Surrounded by the support of the School’s Foundation, Old Girls and Parents, Somerville House has experienced another year of generous giving.

Unprecedented events have affected our families and staff, and while there have been many challenges in 2020, there have been many more examples of true community spirit.

Since the School’s inception, a culture of giving back has always been at the forefront when teaching our students about the strength in community connections. This culture is demonstrated aptly by the work of our Old Girls’ Association (OGA).

President of the OGA and current parent, Ms Liz Washington (Class of 1998), has witnessed Old Girls stepping up to support each other and the School through the impact of COVID-19.

“This year, we have discovered what it really meant when the platitude of ‘being there for each other’ was put into practice,” Ms Washington said.

“Our Association has a proud 118-year history of supporting its members and the wider school community in times of need,” she said.

“In acknowledgement of the unprecedented challenges faced by our members, the OGA enacted a COVID Crisis Response that included accommodation for members stranded by border shutdowns, medical issues or travel restrictions – as well as wellbeing check-ins, work opportunities, virtual reunions and support for member-owned businesses.”

While social distancing restrictions saw many OGA events cancelled this year, 2020 bought new traditions to support Somerville House students. The OGA hosted the inaugural School Leavers Panel and Lunch where they welcomed their newest Old Girls, the graduating Class of 2020, with past students providing insight and advice on their diverse and inspiring journeys since graduating.

“The OGA also announced a new postgraduate bursary, to support alumnae in making career changes or advancements; be it re-entering the workforce, further study or research. The Isabel Bauer OGA Bursary is named in acknowledgement of Isabel’s lifelong contribution to our Association,” Ms Washington said.

“The Inspirational Old Girls project continued to dive into the achievements and challenges of our diverse alumnae, including the first doctor to graduate from Somerville House, Lawrence Reisz, Dr Abigail Allwood, The Honourable Jane Lesley Aagaard, pharmacist Eunice Fu, Dr Pamela Davenport and cricketer Julia Price,” she said.

“2020 also bought the launch of our OGA Mentoring Program, the first initiative of its kind. The six-month program connects Old Girls who are in an established or senior phase of their career, together with other Old Girls who are seeking to further enhance their skills or broaden their horizons.”

Closely aligned with the powerful work of the Old Girls’ Association is the School’s Parents and  Friends Association (P&F), whose dedication to providing our students with the best opportunities in their chosen area of interest is always inspiring.

Since its establishment in the late 1960s, the Somerville House P&F have provided significant amounts of funding to the School through the efficient management of the Tuckshop and Uniform Shop. Consisting of a Management Committee that oversees each of the Support Groups and business operations, President and current parent, Mrs Andrea O’Halloran, says that the primary motivation for the P&F is the School’s students.

“While 2020 brought us challenges and frustrations aplenty, it also brought us the opportunity to take a moment, breathe, and appreciate the many wonderful experiences an education at Somerville House can bring,” Mrs O’Halloran said.

“Our focus is centred on our girls in green - to help facilitate the best experiences they can have while attending the School,” she said.

“We are thankful to the strong school community, which has shown so much resilience and flexibility to continue to support our students despite the unexpected challenges in 2020.

Since 2008, the P&F has directed funds of over $2.9M to Somerville House.  Some of the more noteworthy donations include $350K for the Murray Evans Sports and Aquatic Centre Stage II, the refurbishment of the Swimming Pool ($193K), $300K for the Foundation Building, along with electronic classroom whiteboards, tiered outdoor seating and furniture, drinking water fountains, grand piano, flagpoles, school banners, coaches uniforms and a myriad of sporting equipment. The P&F Association also generously contributed $350,000 to the refurbishment of the Seymour Library and the Information Centre.

However, despite underwriting many of the Schools assets, Mrs O’Halloran says the P&F see their financial assistance as secondary to contributing to the inclusive culture we all enjoy.

It is this same philosophy that drives the Somerville House Foundation to continue to offer students, who may not otherwise have been able to access a Somerville House education, a life-changing opportunity, as well as ensuring that our current students can conclude their education at the School.

Ms Dominque Layt (Class of 1987), Foundation Chair and current parent, acknowledges that this difficult year has impacted some more than others, with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic affecting many families at the School.
“For rural families already impacted by flood and drought, the pandemic was another hit in a disastrous year,” Ms Layt said.

“This is why the Foundation’s focus this year and next has been to support Senior students on their schooling journey,” she said.

“We’ve pledged to do our best to help students experiencing financial hardship stay on, with both the School and the Foundation each contributing $500,000, and with additional support from the Old Girls’ Association, which this year has helped almost 70 families keep their daughters at the School.”

Since 1984 the Foundation has raised more than $15 million, we’ve contributed to playgrounds, the tennis centre and given talented girls an opportunity to gain immeasurably from a Somerville House education.
Think about the Foundation when you walk past some of the School’s art collection, take a dip in the pool, are moved by our orchestra or admire the Cumbooquepa stained glass windows. Whether it’s refurbishing classrooms, working towards developing the School’s Heritage Heart or purchasing robotics equipment, the Foundation has a rich history of giving to support our girls in green.
“Since the very beginning, members of the Somerville House community have devoted their time, treasure and talent to the betterment of the School. Our philanthropic culture is deeply embedded and can be traced back to the early 1920s when families and Old Girls banded together to raise funds for the School,” Ms Layt said.

“In 1984 a group of parents and Old Girls established the first Foundation at a girls’ school in Australia. Through the Foundation, parents, Old Girls and staff with a passionate belief in the transformative power of education, continue our giving culture,” she said.

“Over the years, Somerville House students have benefited from this legacy of support, enabling our girls to thrive and become the next generation of innovators and change makers, aligning with the School’s values of compassion, inclusion, gratitude, integrity and respect.”

Principal, Mrs Kim Kiepe believes the School’s stakeholder groups are an integral part of the Somerville House community, fostering important communion and goodwill between alumnae, parents, friends, teachers and students.

“To remain an exemplary leader in education it is important that we continue to foster our community inclusivity and parent involvement,” Mrs Kiepe said.

“Reaching the end of 2020, and with the endless support from our stakeholder groups, we can feel fortunate to be members of the Somerville House community,” she said.

“Together, we can help our students learn to trust their voices, as sources of power and encouragement, to self and others, and to have a fulfilling life that makes a meaningful contribution to society.”