My education


I started school in England at the age of four, a little school in the village at Bawtry. I remember doing bright green finger painting, and also writing from right to left, because I didn’t know which way the writing was supposed to go, so I copied it from the kid sitting opposite me at the table.

I was often absent for long periods because I suffered from bad asthma, but the teacher said there was no danger of me falling behind. My mother taught me the alphabet and I learned to read and write.

Wattle Park State School

When we arrived back in Australia, I started at Wattle Park State School in Burwood. I think I spent the first day in “Grade bubs”, then went into Grade One for the rest of the week, then I was put up into Grade Two. I remember we had to do what I realised was a pre-writing skill, although I didn’t know it was called that – we had to draw loops along a line in our exercise books. I didn’t mind drawing loops – it was quite pleasant – but I was aware of the irony. I could already write.

Yarralumla Primary School

We moved to Canberra and I went into Grade Three at Yarralumla Primary School. I remember an interview with the Headmaster (as they were called in those days) Mr Rimes. I was tall for my age. He looked at me from across his desk and said “Are you standing on your port?” Then he asked me “What year is your birthday?” I didn’t reply because I was thinking “That’s a silly question. My birthday is every year.” He looked at my parents and said “She doesn’t know.” I still remember the sense of not being acknowledged for what I knew.

Yarralumla Primary School is now bilingual, teaching in Italian and English. Their website tells us:

School logo


“The school logo represents the lake and trees so characteristic of Yarralumla. Students’ original designs were incorporated into the logo design, which is used on school clothing. The shape of the tree canopy on the logo reflects the profile of Black Mountain , which dominates the skyline beyond the school grounds and the lake.

School houses

All students are allocated to one of three school houses named after famous Australians. They are McKell (red), Menzies (blue) and Slim (yellow). House members compete in track and field at the Athletics Carnival and in swimming at the Swimming Carnival, both annual school events.

William John McKell and Sir William Slim were Governor-Generals of Australia. Robert Gordon Menzies was Australia’s longest serving prime minister, keeping the top job for seventeen years.”

When I visited Canberra in April this year, some of my old high school class mates got together, and the “Yarralumla Kids” had a group photograph taken. It’s amazing how strong those old ties were.

(Above: that’s me in the middle, with the grey hair and wearing a scarf
– the others are, from left to right, Elizabeth Martin, Andrew Wright, Terry Woollcott, me, Gary Dowthewaite, Stan Bakker).

Andrew is known for his adopted family of kids coming originally from Sri Lanka, and I don’t really know him personally.

Terry was a member of “the gang”, a group of girls I used to hang out with.

Gary Dowthewaite made it to Canberra in April despite having a heart problem and coming all the way from Queensland. He intends to go to the US and buy a sailing boat, and sail it solo back to Australia.

Stan Bakker surprised me at our October 2011 reunion by telling me that I had been kind to him at primary school. I don’t remember this but I am happy to believe it. Stan is a gardener at Parliament House. He says virtually everywhere inside the building has an outlook onto a courtyard garden. Politicians (or more likely their minders) go into the gardens to hold their heads in their hands, sob, and recover from stress. Stan’s job is to look after these gardens.

Telopea Park High School

I went to Telopea Park High School in Canberra, which I think was an excellent school, with high academic standards. In those days we wore formal uniforms. There was a dark blue blazer with a waratah on the pocket. In fifth and sixth form, after a lot of campaigning, the senior girls got to wear a slightly more fashionable uniform. The dress had to be no more than three inches from the floor when we were kneeling (no mini-skirts).

Telopea speciosissima

The Waratah (Telopea speciosissima): the symbol of Telopea Park High School. (Photo credit: Paul J. Morris)

I was only eleven when I started, and I have the distinction of being the “baby of the class”, the youngest in my high school year. I enjoyed my school days, and I was surprised to learn at our high school reunion in October 2011 that some students hated it and had bad memories of those years. I liked studying, I got on well with my teachers and I made friends. What’s not to like?

I wrote some reminiscences about Telopea for our 2011 reunion, and also a reflection after the reunion. If you want to know more, the reunion website is

“I did Level 1 Art for my HSC, which in 6th form was taught by Colleen Hinder. Does anyone know what became of her?” Sadly, we were not able to locate her. Colleen Hinder was a wonderful and inspiringteacher. The sculptor Frank Hinder was her uncle by marriage. She was an overweight woman who wore very brightly coloured, boldly patterned dresses that she made herself. No dowdy sacks for her. She would stand and pose on a table, while we sketched her lovely rounded curves.

My other art teacher was Nigel Murray-Harvey, who I had a long conversation with at the reunion. I told him how much it had meant to me to study the Modern Americans. See my entry on this blogsite:

It was a very progressive course, considering that it was in the 1960s and some of the paintings were as recent as the 1950s. I emailed Nigel before the reunion: “I remember you said I had a good sense of design, one of those comments that teachers make that stay with you. Thanks for that. I also remember when I was about 16 you had an exhibition and students were invited to the opening. Wine and cheese was served, and I thought I was incredibly sophisticated.  When I got home my mother said “have you been drinking?”. I think she disapproved, but nothing more was said. “

I also remembered a student: Sophie Hsing. “She was at Telopea in the younger years. Her family came from Hong Kong and her father worked as a cook at the Brazilian Embassy. She became one of our friends. Sadly, the so-called “White Australia Policy” was in force at the time, and her family was not allowed to stay here. They immigrated to Canada. I kept in touch with her for some time, and I remember she studied Science at university. after that we lost touch. Losing her was my first personal experience of racism.”

After the reunion I wrote some reminiscences:

18 Oct 2011

So, now for the post mortem. What a wonderful weekend, so full of energy, affection and memories. For me it was not just the reunion.  It was also a great time of nostalgia, because it was the first time in many years since I had been to Canberra. Canberra put on its best for us. Glorious weather, and beautiful greenery. I couldn’t get over how green it was, how many different shades of green, such lovely flowers and how much more developed the trees and gardens were since I was last there.
Thanks to Julie Roberts, Susanna Price and Ian Kerr for driving me around at different times.
Julie dropped me at the National Gallery, and I had the good fortune to see the Fred Williams exhibition. They gave me an electric scooter to hoon around on, and I was really tempted to speed. Not many of you would know this, but in my twenties, I rode a motorcycle, and had a couple of accidents in which I came off, landing on my left knee on the road. I am only now starting to have some trouble with the knee.  The exhibition was magnificent. I’m so glad I made time to see it.
Susanna picked me up from the Gallery, and we had some time to spare before the function on Saturday night. We went up to the Red Hill Lookout for a cup of tea, and to take in the magnificent view. This was a particular nostalgia trip for me because I used to work in the cafe, during one school holiday, when I was about 16. I remember I was outside taking a break when Steve Bisset appeared, after jogging up the hill as part of his football training. I must say he was looking very fit on the weekend. Susanna then took me to my old house in Narrabundah. Caley Place had been renamed, but the old house was there, almost hidden by garden growth. I can remember that Senator (as he was then) John Gorton lived in Caley Crescent. I recall driving past and seeing his wife Bettina watering the front garden. Canberra is like that. If you are wondering how come I went to Telopea while living in Narrabundah, I think I owe this to Mr March.  We moved from Yarralumla when I was in second form. Mr March was my class teacher, and looked after the roll. He noticed that I had changed address, and said I was zoned for Narrabundah. I was really upset, and made inarticulate comment along the lines of “Narrabundah sucks” or whatever the equivalent was in those days, and I think he turned a blind eye, so I never had to change schools. I would have been devestated to have to move.
On Sunday morning Ian Kerr took me (along with Elizabeth and Caroline Martin) for a drive around Yarralumla. We drove past the Lodge, as we used to do – casually, on the way to the shops. A very Canberra experience. I remember we had an old Austen 7, which used to blow a fooffer valve every now and then. Once, on the way to Manuka, just outside the Lodge main gate, the car exploded with a great bang which sounded like a gunshot. Guards came rushing out, and watched us put the engine back together again, and proceed along our way. I can also remember seeing Robert Menzies addressing a crowd of about a dozen people, underneath the Kings Avenue Bridge, before an election. Can you imagine that? Nowadays a politician wouldn’t appear without the whole media circus. I can also remember a school excursion to Parliament House, and seeing Senator Billy Wentworth sleeping his way through the session. As Ian drove us around, all the old familiar street names came back to me. We pointed out houses where friends had lived. We visited my old home, 46 Banks St, a little “govvy” duplex which we moved to in 1959, when my father was relocated from Melbourne. I went to Yarralumla Primary, and then to Telopea. I can remember we used to ride our bikes up the famous drive to Government House, and look through the gates. Now, as for the reunion, it couldn’t have been better – apart from the fact that it was all over too soon. There were people I didn’t get to talk to, maybe because I wasn’t circulating much, but mainly because I was fully occupied with the people i did meet up with. We will just have to do it again. What a wonderful bunch we are! I was so impressed with all our diverse achievements, and that way we have all coped with life’s challenges. I was left wondering though about a few issues. We were the class of 68. So how many of our boys were conscripted? Also, considering population demographics, how many of use are gay? How many have had to deal with mental health issues?  Maybe this was only expressed in private conversations. I do know that quite a few of us had difficult family lives, especially difficult fathers. But we survived.
Finally, it was sad to hear this list of classmates who had died. I particularly miss Bridget Whitelaw, whom I think many of us loved. I remember her for the all time classic love affair she had with Michael Reitbauer. He was the son of the Austrian Ambassador, handsome and exotic, with European good manners. He drove a sports car and wore suede leather driving gloves. Bridget said “Michael is a *man*. He knows how to treat a woman.” On Mondays, we used to gather round like bees around a honey pot to hear about her romantic exploits over the weekend. “What’s it like?” we asked, but she never said. Two attractive young people – who would not find them appealing? Well, we were all attractive young people then. I reckon we have weathered pretty well. Looking forward to the next reunion…”
I recently received a beautiful, warm email from Michael, who in now living in Austria.

Monash University

When I left Telopea, I came to Melbourne to study Sociology at Monash University. I had decided quite early that I wanted to study Sociology. I can’t remember how I actually knew of its existence. My father had bought a paperback book by an anthropologist, about the strange customs of various cultures, which I found interesting, but I didn’t want to study traditional societies, I wanted to study modern, contemporary society. I think that’s how I got on to to Sociology. As far as I am aware, I was the only Telopean to major in Sociology, although Simon Downie told me he did some in his degree. It was in its infancy in those days.

Robert Menzies Building at Monash University, ...

The famous Robert Menzies Building at Monash University, known as the Ming Wing, because “Ming” was Menzies’ nickname. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was the era of student radicalism and it seemed very exciting to me. I loved my student years, and learned a lot about music and philosophy (influenced by my boyfriend, Stephen Davies) as well as doing my formal studies. We spent a lot of time listening to classical music. When we lived in Farrer Hall we made friends with David Garrett and Hugh Hamersley, both tutors who loved classical music and had huge record collections. After dinner we would go to someone’s room and sit around drinking coffee or wine and listening to music. David, although only 21, was immensely knowledgable and very competitive. He would challenge Hugh to a “Kochel competition”. Kochel is the name of the catalogue numbers for Mozart works. So David would say “K. 364?” and Hugh would have to say “Sinfonia Concertante” or vice versa. David abandoned his academic career in History and became a program writer for the ABC, making his extensive knowledge of classical music available to the public.

Stephen and I also played in the Indonesian Gamelan orchestra that Dr Margaret Khartomi had acquired for the Monash Music Department. I was the only one in the orchestra who was not a music student. I played the drums, which theoretically meant I was the leader. I did an introduction, which went “tic, tic, tack, boom!” (there were special words for each sound but I don’t remember them). This cued the others to come in. I controlled how fast we played. The music repeated itself, and there was no official end, so when I felt like it, I would speed up. The others players followed me, then I would suddenly slow right down, and the piece ended, with a big “gong”.

Monash University - Crest.

Monash University Crest “Ancora Imparo” which means “I am still learning”. (Photo credit: Luke Bryant)


University of Melbourne

Leave a comment


  1. Nina

     /  June 15, 2019

    Inquirying Yaralumla Primary School. I grew up at 12 Hill Corner Yarralumla. Finding it very difficult to make contact regarding regarding re unions.. We were the first intake to the new School…Nina Walker.
    I would be so grateful to learn if there is a contact, information etc..
    Please email…

  2. John

     /  September 13, 2016

    Colleen Hinder now 80 years old is teaching in Leeton at St Francis – !

  3. jane Duran

     /  March 30, 2016

    HI Kaye,
    random question… you dont remember what number on Caley crescent john gorton lived on?

  4. Cassandra

     /  February 26, 2016

    Hi Kaye, Colleen Hinder also taught me Visual Arts and I believe currently still teaches at my old school – St Francis De Sale Regional College Leeton NSW.

    • Thanks very much for that Cassandra. There was an e-mail address given for her on or high school reunion website, but I never got a reply from her. I would love to make contact.


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