At Girls Grammar, I experienced first-hand what it means to take purposeful action for a more just world and learnt that the journey to becoming a global citizen goes deeper than just textbooks and exams alone. Rich experiences like the service program have lasting effects on not just the students involved, but the wider community, and the Girls Grammar ethos of giving back and serving others permeates every aspect of life at school.
Global issues like the climate crisis, food security, access to clean water and sanitation, and violence against women are defining challenges of our generation and solving these problems will be a team effort—teams that transcend cultures, borders, religions and world views, with team members who demonstrate empathy, integrity, respect for others, and tolerance, and who aren’t afraid to act with the courage of their convictions in pursuit of a greater purpose.
These qualities are the essence of what it means to be a Grammar Girl, and whether you know it now or not, the experiences that you gain here will shape you well after you walk out of the school gates for the very last time.
In the spirit of Foundation Day, let’s not forget that the foundation for the values we hold dear as Grammar Girls, the values I’ve mentioned today, was laid long ago. Our collective story, and the story of this incredible school, began when 40 female students and a female principal came together not far from here in a house on George Street, and pushed forward with their own vision for a more just world—a world where girls could be empowered, and educated.
Today, as on all days, we will—and we must—carry forward this legacy of service, and a sisterhood defined by purpose.
Students challenged to strive for the magic of transformative service
Brisbane Girls Grammar School has a history of encouraging students to volunteer their time and knowledge to support causes that benefit children, the elderly, and those who suffer from disease or who are affected by disability. Students are also encouraged to help those who are experiencing homelessness or disadvantage, and to help with funding or assistance with research or care, plus environmental preservation groups and associated causes. ‘Volunteering is about supporting non-profits or community groups by willingly giving your time, skills and enthusiasm to become involved and take action on issues that are important to you.’ (Volunteering Queensland, 2017).
Grammar girls are challenged to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone, both in their choice of activity and by planning and preparing for their community service independently and with the maturity to recognise when assistance is required. Through this level of independent, personal challenge they will experience the magic of transformative service.
A Timeline of Service at Brisbane Girls Grammar School
In the early 1900s, the School raised money to fund cots and beds in the Children’s Ward of the Brisbane Children’s Hospital. Money raised at School Day by the students went towards these cots.
During the 1914-1918 War, they made weekly collections of fruit, eggs etc., for the soldiers’ hospitals, and weekly collections of money for War Savings Certificates. This was continued for World War 2.
Community Service by students continued after the War years, each Year making blankets or toys. The 1957 Annual Report notes: ‘Throughout the year wool rugs have been made and sent through organisations in England to old people in their care, to the Queensland Bush Nursing Association and, to the Returned Sisters Association and to Eventide.’
In the 1980s and 1990s, Community Service was a compulsory unit in the School’s Extension Education Activities program for students in Year 11 and 12. Its aim was to help students become aware of needs within the wider community and to learn positive and practical ways of helping to meet such needs.
By 1993, this was known as the CAS Program—Creativity, Activity and Service, where various groups help in the Community.
1996 Year 10, 11 and 12 students were carrying out Community Service in their own time. This was usually one or two hours after school, evenings, or weekends.
1998 Community Service was introduced was included in the Year 10 Service Component of one term for every student.
2016 Service motto ‘For Better Unity support your Community’.
In 2020 the Student Council nominated to support Rural Aid.
2021— This year’s School charity is Share the Dignity, a charity that supports women experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or doing it tough by distributing period products to those in need.
Students at Girls Grammar have always been encouraged to have compassion for those less fortunate than themselves and they have always responded generously to a wide variety of charitable causes with fund-raising and personal effort. While the aim of service is to create opportunities for Grammar Girls to give back to the community, there is enormous benefit by way of social experience and interaction, the practical learning and application of skills, participation in the workplace and a deeper appreciation of gratitude and purpose.