Last year we celebrated our 30th anniversary and focused on our history, our evolution and the challenges along the way. This year heralds the beginning of our next 30 years and beyond, and allows us to focus on the future and what this could mean for us all.

As we move forward into the future, it is important to continue making links to our past, and understanding why aspects of our school culture came in to being, and continue to be valued.

Back in 1999, the school successfully applied to have an ‘artist in residence’, to work with students in Art. Year 11 art students were asked to design and produce a small clay model of a sculpture that could feature in the school grounds. Chelsea Corcoran’s design of a ‘Mother and Child’ was selected, and the group of students, guided by the artist, constructed the sculpture. It is made from chicken wire, filled with newspaper to stop the render falling through the wire, placed over a metal pole, and covered in cement render. 

Since its completion in the year 2000, the sculpture has been a significant place for gathering, decorating and ritual for various life events within and beyond the school community.

It was first used as a memorial site in 2004, when one of our students (Alistair Cutler) died suddenly from an existing heart condition. Students paid their respects, wrote messages, placed flowers, and used the space as sacred space to express their grief and loss.

When the bush fires devastated areas in Victoria 10 years ago, it was a place where students shared messages for those affected by the fires: messages of hope, sadness, grief, and love.

July 17, 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The school community lost the Van den Hende family (three young people, Mum and Dad). This horrific event affected us all. Again the statue served as a gathering place for messages, remembering, loss and grief.

The statue is also a place where we highlight awareness weeks, such as RUOK Day, campaigns and fund raising (like the forthcoming Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal), and celebrations.

Symbolically, the statue is surrounded by ‘guardians’; teachers in the staff room, the front office and management team, and the Health Centre, all adults who are continually looking after your welfare at school.

Given that the statue is nearly 20 years old, it is currently in need of refurbishment.  This will take place over the coming months.

In preparing for today’s address, I informally interviewed a range of staff and students, who have been at school for varying lengths of time. Their responses were revealing and at times very passionate. Some examples:

  • Students of all ages, past and present, expressed fond memories of playing around the sculpture when they were in the primary school, hugging and talking to the little figure.
  • Many senior students remember the rituals and events held at the statue, and because of these, have a deeper connection it. 
  • A staff member recalls her daughters loving the statue because they were here in primary school when it was constructed and saw the space as a safe playing space.
  • Another staff member has very strong connection and feelings for the statue, as she was pregnant when it was constructed. The artist and the staff member shared conversation on a daily basis, about the unborn child, and the progress of the emerging statue. That child spent all of his schooling years at BMG, was part of all the rituals and happenings with the statue, and completed year 12 last year. For this student and his mother, the statue marks significant points in time.
  • The statue has also been used as a meeting place for exchange students, new students, school tours, visitors, parents and students.

I recently connected with Chelsea’s father Chris who revisited the statue (photo enclosed – Mr Chris Corcoran) on 18 February as part of the 2019 Commencement Ceremony.

When Chelsea attended the school, there was only herself, a prep student and another senior student travelling from Werribee on a small school bus, a far cry from the 13 buses that come daily from Werribee to the Maddingley campus and an additional 6 buses from Werribee to our new Woodlea campus at Rockbank.

Chelsea completed year 12 at BMG in 2001. At the end of the year her work was selected for exhibiting in the  annual Year 12 ‘Next Gen’ art exhibition at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. Chelsea won the overall award for her sculpture folio of work.

Since leaving BMG, Chelsea went on to further her studies in Sculpture at RMIT. Unfortunately, due to glandular fever, she lost 6 months at uni, and chose to go to Canada to the ski fields. Working in the ski industry, Chelsea was able to travel throughout Europe for an extended period of time. For the past 10 years she has lived and worked in London, and is heading off to work in Barcelona in the near future. Although Chelsea is not working in the arts industry, she is still passionate about art.

We thank Chelsea for the legacy she gave to our emerging school culture. We also thank and acknowledge all past students, parents and teachers who have provided so many positive legacies that we all share today.

In concluding, I would like to emphasise that the future is all of you before me, and the legacy you choose to leave behind. I encourage each of you to explore and engage in not only your studies, but all of the activities and events beyond the classroom. Take with you great memories and a solid foundation for life, and leave behind amazing legacies for future students to benefit from. We are all part of the rich tapestry of life at BMG.