Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School was established by its founding principals in 1924 and continues to build on a proud history as a leading independent school for girls.

Early History

Strathcona was commenced in 1924 by its founding Principals, Mrs Florence Livingstone and Miss Henrietta Hughes, with a small number of pupils, both boys and girls.

Between 1940 and 1942, the School was leased by Miss Bessie Sweetland until, in late 1942, the Baptist Union purchased Strathcona to be used as a school for girls. Finance was very difficult to obtain, so council members were obliged to do the preparatory work themselves. Concrete paths were laid during Saturday morning working bees and the re-decoration was completed in the evenings over several weeks.

In 1943 Miss Featherstone commenced as Headmistress and served the School for 10 years. Enrolments increased rapidly and, despite stringent building restrictions after World War 2, facilities were expanded providing for up to 200 girls.

Miss Menzies Smith then became Headmistress until 1957 when the Reverend John Morley was appointed Principal. Rev Morley was followed by Mr Lyall in 1973 who retired in 1989 after serving 17 years as Principal of the School.

Mrs Ruth Bunyan retired at the end of 2000 after arriving at Strathcona in 1990 from St Margaret’s School, Berwick, where she had been Deputy Principal. The Contemporary Learning Centre, opened in 2015, is dedicated in part to her.

In 2001, Strathcona appointed Mrs Helen Hughes as Principal, after a successful tenure as Deputy Principal of Pymble Ladies’ College (PLC) in New South Wales. Mrs Hughes was Principal from 2001 to 2014, during which time she oversaw major building developments at all three Strathcona campuses, including: renovations and new facilities at Tay Creggan; the refurbishment of the Early Learning Centre; the establishment of a new junior school campus for Mellor House; the creation of a Senior Centre and refurbished Strathcona Information Resource Centre on the Main Campus; and the construction of the Contemporary Learning Centre in 2015 (dedicated in part to her) on the Main Campus.

Strathcona’s current Principal is Mrs Marise McConaghy, who began in 2015 after being Deputy Principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

The Tennis Four (Kathleen Purvis, Kathleen Kelly, Dulcie Berryman & Frances Halsey), in front of the original Strathcona residence, 1925

Tay Creggan: a first for Year 9 girls in Australia

Strathcona purchased Tay Creggan, the Year 9 campus located in Yarra Street, Hawthorn on the banks of the Yarra River, in November 1969. Officially opened in 1970 it was the first designated campus for Year 9 girls in Australia. Over the years, substantial renovation and extension works have been carried out, including the re-roofing of the entire house, the new jetty which was officially opened in February 1997 and the total renovation and extension of the educational facilities at a cost of $1.3m completed in 1998. The atrium and commercial kitchen were completed in 2000. Installation of underground water tanks and reseeding of the oval took place in 2011, thus ensuring both sustainable water use and a well-maintained sporting area for use by all sections of the School.

Always recognising that the design of facilities must take changing pedagogies into account, a leading-edge program based on interdisciplinary, project-based and inquiry based learning, called I-Learning, has resulted in the creation of a Learning Lounge at Tay Creggan, in which a variety of easily moved furniture allows for larger group presentation and performance, for small group collaborative work and for personal, independent work and reflection. Easy access to library resources and use of mobile technologies, such as the iPad, act as catalysts for vibrant engagement as students research and construct their knowledge and understanding.

Now over 100 years old, Tay Creggan is always adapting to new educational challenges, yet still retains its dignity and sense of history.

Students in front of Tay Creggan, 1980s

Mellor House: a new era for the Junior School

The acquisition of the Mont Calm Nursing Home site in 2001 was a catalyst for change which brought new possibilities to cater for the needs of Strathcona’s Junior School and improve facilities on the main campus for the Senior School. The redevelopment of the Mont Calm site has seen the blending of the Queen Anne home, Tynwald, with a beautifully designed renovation and extension to the nursing home building. The flexible, well-appointed classrooms and specialist areas for music, art, library and curriculum extension enhance an innovative and progressive curriculum. The official opening was held on 20 May 2005 by the then Federal Treasurer, The Honourable Peter Costello.

Senior School: a decade of expansion

Senior Centre & Strathcona Information Resource Centre (SIRC)

In August 2003 Strathcona took a huge step forward with the opening of the Senior Centre and refurbished Strathcona Information Resource Centre (SIRC). The concept of a state-of-the-art facility, which would meet the changing needs of Strathcona students at the upper secondary level, came to fruition after many months of planning. The Centre incorporates up-to-date information technology and the extensive library resources to provide the students in Years 11 and 12 with a more adult tertiary style facility. This recognises their maturity as well as their learning needs as we assist them to make the transition to university.

Creative and Performing Arts (CPAC) Building

The new Creative and Performing Arts Building was opened in August 2008. A multimedia laboratory and recording studio provide a facility for this growing area of study in technology and caters for the creative application of technology in music and art. For the visual arts, the 3D room has been maintained on the ground floor and three further art studios are located on the first floor creating a more unified area for art and design. The drama studio on the second floor has been extended and includes a control podium for the development of backstage skills. The development also includes the renovation of the food technology area. The ground floor music centre offers state-of-the-art facilities including a large central performance/rehearsal space to accommodate bands, choirs and drama groups, a studio for classroom teaching and recitals, a number of multi-purpose spaces of various sizes and suitable staff facilities to accommodate our full-time and instrumental and speech teachers.

Early Learning Centre

The commencement of the 2009 School year saw the opening of the refurbished Early Learning Centre which now offers the flexibility within Strathcona to cater for 3 and 4 year olds in two or three day programs. This is in addition to the full time Pre-Prep program, which has been running successfully for many years.

The Centre includes two Pre-Prep rooms, two rooms for the 3 and 4-year-old children, a large common area, meeting room and specially designed play areas.

Sporting Facilities

In 2009, the sports field was covered with all-weather artificial turf which allows for the inclusion of tennis and netball courts and soccer/hockey practice pitches. Beneath the field are water tanks with a storage capacity of 100,000 litres.

The further updating of the School’s sports facilities involved a $3.2 million renovation made possible, in part, with a grant acquired through the government initiative, ‘Building the Education Revolution’. Opened in 2010 as the Aquatic and Fitness Centre, the facility now provides a fully redeveloped, modern pool and change rooms, a refurbished gymnasium court with viewing area and a stylish, well-equipped weights and training room.

Featherstone Hall

Twenty-twelve saw the renovation of Featherstone Hall, which increased seating capacity and offered a more flexible performance space. Whether it be large scale musical productions or intimate theatre ‘in-the-round’, our music and drama students have a very contemporary venue in which to showcase their creative talents.

State-of-the-art facilities for the future

As part of a much larger strategic plan to ensure that Strathcona remains at the forefront of best educational practice, an innovative, purpose-built, three level learning centre is currently nearing completion on site. It will incorporate flexible 21st Century science facilities, a Middle School (Year 7 and 8) learning area, and a Knowledge Exchange housing the resource centre, audio visual and information technology services. Designed to enhance 21st century approaches to learning and teaching – with their emphasis on both individual and collaborative work and the use of mobile technologies – this building represents the next stage in Strathcona’s growth.

See photos documenting the building’s progress here.

Artist impression of the New Learning Centre

90th Anniversary Celebrations

Twenty-fourteen was a year of celebration for Strathcona as the school community honoured 90 successful years at the forefront of educating young women.

A range of commemorative events ran throughout the year, launching with a special Foundation Day Service at St Dominic’s Church on February 12 2014. The gathering heard from Mrs Elizabeth Chernov (Hopkins 1960), married to the Governor of Victoria (the Honourable Alex Chernov AC QC) on moving out of your comfort zone and remaining true to your values, and from Mrs Shirley Lowthian (Balfe 1940) who started at Strathcona in 1929, when the school was just in its fifth year!

The Strathcona Fair at Tay Creggan in March, Celebration Dinner in June and Gala Concert in August provided other opportunities to celebrate the school’s wonderful history. School archivist Glen Turnbull delved into our archives to release extraordinary photographs and stories about Strathcona’s development and evolution, and a series of video memory films with past staff and students were commissioned, providing insight into Strathcona across the years.