A Brisbane Girls Grammar School student is recognisable, not just by her uniform – including its distinctive blue hat – but also by her character. “She is curious, principled, adventurous, balanced and a leader,” says Principal, Jacinda Euler. “We demand ethical behaviour and a willingness to speak up, to challenge the status quo and to take direct action against injustice.”
With its motto “Nil Sine Labore” – Latin for “nothing without work” – the school has been producing strong, open-minded girls for more than 140 years. It was founded in 1875 by Sir Charles Lilley, who aimed to create an educational establishment that would offer girls the same opportunities as their brothers. “The courage and vision of its founders in establishing a school for girls, at a time when girls’ education was not widely valued, thrives to this day,” says Euler.
With its emphasis on a broad liberal education and on encouraging critical thinking, the school’s students have always excelled academically. Between 1878 and 1909, students won the Fairfax Prize for academic proficiency 19 times. In 2016, it was ranked by the Australian National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy as the top-performing school in Queensland.
“Brisbane Girls Grammar consistently achieves outstanding academic results,” says Euler. “It equips girls with the ability to think and to question, and instils a deep love of learning. Our girls go on to some of the finest universities in the world and pursue an extraordinarily diverse range of career paths.”
Perhaps surprisingly, given its academic pedigree, the school is non-selective. Girls are accepted for entry based on the date they are placed on a waiting list, which is open for enrolments from birth. This provides great diversity in the school community, with students from a wide range of backgrounds.
A holistic approach to education means that, in addition to academic learning, there is a large and diverse co-curricular programme, which offers more than 120 activities designed to encourage participation, teamwork, self-confidence and creativity. Activities include sports, music, debating, public speaking and performing arts. Girls are also very active in community service by taking part in charitable projects designed to make a difference to the lives of others. Aware of the demands of life on adolescent girls, the school provides a Balance Programme, which develops mindfulness and self-management techniques.
Alumnae have excelled in almost every field, from music to media to law to science and technology. They include the first female university professor in Australia, the first female director of the Australian National Gallery and the first woman to be appointed as president of an Australian appeal court. Former student Fiona Albert (who left in 2007) recently represented Australia in the Women’s Eight rowing at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The future looks bright for Brisbane Girls Grammar School, which aims to build on its reputation as one of Australia’s leading girls’ schools. “As a school where teachers model intellectual curiosity, professional engagement and pedagogical expertise, we maintain high expectations for our students, encourage adventure in learning and care for the development of the whole girl,” says Euler. “Outstanding academic results and student destinations reflect how we prepare our girls for the best tertiary institutions in the world and greatly varied future paths.”