Objects of Substance: On a mission—Year 12 Motto Plaques

Intent, values, purpose, mission statements, key performance indicators and aspirations are now vital aspects of any major organisation. Embedded in the statements of the current Brisbane Girls Grammar School aspiration and intent is the School motto: Nil sine labore. This motto has been the driving force of the School since 1875, acting as the mission statement for BGGS students and Grammar women for decades.

The student body now takes the idea of a motto personally. Since 2000, successive cohorts of senior students have developed a special motto for their particular year. Values and culture, which were subliminally communicated to students for over 125 years, are now clearly enunciated, discussed and ‘owned’.

2000 motto – Dream it, Dare it, Do it

The first Year motto was Dream it, Dare it, Do it. The year 2000 was always going to be momentous, featuring the School’s 125th birthday, the Sydney Olympics, and a new century. Head Girls, Eleanor O’Gorman (2000) and Eleni Anthony (2000), wanted to do ‘something different’. In Ellie O’Gorman’s words, they wanted ‘a year to remember, to make it their own and to use a unifying concept’. The result was to introduce a motto for their year alone. This motto was captured for posterity firstly as a fresco on the wall of the ‘running track’, now the lower entrance to the McCrae Grassie Sports Centre, and then as a mosaic at the entrance to the School as if to assert that when one enters this place, they can dream, dare, and do! This significant artwork was designed by student, Emma Montague (2000), capturing, both visually and literally, the values of this cohort and presented as the Year 12 gift to the School.

After this, mottos were only recorded publicly when the Year 12 cohort presented the School with a gift. One example can be found in the School’s café, where the 2007 cohort gifted the Stop! Grammartime clock. Their motto was ‘Create the bonds in 007’.

In 2007, after the completion of the Cherrell Hirst Creative Learning Centre (CLC), a new philanthropic program was introduced. Aere Perennius [from Horace: I have created a monument more lasting than bronze] was established in 2008 as a means of recognising donations made to the Masterplan and its launch coincided with the capital fundraising campaign for the building. Individual bronze plaques containing inspirational quotations selected by the donors were commissioned and are displayed on a wall in Level 1 of the CLC.

This influence prompted me to suggest to the 2011 Head Girls, Angelique Sweep (2011) and Lucinda Tonge (2011), that they approach the Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, seeking permission to place the year’s motto in bronze on a wall in the CLC. Thus, the practice of placing each year’s motto in bronze began in 2011, with the unveiling normally occurring in the final week for the Year 12 cohort. In Lucinda Tonge’s (2011) words, ‘I love that the spirit of our year group is captured in a tangible way for girls to see for years to come’.

2011 Head Girls, Angelique Sweep (2011) and Lucinda Tonge (2011) with the first plaque

2011: The first bronze motto plaque and those to follow

The positioning of the motto plaque was crucial for maximum effect. Former Head Girl, Sarah Miller (2016), confirms the effectiveness of the placement of the plaques on the wall outside the Tucker Up café when she wrote: ‘I think it’s incredible to have a permanent encapsulation of what BGGS was like in 2016 and what we wanted to achieve in that year. It is also great that it is in a popular area where the girls can read as they line up for Tucker Up and, hopefully, some of the words on that wall ring true and inspire them. Personally, whenever I read No limits from 2012, it always reminded me to push myself. It’s also great to see how the ideals of each year group have changed or remained the same over the years’ (Email 27.6.21).

The plaques on display on the Tucker Up wall are a permanent reminder to every Grammar girl of our values and culture. Over the years, the inspirational concepts behind the mottos are ones of aspiration, sisterhood, unity, involvement, and loyalty to the Blue.

Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)
Manager, School History and Culture

2018 and 2019 Seniors plaques

Seniors 2020 plaque '2020 Me and You, Be the Glue that Binds the Blue'

2018 unveiling – Ms Euler with Head Girls, Annabel Ryan (2018) and Harper McIlroy (2018)

2012 plaque unveiling in January 2013 – Dr Amanda Bell with former Head Girl, Tanvi Karnik (2013)