood College teacher who retired in 2013 after 38 years with the College. Maree’s degree, a double major in biochemistry and microbiology at first led her to work as a microbiologist in London and Melbourne. During a career break to have her four children, thinking about how to manage years of school holidays, she did her DipEd. Her first job, while her youngest child was just a year old, was a part-time position as senior biology teacher at Kingswood College.
Since then, Maree taught Years 11 and 12 biology and chemistry and really enjoyed it. Staff stayed at Kingswood College a long time: many of the Senior School staff had had other careers before teaching, and many had their whole teaching careers at the College. Maree liked being in the classroom with the senior students, and didn’t want to move out, although she did take on other roles, such as 15 years as Year 12 coordinator and managing the alumni. Working with the Wyvernians has been very rewarding as many former students have described how their adult lives were inspired in her classroom. And of course there are those students who introduce themselves in the dentist’s waiting room… She still misses the students.
Maree meets up with retired lab technicians Carol and Glennys (who were ‘always good for a laugh’) every few months, along with former principal and science teacher Annette Bennet.
When Maree started teaching at Kingswood, she felt that the College was ahead of its time. There was no uniform, no bells, and students had a degree of independence that was rare in schools of the time, where education was both conservative and competitive.
Students could make their own decisions. The relationship between senior students and staff was highly valued, even though it was more traditional in Middle School. Students went on to do extremely well at university because they had to be responsible for their own actions.
Maree was so impressed by the senior school that she sent her daughter Anita there. When then-principal Lee Speedy was teaching her physics, it was obvious that Anita took after her mother, as he admonished her, ‘Maree, be quiet!’
Maree’s teaching style was influenced by ‘the Kingswood way’, treating the senior students as young adults who had something to say. As a teacher, she always put the students first and was always prepared to bat for them. Her concern has always been for them to have a sound education and she is justly proud of what she has done as a teacher.
Last summer Maree and her husband Isti went to South America (Peru, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil) with Kingswood College teachers Marta Gorondi, Sandra Ho and Wilma Buccella (Marta and Sandra also having just retired). Maree and her husband then went on without the others to Equador and the Galapagos Islands, and a four-day trip down the Amazon.
She has recently returned from a trip to the US and Europe, but not the usual parts: Iceland—where she was fascinated to find barely any trees, due to the land being effectively lava with moss on top—and Hungary (where her husband’s family still live) and Transylvania. Although Maree and Isti have always travelled, it’s wonderful to be able to have much longer holidays now!
Having spent long stretches of the first nine months away from school overseas, Maree hasn’t yet settled into retirement. She is still coaching in Chemistry and Biology, and writing trial exams, which keeps her academically active. She describes herself as being still in the first phase of retirement: doing mundane things like cleaning out cupboards!
Maree enjoys visiting her four children and their families. She has ten grandchildren, two of whom are in the US, giving her another reason, if any were needed, to travel.
Her recipe for happiness is to enjoy what you do and make the most of good company. In teaching, you must have passion for your subject and hope to instil that in your students.
Maree is determined to make the most of her good health and to explore the world as much as possible.
George Wilson joined Kingswood College (then Box Hill Grammar) in 1958 to fill three roles including classroom teacher in the Junior School, teaching English and Humanities-related subjects. He also shared responsibility for the Boarding House and supervising the boarders, and took over from Rupert Brunning as sports master. Despite being very busy, George stayed at Kingswood College until 1991, when he was offered the position of Head of Sport at Billanook College, and he returned to Kingswood College in a part-time capacity for three years to help re-establish the alumni association (now the Wyvernians).
During his 36 years at Kingswood College, George saw many changes, from living on-site with the boarders under C.F. Walker when the school had 200-250 students, through a period as a boys’ school and the end of boarding, to the reinvigoration of co-education and the growth of Kingswood College.
George recalls Nick Georgiadis, the subject of the first profile in the last Wyvernian eNews, playing football. ‘Nick had a particular way of imposing his presence in a match. His team mates became used to him yelling “leave it!” in such a loud voice that the opposition thought it included them! Although this seemed clever, Nick would point out that it would only work once and he would pay for it later!’
George never ceased to marvel at the fact that Kingswood College sports teams – including for example the girls’ netball and softball teams – always ‘punched above their weight’ and often won in competition with much larger schools. In fact, the College in general seemed to produce a significant number of lawyers and doctors, as well as famous luminaries such as Evan Walker and Trevor Boucher.
Career advice was probably not George’s greatest strength. He ran an under-16 cricket team that had a very good left-handed opening batsman called David Graham. The team reached the finals, and David Graham said that he couldn’t play because he was going to Box Hill Golf Club to hit a few balls around, so ‘Sir’ had a serious talk with him about his options. He could have a decent future in district cricket, probably play for Box Hill, and so ‘why muck about on a golf course?’ George recalls with a chuckle that David Graham went on to win the 1979 PGA at Oakland Hills and the 1981 US Open at Merion, and has dined at the White House with four or five different US Presidents.
In 1964 George, in conjunction with two other sports masters at local schools, established the Eastern Independent Schools Association, which eventually provided sporting opportunities for approximately 20 000 girls and boys. Thanks to George, Kingswood College was a foundation member and even today, almost 50 years later, remains an active participant in the association, now called Eastern Independent Schools of Melbourne (EISM).
During the revitalisation of the alumni association, along with ‘livewire’ development officer Graham Orr, George fondly remembers a series of ‘celebrity luncheons’ which Kingswood College held as a means of putting itself on the map, involving people such as Ita Buttrose and Ian Botham.
Being an organiser of the past students’ group helped George to get in touch with many friends, and recently he had lunch with the class of 1960. It is a surprise to find that these students are in their sixties, and some of George’s students are 70!
Many of the Wilsons’ friends are from his long career at Kingswood College, and even today George says, ‘Our lawyer is a boy I taught in 1958’. There are still those who recognise him when he is out shopping, and everyone starts with ‘You remember me…’ At 85 and with over 40 years of teaching to recall, this is a lot to ask. George often finds that former students are ‘vaguely familiar in a long-distance sense’, but may find it hard to recall someone he taught in 1960!
A modest man whom many Wyvernians will remember fondly, George says that Kingswood College has been good to him and looks forward to continuing reunions with staff and students.
George is now retired and not seeking further employment at the age of 85. Neither is he about to ‘downsize’ like many of his contemporaries: he and his wife have just ‘upsized’, and moved into a new house. Although it is a daunting experience to establish themselves in a new environment, they are pleased to find that when you change your address your friends will still be there.