Vale Peter Ross

Peter James Ross,
B.Mus.Ed., Dip.Ed., Dalc.Dip., M.A.
Died 22 August 2021
MHS Staff 1975-1977, 1979

Peter Ross built on the strong tradition of outstanding music teachers at MHS. Joining the School in 1975, Peter quickly became deeply involved with the music programme. Taking over the School Choir at the end of Term 2 from Mr Bates, Peter arranged their music and organised a successful Choir trip in 1976 to Albury. He was promoted to Director of Music from 1977, replacing Geoffrey Bellsham-Revell. 1979 saw an expanded tour of Northern Victoria with 37 students performing at a number of towns in a trip overseen by Peter. He also conducted Music Camps at Tecoma; was involved in the concert and dance for the Jubilee; and formed the group the MHS Singers. In 1978 he took a year’s leave to study at Columbia University in the USA, completing his Masters of Arts. Peter Ross left MHS in 1979 to become Director of Music at Wesley College. Peter returned most years to attend Chorals, a sign of his enduring support for the School’s music program. Peter was also a long time supporter of the MHS Foundation.

Lou Barberis noted in the 1979 Speech Night Programme:
I cannot speak too highly of the contribution of Mr Ross since his appointment to the school in late 1975. His musical talent, his impressive presence, his scholarship and his devotion to his task have enlarged the musical perspectives of the school and ensured the continuation into the future of its fine musical tradition. We offer Mr Ross our congratulations on his appointment and our best wishes for fulfilment of all his ambitions.

Luke Savage and Alan Gregory

Mental Health First Aid Program

Generous donations to the Future Fund and Health Promotion Trust in 2020 helped us increase our psychology services to meet demand during COVID-19 lockdowns. The School now has a plan to assist our boys further. Funds raised through the 2021 Annual Appeal will support the roll-out of a Mental Health First Aid Program designed to build the capacity of teachers, parents and students to understand and respond to mental distress and crises.

As Melbourne becomes the world’s longest locked-down city, a Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study has found that poor mental health, suicidal thoughts, and school closure stress is increasingly prevalent amongst Australian teens with two in five young people experiencing mental health problems and one in five having suicidal thoughts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our MHS health and wellbeing team is at the forefront of this crisis working tirelessly to look after the mental health of students. To support the team, increased funding was provided through the Health Promotion Trust in 2020, to extend the hours of our school psychologist, from three days to a full-time position.

Jennifer Mill, our Student Wellbeing Coordinator, explains that with only three weeks of face-to-face learning last term, students have very mixed experiences of schooling through the pandemic; some are unaffected while others have experienced anxiety and depression.

‘Students struggling with their mental health may become vulnerable or disengaged with education. This can present as loneliness and isolation, or disruption to routines and a loss of coping mechanisms,’ said Mills.

The funding also supported a program of weekly online surveys introduced during lockdown, to track how students were coping. Across the whole student body, on average 50% of Year 9,10 and 11 students reported trouble relaxing, experiencing nervousness, worry or poor sleep – all signs of anxiety or even depression. These reports increased to 70% for our Year 12 students.

The surveys are analysed each week and any student whose responses indicate they are struggling with their mental health are contacted and offered support.

Alongside support from the school psychologist, the team links students with more complex needs to external mental health services. During the pandemic and especially during periods of lockdown, some of these services have waiting times of up to three months. The health and wellbeing team’s weekly surveys and psychological support may be the only regular and immediate assistance available for some students.

As we prepare to resume onsite classes, the advantage of face-to-face interaction for counselling can again be utilised. The team are however aware that despite the increase in demand for their services, most young people prefer to seek help from friends and parents, if they choose to seek help at all.

With this in mind, a proposal was presented to the MHS Board for a project to improve Mental Health Literacy across the school community through the delivery of the Mental Health First Aid Program (MHFAP).

Developed in Australia in 2000 and now used in 24 countries, the MHFAP is designed as a suite of training courses that provide individuals with the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to support a person experiencing a mental health problem or mental health crisis, including being suicidal.

This evidence-based practice has been evaluated independently both in Australia and overseas. A selection of research papers can be found at MHFA course evaluations showing that the MHFAP courses increase the knowledge and confidence of participants to provide mental health first aid support. Participants in the program also provide support for each other while creating an atmosphere free of stigma for participants seeking help.

The Health and Wellbeing Fund will support two Wellbeing Team members to undertake training in the MHFAP. Once trained they will conduct annual programs at MHS to build the capacity of staff, parents and students to understand and respond to mental health within the school community.

Thanks to everyone who has donated to the Health Promotion Trust over the past two years. During this unprecedented time, you have helped us assist our boys at risk, ensuring they have access to help and improving their resilience and motivation to look after themselves now and into the future.

Donate to the Health Promotion Trust today.

Supporting students in challenging times

Last year was challenging, bringing changes to all aspects of our lives. In early May 2020, only three percent of children in Victorian government schools were in attendance. COVID-19 required teachers, parents and students to rapidly adjust to new modes of learning. In a matter of weeks, Melbourne High School had to find and implement viable alternatives to the traditional model of teaching in a physical classroom.

The Foundation through our Future Fund worked to support the school community when it was most needed. Staff and students were under new pressures and needed to adapt suddenly to remote learning. The Foundation quickly responded and assisted last year by funding:

  • Laptops and additional internet access during periods of remote learning for students in need
  • Additional mental health support through the provision of extended counselling hours during isolation
  • Increased careers advice, including an additional careers advisor during the busy time after VCE results were received.

A recent survey of teachers and school leaders in Australia and New Zealand conducted by Pivot and Education Perfect found that 80 per cent believed the top three concerns from the lockdowns are the lingering effects of social isolation, decreased student wellbeing and learning loss. It is a credit to MHS staff and students that the VCE Class of 2020 achieved exceptional results despite it being the most disrupted year in the school’s history.

As the recent short lockdown has demonstrated, 2021 will continue to provide challenges. The Foundation, in conjunction with school staff, will continue to actively seek ways to support students.

If you would like to help us continue to support students in need please donate to the Future Fund. Every donation no matter how small, makes a difference.

Honouring the work across generations

Pole – a name synonymous with hard work, generosity, and commitment to MHS.

Lorraine and Bill (William John) Pole (ext 1934) were the backbone of an emerging parent group in the 1950s who were instrumental in raising funds to build a physical education centre that included a swimming pool and gymnasium. The building was opened in 1960.

A highlight of these fundraising efforts was an annual fair on the school oval. The event was advertised in shop windows across Melbourne and was a much anticipated event on the city’s social calendar. According to the 1953 edition of the Unicorn the ambitious event, featured highland dancing, Punch & Judy shows, pony rides, merry-go-rounds and displays of fancy work, knitting, cake decorating and archery. No one worked harder at these events than Bill and Lorraine, who organised teams of Old Boy and parent volunteers for the stalls. Bill was well known for his BBQs that he constructed from three huge 44-gallon drums. Besieged by the hungry MHS boys at lunchtime, he and his team of volunteers cooked literally hundreds of chops and sausages each year. Thanks to the leadership of Lorraine and Bill, in 1953 alone the fair raised £1,706 pounds (equivalent to $63,000 today).

In the late 1950s and through to the 1970s Lorraine worked tirelessly creating costumes as the wardrobe mistress for  the school musicals. Bruce Worland the musical director during this time, spoke glowingly of Lorraine efforts. Following a request from the Vice Principal, Jack Charles, Lorraine was instrumental in revamping the school canteen, returning significant profits to the School. She continued to volunteer at the canteen for more than 40 years.

The Pole’s also served on numerous committees and boards. Bill was an active member of the Old Boys Association. He was President between 1971 to 1979 and was made an Honorary Life Member. He was also involved in the Old Boys Football Club as a player and later served as President. Lorraine was a founder of the Parents & Friends Association, that is still active today, joining in 1959 and holding the position of Vice President from 1962 to 1967. Lorraine unfortunately, never had the opportunity to be President, as in the pre-women’s liberation era, this position could only be held by a man! Lorraine also served on the School Council from 1959 to 1979.

To honour her tireless service to MHS, Lorraine was appointed a Patron of the School by Principal Ray Willis in 2002. In celebration of her 90th birthday in 2007, Principal Jeremy Ludowyke presented her with the School Medal, only the second time the medal had been awarded.

Bill and Lorraine’s legacy lives on in their son Laurie (ext1959) and daughter-in-law Olga, who regularly volunteer with the Melbourne High School Foundation. Laurie is also an active member of MHSOBA and GM&B. Last year, Laurie organised a highly successful 60-year reunion for his class, that due to his efforts was very well attended.
We would like to thank Laurie and Olga, who recently gave a generous gift to the MHS Classrooms Appeal, in memory of Lorraine. When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, and we can resume construction work on the classrooms, we will ensure the Pole family’s contribution towards educating our past and future students is recognised at a classroom opening. We hope you can join us at this time.

*This article includes exerts from Lorraine Poles MHSOBA obituary written by
Alan Gregory with contributions from Laurie Pole and Colin Green. We also acknowledge Luke Savage, MHS Historian, for his contribution to this article.

MHS Foundation responds to COVID-19

Funds raised during this year’s Annual Appeal are helping MHS Students cope with the impacts of COVID-19

The return to distance learning has been challenging. This is especially true for our VCE students, who are struggling with the uncertainty of how remote learning will impact their final ATAR score and their choices for the future.

Recent Australian studies have found that remote learning is resulting in vulnerable students falling further behind their peers. This is often due to limited finances, family pressures, crowded living conditions, and inadequate technology. Our wellbeing team has been working hard to identify students with living situations that are not conducive to home-based learning and identifying ways to support them to excel in their studies.

Since returning to distance learning, the Wellbeing Team has received urgent requests for technology support. They have also experienced a significant increase in demand for counselling services as students once again deal with the unique challenges of lockdown and remote learning. A lack of face-to-face contact with peers and teachers is also resulting in high levels of anxiety and depression for many of our students.

Using the funds raised through our COVID-19 Appeal, the MHS Foundation responded quickly to these pressing needs. We are pleased to advise that, to date, your generous donation has supported the:

– Purchase of five computers and internet dongles that can be loaned to students who are struggling to access their classes at home because they do not have internet access or a computer that supports online learning

– Provision of funds to increase the part-time school counsellors’ hours by one day per week, to meet the extra student demand for her services

Many of our students have been through one of the most challenging situations they have faced in generations. Jennifer Mill, the Health & Wellbeing Coordinator, asked us to share Tom’s story below. Jenny wanted you to hear first-hand how your support is helping students to continue to reach their potential while studying at home.

Not always an exemplary student, in his earlier years Tom was frequently disruptive and argumentative with his teachers and peers. To help him understand why he was acting out at school, Tom was referred to the Wellbeing Team. After a few sessions he disclosed that there were significant disruptions at home with family arguments and court involvement. With counselling support, Tom was able to gain an insight into his behaviour, develop tools for managing his emotions and build his confidence. As a result, he found his academic rhythm, started connecting with the school and his grades improved. He was well on his way to VCE success.

Unfortunately, moving to remote learning has not been great news for Tom. Shifting his learning environment to the family home removed the safety and stability of school. He found it difficult to connect to online learning and lost his motivation. Members of the Wellbeing Team recognised that Tom was struggling and kept in weekly contact. For Tom, this support has been critical, saying himself that at times this contact is all that has kept him going. The counselling support has helped Tom to keep pushing forward with his studies and stay encouraged and motivated in spite of the challenges of remote learning.

*Tom is not the students real name

Giving Day Postponed due to COVID-19

Postponement of Giving Day – COVID-19

After much deliberation, the MHS Foundation Board is postponing MHS Giving Day 2020 due to Covid-19. Our decision to cancel is twofold.

1/ With the safety and well-being of all the community in mind, including our dedicated volunteers, staff and students we felt the most responsible course of action is to cancel the Giving Day activities at the Unicorn Club where we planned to bring together over 100 volunteers.

2/ Taking into consideration the uncertainty and concern that Covid-19 is creating in our community we did not think that it was the right time to be asking our community to help us raise funds for classrooms, so we have decided to also cancel the digital fundraising campaign. Instead we ask our community to focus on supporting families, friends, neighbours and strangers over the coming weeks or months. We encourage you to check-in with fellow students, former classmates, colleagues and parents to see if they need any support and chat and make plans for post COVID-19. During these unprecedented times this is the best way for us to utilise the schools strong community spirit.

A big thanks to everyone who registered to volunteer on Giving Day. We hope that you will join us again when we reschedule our Giving Day post COVID-19.

To all those who have already pledged a donation, you donation will be processed over the coming days.

We will be back in touch with a new date for Giving Day soon. Thanks for your patience and support.

If you would like to still donate to help renovate our dilapidated classrooms click here

Donor story: A lifelong love of trains is helping fund our classrooms for a new century!

Old friends since primary school, Phil A’Vard AM (ex 1954) and Graham Watsford (ex 1952) shared a lifetime love of railways. While at Melbourne High School, they both had a passion for building model trains, and won many competitions with their collective work.

On leaving school, they were foundation members of the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and in the 1950s helped rally volunteers to get the decommissioned train line between Upper Ferntree Gully and Belgrave operational again. It became only the second operating preserved railway in the world and has become one of Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions since.

Graham Watsford and Phil A’Vard doing restoration work on Puffing Billy.

Alongside their love of trains, both Graham and Phil had long and successful careers. In his final year at MHS, Graham shared the role of Dux, taking an exhibition in mathematics at the Matriculation examinations. In his University days he was awarded a scholarship in mechanical engineering at an American university and on return was employed as a production engineer at the Government Aircraft Factory.  In later life he was the chief engineer at the Peter McCallum Hospital.

Phil studied to be a teacher but abandoned this (for a time) to work at the Princess Theatre as an actor and stage manager. A successful career in theatre and television alongside teaching, followed. In the 1960s he was engaged by Monash University to head up their newly opened Alexander Theatre where among other things, he pioneered a long-running children’s theatre programme.

Graham Watsford

The two men remained firm friends throughout their lives, with Phil supporting Graham during his battle with cancer.  Before Graham died in 2018, he bequeathed his significant collection of model railway equipment to Phil, saying he could do what he liked with it.

After careful consideration, Phil decided to sell the collection and donate the funds to MHS, the school that Graham loved and supported throughout his life.  In memory of Graham Watsford, Phil A’Vard has provided a matched donation for the 2020 MHS Giving Day on the 25th March when our community will come together to raise funds for our classrooms. For 15 hours only donations will be matched by our generous matching donors.

Donate and follow the countdown at www.charidy.com/mhs or volunteer your time to make the day a success here

Archival Film: Australia’s Puffing Billy Preserved (1966)

We are steaming ahead towards our goal of renovating 50 classrooms.

We are excited to announce that we now have six classrooms renovated with another classroom currently under refurbishment.

In June this year, fifty members of the Melbourne High School community gathered to celebrate the opening of our most recently renovated classroom. Representing the 80 volunteers and 1296 donors who helped raise $491,627 for new classrooms last year, there was an incredible sense of achievement in the room.

Event guests had the opportunity to visit old, under construction and new classrooms and hear about why the renovation was more than just new carpet, paint and upgraded technology. In his speech, Principal Jeremy Ludowyke advised that the school’s most valuable educational resource is not, as often assumed, its teachers but the student cohort who challenge and support each other to succeed. He went onto explain that the classrooms are designed to optimise this learning opportunity by moving away from the traditional teacher focussed classroom layout. Through flexible furnishings, the integration of technology and, a surprise to many first-time visitors, no fixed desk for the teachers, students can more easily work in teams.

Jeremy outlined how the new classrooms are in-step with the contemporary commercial offices and tertiary institutions of today because they are designed to facilitate collaboration. He advised that MHS is moving towards a teaching and learning framework more closely aligned with the university system and how the classrooms capacity to accommodate both individual and team-based learning was a key step towards this vision. The next key step is the establishment of the Centre for Higher Education at 669 Chapel St. This project received $27.5 million state government funding in the 2018 Budget and discussions are currently underway with Monash and Melbourne University about program delivery.

A highlight of the event on Monday night was the unveiling of the first of four donor boards recognising the community’s extraordinary contribution to the classroom renovations. With government funding only providing basic facility maintenance community support is the only way we will reach our target of renovating 50 classrooms by 2027. According to Jeremy the biggest hurdle this year in working to this target is not limited funds but logistics. The school does not have enough space to allow for more than one classroom being taken off the schedule at a time.

A highlight of the refurbishment is the bespoke colour scheme in each of the classrooms. We would like to thank Higgins for donating both the paint and a crew of professional painters to help with the painting.

To donate to the Classrooms of a New Century Campaign click here

A letter from a young carer

We recently received a very moving letter from a young carer who was a recipient of the Susan Fincham Young Carer Bursary. This bursary supports students, past and present, who care for an immediate family member. Here is an excerpt from the letter.

Dear Susan, 

There were many times when I felt as though I was alone on my journey. It was very alienating when I saw everyone carrying on with life as though nothing had happened, even though my world had been rocked to its core. More than anything, the bursary’s greatest value was in how it reminded me that there were people who believed in me. Along with the outstanding pastoral care of my school’s wellbeing team, your support meant that I was never alone. I was extremely determined to make it through the end of the year to complete my VCE. Under no circumstances was I going to withdraw, as it would be the last thing that my dad would have wanted me to do. I want to thank you for giving me that motivational push that helped me make my dad proud.

The monetary aid of the Scholarship significantly improved my educational journey throughout the year. Having access to a computer drastically increased my productivity and cut back on my study time. This allowed me to spend more time with my family and complete the menial tasks required for upkeep of our household in lieu of my mum, given her medical problem. To this day, I still cherish this gift at university, for it continues to remind me of my privileged access to an educational amenity that many take for granted. Towards the end of the year, another obstacle that the Scholarship helped me overcome was transport costs of travelling to and from medical interviews. One thing I believe in is equality of opportunity, and the scholarship certainly provided me with that; it gave me the same opportunities as my financially-privileged peers to pursue a place in my dream course.

We would also like to recognise the hard work of the School’s Wellbeing Team, who work tirelessly to support students who need support to realise their full potential.

You can read more about the  the Susan Fincham Young Carer Bursary here

To help us support more students in need make a donation to the Scholarship Trust here

Creating learning environments for collaboration

We are excited to announce that we now have six classrooms renovated with another classroom currently under refurbishment.

In July, fifty members of the Melbourne High School community gathered to celebrate the opening of our most recently renovated classroom. Representing the 80 volunteers and 1296 donors, who helped raise $491,627, there was an incredible sense of achievement in the room.

Event guests had the opportunity to visit old, under construction and new classrooms and hear about why the renovation was more than just new carpet, paint and upgraded technology. In his speech, Principal Jeremy Ludowyke advised that the school’s most valuable educational resource is not, as often assumed, its teachers but the student cohort who challenge and support each other to succeed. He went onto explain that the classrooms are designed to optimise this learning opportunity by moving away from the traditional teacher focussed classroom layout. Through flexible furnishings, the integration of technology and, a surprise to many first-time visitors, no fixed desk for the teachers, students can more easily work in teams.

Jeremy outlined how the new classrooms are in-step with the contemporary commercial offices and tertiary institutions of today because they are designed to facilitate collaboration. He shared the school’s vision for moving towards a teaching and learning framework more closely aligned with the university system and how the classrooms capacity to accommodate both individual and team-based learning was a key element of this vision. The next key step is the establishment of the Centre for Higher Education at 669 Chapel St. This project received $27.5 million state government funding in the 2018 Budget and discussions are currently underway with Monash and Melbourne University about program delivery.

A highlight of the launch event was the unveiling of the first of four donor boards recognising the community’s extraordinary contribution to the classroom renovations. With government funding only providing basic facility maintenance, MHS requires committed community support to fundraise for our future. Through generous donations, the school is well on the way to reaching its target of renovating 50 classrooms by 2027. According to Jeremy the biggest hurdle in 2019 is not limited funds but logistics. The school does not have enough space to allow for more than one classroom being taken off the schedule at a time. With careful planning 5 – 6 classrooms will be renovated by 2020.

Another key feature of the classrooms is a bespoke colour scheme in each of the rooms. We would like to also extend our gratitude to Higgins Coatings who have donated the paint and a team of expert painters to help transform the latest classrooms.

Thanks to all those who attended and a special thanks to all those who invested in the future of MHS.

To donate to the Classrooms of a New Century Campaign click here