Where we began...
In April 1913, the Perth College Old Girls’ Association held its first meeting, 11 years after the School commenced. The meeting was convened by the Sisters and at the end of 1913, had approximately 100 Association members. The aim of the Association then, as it remains today, was keeping Old Girls in touch with the School and with each other, whilst supporting Perth College activities.
Originally, the OGA included a Christian agenda but it soon evolved as a social and fundraising body, while the religious needs were met through a separate body, the Guild of St Hilda, which subsequently became the Guild of St Michael.
The Old Girls were instrumental in establishing the School magazine, Myola, which means 'meeting place', as a means of communication for past and present girls. It was first published in 1913 and thus the School community, which had previously existed, was formalised.
Originally the Sisters took a leading and active role in running the Association with the first office bearers Sister Vera (President) and Sister Rosalie (Vice President).
Perth College and St. George’s Cathedral each had a Secretary and a Treasurer:
Secretary PC Eileen Stoddart
Secretary St. George’s Mabel Hope
Treasurer PC Lily Cooke
Treasurer St. George’s Sybil Ballhausen
Gradually, Old Girls took over all positions except that of President, although by the 1950s, this had become more of a nominal position, with the first of the two Vice Presidents chairing the meetings and the President acting in the role of Patron, while still often attending meetings. When the Sisters left Perth College at the end of 1968, the first secular President of the Association, Dorothy Talbot (1918 Leaver), was elected in 1969.
In her role as President, Dorothy decided the Association needed better communication with its members; more than an occasional information sheet about forthcoming functions. Marjorie (Williams) Scurlock (1931 Leaver) consulted a list of aboriginal words and found 'myalla' meaning 'big talk'. Marjorie then became the first editor of Myalla, the Old Girls’ magazine.
For many years, meetings and functions were held in various venues at the School but when, in 1958, St. Faiths was purchased, the Old Girls were given their first permanent home. They had sole use of the large living room and shared use of the kitchen, bathroom and grounds. Many functions were held here, including Presidents’ 'At Homes' Christmas parties for the children of Old Girls, and barbecues.
In November 1963, building commenced at the south end of St Michael’s Hall for a purpose-built Old Girls’ room and kitchen. This was officially opened on 4 April 1964. Fundraising was undertaken and a loan of £3,500 was obtained from the Sisters. The final payment was made to them in February 1967. This room was later deemed too small and, in 1986, an extension was carried out to double the size of both the room and the kitchen. Again, much fundraising was undertaken and another loan taken out and repaid.
In 1998, the pressure on the School to utilise the space on its main campus meant the Old Girls’ premises were needed for the use of the students. The School Council of the day refurbished what is now Myalla House for the OGA and the Association gifted its buildings to the School in recompense. The official Blessing of Myalla House by Archbishop Peter Carnley was carried out following a Chapel Service in February 1999, the Old Girls having moved in on 9 January of that year.
From its inception, the OGA has been heavily involved with fundraising, initially to help to provide for School needs and then to help towards the cost of building the new School in Mount Lawley. To do this, the Old Girls organised dances and also donated the proceeds from its stall at the annual Cowandilla Fete in West Perth.
Later, fundraising was for more specific items, including, in the Chapel, two gilt angels as a memorial to Sister Susannah, the font as a memorial to Sister Vera and the sanctuary lamp as a memorial to Sister Rosalie. The OGA also donated the Robert Juniper-designed window above the altar, much altar linen and a silver chalice and paten.
Other donations to the School include £131 for books for the new Library in 1955, £50 as an opening gift for the proposed St Michael’s Hall (Old Girls also fundraised extensively for this particular project), 100 chairs for St. Michael’s Hall and a Cross and Candlesticks for the altar in the Hall alcove to be used for Corporate Communion for the whole School.
When the new Resource Centre opened in 1974, the OGA donated a painting by Diana Johnson to be hung in memory of former Headmistress, Louise Russell Smith.
For the Centenary of the School in 2002, the OGA contributed towards the beautiful sculpture on the Chapel Lawn.
For many years, a stall was held annually in the Wesley Arcade. This was a very good fundraiser until street stalls were discontinued by the City of Perth. A series of stalls were held at every School Fete and these were always a great financial success.
The OGA also raised a fund for the endowment of the Sister Vera Scholarship for daughters of Old Girls. This later became the Old Girls’ Association Sisters’ Memorial Bursary for daughters and grand-daughters of Old Girls. We are very grateful to the many Old Girls who have continued to contribute generously to this fund.
In the early days OGA events were routinely held at Perth College, especially engagement parties and the AGM. The latter included a festive supper after which Sister Bessie, an accomplished pianist, played for the girls to dance, as she did at many other functions.
These have changed over the years and particularly during the war years. During World War I, the OGA held periodic 'soldiers’ gift' evenings and 'trench comfort' afternoons. Throughout World War II, social activities remained minimal and the OGA organised its members to knit children’s garments for air raid victims of Britain and to produce bandages and other hospital equipment. From its Patriotic Fund, it assisted worthy causes such as the Mission to Seamen, Prisoners of War and the Red Cross.
After World War II activities began to make up for the Association’s suspended social life. There were cocktail parties, sherry parties, regular dances and the annual dinner and dance. Debutante balls were also a highlight.
During the late 1950s and 1960s, events included Presidential ‘At Homes’ annual dinners, cocktail Christmas parties, Christmas parties for children of Old Girls, river trips and presentation balls, where debutantes were presented either at Old Girls’ Balls or at the Pleiades Ball.
Reunions commenced during the 1980s, initially in five-year groups. When the organisation of these became a little unwieldy, they were changed to specific 10-year reunions. Today, reunions are held for Old Girls five, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years after leaving School. More recent graduates are invited back 18 months after leaving Perth College, while reunions are held annually for older members. Reunion lunches are held frequently in the country, interstate and overseas.
Corporate Lunches began in 2006 and continue to be very successful. Guest speakers have included Old Girls Helen Sewell, Dr Jackie Scurlock, Bishop Kay Goldsworthy (Honorary Old Girl), Marylyn New, Professor Robin Watts and Donna Faragher. Other fundraising events include quiz nights and, in 2011, the first superb High Tea which was a great success.
Our newest members, the Year 12s, are welcomed into the Association at a Leavers’ Breakfast, held each year on their last day of school. At their Valedictory Lunch, the OGA presents each girl with a silver camellia charm based on the Sister Rosalie Camellia, commissioned for the School’s Centenary in 2002.
Our Association continues to grow strongly due to the commitment and ongoing interest shown by the Old Girls. Perth College supplies valuable links and helps to foster a great sense of community. It is a social forum in which professional connections can be made and within which lifelong friendships are fostered and maintained.