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Welcome to the Annual Chair’s Report for 2023.


When I looked back on what had been happening, this time last year, I had noted in my report the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John, women who in their own ways inspired many women (and men) and left a legacy.

This year, as I write this report, Victoria has witnessed the appointment of Jacinta Allan as the State’s Premier, following the resignation of Daniel Andrews after serving 9 years as Premier. Victoria became a State in the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, just 4 years before the Headmistresses’ Association commenced, and in the past 122 years Ms Allan is only the second woman to occupy this position. Some other things that have been happening at this time include the release of the Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities (released Sept 2023) and their Intergenerational Report 2023 (released Aug 2023) as well as a steady stream of articles, reports and case studies on artificial intelligence.

When looking at this tiny selection of current happenings, some of which may have implications on the work of the Foundation, the caption on the cover of this year’s Annual Report “Future Careers yet to be Written” is a very fitting one.

Since COVID there has been rapid change in how people view the way that work is carried out. Working from home and hybrid arrangements; working less hours and being paid at a full-time rate are two of the changes that are being implemented into some workplaces. Coupled with these changes are the predications that five forces will shape the focus of the economy and the labour markets in coming decades – population ageing, increased demand for quality care and support services, greater use of digital and advanced technologies, climate change and the net zero transformation, and geopolitical risk and fragmentation (identified in the Government papers that are referenced earlier).

The Foundation will need to monitor this changing landscape to ensure that our impact continues to support girls and women and our member schools. With this in mind the work the Foundation is currently undertaking is a combination of both meeting present needs and future thinking and how strengthening the STEM understanding will assist girls and women in their future endeavours.

The 2022/2023 year in review

During the financial year 2022/2023 the Foundation celebrated its 30th Anniversary. We were extremely fortunate to celebrate our two events at the Invergowrie property in Hawthorn both of which were generously hosted by the property’s current owners Stephen and Angela Tomisich. It was a time to reflect, re-connect and celebrate not just the Foundation’s 30-year history but in the rich “back story” which led to the establishment of the Foundation. As a result, we were able to link the former students of the Homecraft Hostel, who are part of the fabric of the Invergowrie Foundation, into the celebrations and connect them to the work being undertaken by the Foundation. If we take a broader view the Foundation can trace its history back to 1905 (as mentioned earlier) when the Headmistresses’ Association commenced. Therefore, in 2025, we would be entitled to celebrate 120 years of dedicated service to advancing the education of girls and women in Victoria!

From a STEM perspective

The Council has reaffirmed its focus on investing in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) in order to develop and broaden the opportunities for girls and women to advance their education in these areas.

The following are some highlights from the projects the Foundation is currently supporting. All of these projects are biased in their development in favour of girls and women but do not preclude boys from being beneficiaries of this work.

Monash Virtual School

The Foundation is funding work being undertaken at Monash University in the Monash Virtual School. The initial project which commenced in 2022 provided virtual revision sessions in 8 Unit 3 and 4 VCE STEM subjects. In 2022 56 classes were run and catered for 25,000 students. In 2023 this program was extended to offer students studying the same subjects in Units 1 and 2. (The number of classes that will be run in 2023 will increase from 56 to 83). This program not only provides valuable support to students it is also providing equally valuable training for pre-service teachers, who are engaged to run these classes.

A further expansion of this program is being undertaken in 2023 to include a virtual STEM program for students in Years 5 and 6.

The Foundation has given a commitment, in the first instance, to fund the Monash Virtual School for a period of 7 years. This commitment provides the School with funding certainty to establish and build the program. It will also assist them to leverage the Foundation’s support to seek further funding from other donors to support this program.

Development of a STEM Hub

The STEM Hub project brings together Deakin University, Swinburne University and the University of Melbourne. This collaboration brings together the STEM talent of these 3 Universities. This collaboration (which is significant in its own right) is developing an online repository for all things STEM (the STEM Hub). It is intended that the Hub will provide a safe and inclusive online environment that will enable interactive participation for students, teachers and parents.

Work on the development of the STEM Hub is gathering momentum and it is on track to be completed in 2024. This is an exciting project!

Acorns to Oak Trees – Primary and STEM

Swinburne University is developing a professional learning program for primary school teachers. A suite of STEM materials has been developed for use in primary schools with the final stage being the development of the professional learning program.

Girls as Leaders in STEM (GALS)

The overall goal of the GALS program is to foster girls’ interests in STEM and entrepreneurship, develop STEM skills and knowledge, and build their professional networks as well as showing girls the existence of alternative education pathways and a wide range of rewarding STEM occupations. The program is focused in rural and regional Victoria with Geelong, Warrnambool and Mildura the areas selected. The program aims to engage 60 schools, 60 teachers and 240 girls between the ages of 11-14 (Year 5 to 8) which has been identified as a critical time when many girls turn away from STEM offerings at school.

The McPherson Family and Invergowrie Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship for Women in STEM

The provision of this postgraduate scholarship is undertaken in conjunction with the University of Melbourne. In honour of both the original ties between the McPherson family and the Headmistresses’ Association and the family’s association with the University of Melbourne this postgraduate scholarship in STEM seeks to support young women who are studying in the STEM field.

The inaugural beneficiary, Anne Wang, completed her research in June 2023.

Girls’ Future-Our Future – third edition

The third edition of the Girls’ Future-Our Future report will be looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the attitudes, perceptions, and career considerations of girls in relation to studying STEM subjects. Due to limited research being undertaken in schools post COVID (to reduce additional workloads on schools) this project has been delayed. Data gathering has now commenced, and we are hopeful that this report will be available for publication in the first half of 2024.

From an operational perspective

Updating the Foundation’s Constitution

Changes to the Foundation’s Constitution were passed unanimously at last year’s AGM. The changes that have been adopted include shifting the membership of the Foundation to the School rather than the School’s Principal being the member. This will provide stability in the membership of the Foundation and provide Principals with flexibility to engage with the Foundation through a senior staff member, if required. Life Membership of the Foundation has been introduced to acknowledge the significant contribution, by an individual, to the Foundation and in line with current governance practices, we have introduced tenure limits for Council members of nine years (there is some flexibility for Council to extend these limits if it deems it is important to maintain continuity or the required skills for an extended period).

Financial performance

The Foundation’s 2023 financial performance improved following the negative performance in the previous financial year to 30 June 2022.

The Foundation generated income of $1,138,080 (2022 – $1,035,594). The market value of the investment portfolio (including cash and cash equivalents) at 30 June 2023 was $23,894,904 (2022 – $21,886,070). Total grants paid and committed for 2023 were $1,003,618 (2022 – $743,920).

In 2022 we were advised that a past Invergowrie Hostel student Ms Angela Glover had provided a bequest of $75,000 to the Foundation in her Will. This amount was received in 2023. This generous gift came with no ties and the Foundation is able to use the funds at its discretion. The bequest is currently held in the Foundation’s general reserve and the Council will consider how best to acknowledge Angela’s very generous gift and how these funds will be utilised.

Acknowledgments and closing

The work being undertaken by the Foundation is reliant on the experience and dedication of the Foundation’s CEO, Kim Bartlett, and the Foundation’s Council members – Susan Just, Meg Hansen, Judith Potter, Lisa Ronald, Anne Sarros and Heather Schnagl. The Foundation is also extremely fortunate that John Symons and Neil Tonkin together with our investment adviser Sandi Tuddenham share their considerable skills and financial expertise to advance the Foundation’s mission. The Foundation is indebted to all of these people for their unwavering support and commitment.

In closing, as we enter our 4th decade, we are looking forward to ensuring that the Foundation’s work remains relevant. In order to remain relevant, it is important that we maintain a flexible and agile mindset so that we can change course and adapt should the need arise. We will do this with the same enthusiasm and passion that has driven previous Councils of the Foundation.

At this point in time, I am personally inspired and excited by the work that is currently being undertaken and this annual report provides a snapshot of this work. Please have a closer look at the website for further information on the work of the Foundation.

Wendy Lewis OAM


September 2023

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