Celebrating 135 Years of Boarding

09 April 2019

Celebrating 135 Years of Boarding

For families in regional and remote areas of Australia as well as expat families, a stint at boarding school is often a rite of passage. This year, the College celebrates 135 years of Boarding. It first opened as a primary school in 1858 before expanding into secondary years in 1871, making it one of the oldest girls boarding schools in Australia.

Boarders have come from all over the world to attend St Vincent’s, In the 1960’s and 70’s many boarders came from; PNG, Singapore, China and the “Dutch East Indies” (now Indonesia) as well as vast numbers from regional NSW; Scone, Dubbo, Coonamble, Wellington, Narrabri, Trangie, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Bourke and more.

Many boarders have gone on to illustrious careers on leaving the College;  Ms Winnie Kiap, is currently the High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea in London, Velia O’Hare of Beckom, is a former, NSW Farmer of the Year, Natarsha Belling, Channel 10 newsreader, came to St Vincent’s from Mudgee, Olympian, Melinda Gainsford-Taylor joined the boarding community from her hometown of Narromine, while Gemma Rice-Sisia, who established St  Jude’s School in Tanzania, hailed from Guyra.

Melinda Gainsford Taylor, recalls being homesick, but “The school has a rooftop with the best views in Sydney. We weren’t allowed there, but we would sneak up and enjoy the views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House”

For Natarsha Belling, her teachers inspired her love of journalism, “A strong sense of sisterhood was encouraged and nourished, we firmly believed we could achieve anything in whatever career or life-path we chose”, she said.

Because of the school’s location, it has always been a part of the history of the city. From the early days when the Sisters of Charity arrived in Australia, establishing the school and being a hub for locals of Kings Cross, Woolloomooloo and Potts Point. The early Sisters ran soup kitchens in the area. And to this day, the boarders of St Vincent’s are still involved in regular volunteer activities at St Canice’s Church in Elizabeth Bay- serving and cooking meals.

Due to its proximity to the Harbour and Garden Island Naval Base, there were periods that Baording life involved the threat of war. The girls were regularly involved in fire drills, hiding in air raid shelters and in 1942, the boarding house was relocated to The Blue Mountains, Sister Reparata, the headmistress, decided that it was a safer location than Sydney. 70 girls were relocated and classes took place in the dining room of the Wahgunyah Guest House, were the novices and boarders lived for the year.

Boarding life has changed significantly over the past 135 years, but the camaraderie of the boarders remains, with lifelong friendships forged with both the boarders and boarding staff.

The 135th Year Celebrations will be marked with a Lunch at St Vincent’s College on Saturday 25th May. All former boarders and boarding families are invited. For more details contact advancement@stvincents.nsw.edu.au or call 02 9358 5398.  To book online directly, click here.

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