‘Gates are very symbolic. They provide a pathway, access, an opening, and yes, control. There is the starting gate in sport and special associations with gates in rowing and skiing, and even punishment if gated at an English grammar school’. Thus began 2015 OGA President, Ms Janine Schmidt’s (1964), speech on the opening of the Rangakarra Recreational and Environmental Education Centre and presentation of the Old Girls Association gates.
Ms Schmidt continued: ‘Today continues the long tradition of the OGA giving to the School and participating in the life of the School, including its sporting activities. The gates are beautiful; they are the usual quality Grammar product—made by Stoddart with great attention to detail and triple powder coated in black to withstand the elements; they provide a pathway to this new campus; they provide access to opportunities for participation in sporting activity—teamwork is everything; they provide an opening to the future where exceptional scholarship enables young women to contribute confidently to the world with wisdom, imagination, and integrity’.
The concept for the gates came through discussion at the OGA Committee level when choosing an appropriate gift for the 140th anniversary of the School. The Committee members wanted to present a significant gift that would be long-lasting, practical, useful, beautiful, and symbolic. The President and the Committee thought that gates for the newly established playing fields at Fig Tree Pocket would meet all the criteria.
Following the initial discussion in August 2014, the OGA committee delegated the task of designing and commissioning the gates to the President, Ms Janine Schmidt, and myself, an Old Girl and School representative on the OGA Committee. Following internet research and exploration of images of gates in various contexts and, with some poetic license, a design was determined with assistance from Mr Shane Skillen, then Director of Digital Pedagogies. The design was a modern interpretation of the wrought iron on the Main Building of the Spring Hill campus. The image was approved by both the Committee and the School. Quotations were then sought for a product, which would be both durable and aesthetically pleasing, as well as clearly displaying the Girls Grammar badge and name. Stoddart Manufacturing was the chosen manufacturer and they produced stylish and appropriate gates that are both striking and distinctive.
The construction of the gates and their installation was overseen by Mr Aaron Bowden, Property and Capital Works Manager, as part of the preparation for the grand opening of the centre on 23 May 2015.
There were gates in situ when the School purchased the property from Marist College, Rosalie and it is interesting to ask, ‘What happened to those original gates?’ They were the original gates to the Sacred Heart College, also known as Marist Brothers, Rosalie, playing fields, and therefore, they held great significance to the Marist Old Boys Association. Subsequently, Brother Neville Solomon, past Headmaster, and Brother John Thompson were invited to attend the opening of the centre and were officially presented with the original gates. These gates, now beautifully restored, reside at Marist College, Ashgrove.
The concept of the gates and their symbolism at Rangakarra resounded with the School community and lead the OGA committee to consider offering further gifts of gates to both the Spring Hill and Marrapatta campuses. Tradition won out in the discussion surrounding the Spring Hill campus and it was decided to maintain the existing gates. However, discussions with Mr James McIntosh, then Director of Marrapatta, proved fruitful. The Committee wanted to replicate the Rangakarra design for continuity and to present the gates as a timely gift to mark the establishment of the Marrapatta Outdoor Education Centre’s 30th anniversary.
A design for front gates at Marrapatta proved to be problematic. It was decided that a more appropriate outcome would be ‘gates’ constructed in the garden adjoining the steps which welcome every girl to Marrapatta. The panels enhance the entrance, adding an elegance to the main buildings at the bus drop-off zone. The ‘welcome panels’ were unveiled on 17 June 2018 by OGA President, Mrs Julie Caton, at the Marrapatta Open Day.
The Rangakarra gates are, and will be, a tangible presence for many Grammar girls; they are an artefact that, like many other structures on all the campuses, will be remembered and celebrated. The generosity and contribution of the Old Girls cannot be overestimated and, as Ms Schmidt so beautifully said on 23 May 2015, ‘I represent the 22 000 old girls/alumnae/alumni/past students—call us what you will—the many superwomen who are the products of this School. I represent past presidents of the OGA and current members. We link the past, present, and future. We maintain a connection between past students and the School, maintain an ongoing interest in the School, and promote camaraderie and connections amongst old girls of the School. As Lyndon B. Johnson once said: We did not choose to be the guardians of the gate, but there is no one else’.
The symbolism of gates is powerful. Gates open, close, slam, or gently slide shut; they are locked or ajar; they open from the inside or the outside; they lead to opportunities and the unknown; they are entered easily, struggled with, passed through, or clambered over. Their metaphorical meaning is not lost on the girls who pass through them.
Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)
Manager, School History and Culture
Caton, Julie (OGA President) email 8.07.22
Collins, Anthony (Marist Brothers OBA Treasurer) email 7.07.22
Schmidt, Janine unpublished speech Opening of Rangakarra Recreational and Environmental Education Centre and OGA Gates, 23 May 2015, and subsequent correspondence.