From the Archives: Foundation Day

‘Picture Brisbane in 1875, little more than a village, without trams, electric lights, motor-cars …’ Bertha Berdoff, student (1875-1878).

In 1875, six years before women were admitted to universities in Australia, Brisbane Girls Grammar School opened—initially as a branch of Brisbane Grammar School—to provide girls the same educational opportunities as their brothers.

Sir Charles Lilley (1827-1897), former Premier and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, pioneered to revolutionise education across the state by establishing a girls’ school:

We know that so far as any real knowledge is concerned, the great mass of women have been left in complete darkness … I propose, therefore, by this bill that the women of the colony should be able to take academic degrees …

Sir Charles Lilley’s vision to establish a girls’ school was so far ahead of its time that it was viewed as a radical ‘experiment’.

Undeterred, he fought for the foundation of Brisbane Girls Grammar School, and on 15 March 1875 the School opened in a two-storey house on George Street, catering for 50 students.

Last month, as the School celebrated Foundation Day, our community acknowledged Girls Grammar as a pioneer in the advancement of women, through a broad and liberal education. In such a changing world, this is an important milestone, and brings with it moments of reflection on how our School has changed, but also remained steadfast in the delivery of an exceptional education for girls.

This year, the 145th year of the School was honoured at the Foundation Day Assembly and Afternoon Tea.

Our guest speaker at Assembly, alumna, and Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Beth Woods (1972), spoke about the life-changing benefits gained by women when they are empowered to contribute.

Dr Woods, the School’s first Rhodes Scholar, and a pioneer in the field of agricultural economics, spoke of her mother and grandmother, each of whom, unable to follow their career ambitions, were confined to the traditional domestic roles within the home.

Dr Woods, who leads sustainable and innovative initiatives to support the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector, spoke of the broader societal benefits of women pursuing an education and career. From economic stimulus to teaching the next generation, Dr Woods recounted personal experiences of transformed societies and relationships when women were free to live full and rewarding lives.

Year 7 Foundation Day Video