Celebrating a history of involvement and service through the lens of the Interhouse Athletics Carnival and Open Day

Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short, Dean of School

This year presents so many significant anniversaries for Brisbane Girls Grammar School. These include 100 years of awarding the prestigious Sports Brooch; 100 years of holding the intramural Athletics; 60 years of School/Open Days; 30 years of Grammar girls venturing off to Marrapatta; and 10 years since the Cherrell Hirst Creative Learning Centre was built. This is a special year. To be honest, in a School such as ours, in nearly any given year, there is a significant event or person to be celebrated.

I would like to explore two of these celebrations, both of which occur this week: what we now refer to as the Interhouse Athletics; and Open Day. You may question the logic of combining two such apparently disparate events. What could they possibly have in common apart from the fact that this year, both events were held in the same week in July?

The similarities are based on what is a fundamental element of being a Grammar Woman. Milisent Wilkinson, Lady Principal 1900-12, touched on some of the characteristics of Grammar Women when she reported in her 1900 Annual Report on the Old Girls Association.

The Old Girls’ Association which was formed last year, is in a prosperous position; its meetings have been well attended and have proved most enjoyable reunions. Such Associations are valuable factors in developing influences for good; the affection of these Old Girls for their school, and their pride in its history and traditions, are incentives to us all to maintain its honourable name and fame (Brisbane Girls Grammar School Annual Report, 1900).

’Developing influences for good’ was central to the fund- and friend-raising of events such as School Day and the then, Interform, and now, Interhouse, Athletics. Both of these events had their origins in sport as a vehicle to raise funds for charities and worthy causes.

The first School Sports Day was established by Miss Annie Mackay, old girl and Lady Principal 1916-24, and held in 1917 on the School’s running track, which was located at the back of the School, parallel to the railway line. This necessitated running races and ‘turning’ which proved frustrating for the athletes and resulted in our using the boys’ ‘turf’ the following year. In that year (1918) hurdles were introduced with tuition coming from the boys’ school, where the girls were instructed on ‘the art of curling out the leg’. Other events such as a flag race, chariot race, and three-legged race perhaps placed emphasis on entertainment rather than athletic ability.

However, it was at these events that funds were raised, and in the case of the 1917 sports event, the proceeds went to the Australian Red Cross and Queensland Soldiers’ Comforts Fund. Grammar girls have always been reminded of their civic responsibilities and encouraged to serve and support those in need both while at school and on leaving.

Fast forward 100 years to this year’s Interhouse Athletics Carnival (Monday 24 July 2017) where we saw a truly wonderful, colourful display of athletic prowess at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (otherwise known as QEII or ANZ Stadium) at Nathan. Although the venue was much grander than its 1917 predecessor, the flag race being replaced by the circular relay and the events perhaps more technically correct and challenging, the spirit and joie de vivre on show fulfilled the longstanding goals of this event: leadership; community; and giving. These qualities were most evident in the concluding event – the shuttle relay between staff, past Athletics Captains and students. Always hotly contested, this year’s event was greatly enhanced by the Athletics Captains of the past represented by Robyn Roden (1976), Grainia Schmelzer, nee King (1981), Karen Warat (Davies, 1989), Karlie Norton (2013) and Ellen Shield (2014). The 100 years of Grammar Interform/Interhouse Athletics was joyously celebrated, and the past captains were still athletes at heart, commenting on good form and impressive speed!

School Day – or Open Day as it is now known – has its roots in Old Girls’ Day. The first recorded Old Girls’ Day was held in April 1943. Old Girls’ Day developed from the seriously competitive tennis and netball (then called basketball) games between past students and current Grammar girls, commencing in 1900 and 1923 respectively. These matches were annual occurrences followed by afternoon tea. The purpose was multifaceted: to provide the School teams with quality practice; to maintain connections with the School for past students; to role model ‘giving back’ to the institution; and to provide a vehicle to raise funds for organisations supported by the Old Girls Association or the School. The day then morphed into ‘Bring and Buy’ stalls to accompany the games. In 1943, for example, the funds raised were donated to the POW Fund where the association supported a prisoner of war and were hopeful of ‘adopting’ a second soldier in 1944.

It was decided that Old Girls’ Day as previously conducted should be suspended in 1957 and that the Association should combine with the School and Parents’ and Friends’ Association to hold School Day to which parents and friends and present girls and old girls would be invited. (Brisbane Girls Grammar School, School Magazine, 1957).

This inaugural School Day on 14 September 1957 was regarded by the old girls as the most important function of the year with large numbers in attendance and an impressive £175 raised for the Library Fund.

School Day strengthened in popularity and purpose over the years but always strove to reinforce and celebrate the Grammar community by showcasing the School and its intent. In its sixty-year evolution, this occasion has developed into an afternoon and evening where all aspects of the School are placed on show. It is an evening where each Grammar girl has a role to play either as an organiser for the House charity stalls, a performer, a guide or a leader. It embodies Grammar Women’s strong belief in service, building networks and giving back, whether via the nine House charities benefiting from the creative produce or activities; new Grammar families previewing the Girls Grammar world; members of the public gaining insight into Grammar life; or past students reacquainting themselves with their school days.

As this week concludes, we congratulate the age champions and the Houses for their performances on Monday, wish the Athletics captains, Polly McKevitt (12M) and Kate Morrison (12H), the best of luck for the Interschool Athletics and thank the Athletics captains from 1964 to the present day for sharing this important 100-year milestone in Grammar’s sporting history. Today, as we showcase the School on what is our sixtieth Open Day, we welcome the next generation of Grammar girls and hope they will commence their Grammar journey knowing the importance of their contribution to the rich tapestry that is Brisbane Girls Grammar School and embracing the ideals of community, giving and ‘developing influences for good’.


Brisbane Girls Grammar School, School Magazines 1913, 1918-1957

Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Annual Report, 1917

Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Annual Report, 1900

Harvey-Short, P. To become fine sportswomen – the history of Health, Physical Education and Sport at Brisbane Girls Grammar School 1875-2010. Brisbane Girls Grammar School, 2011.