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A Legacy of Maroon

Ahead of Centenary Week, Old Girls Lorraine Johnston (Pustkuchen ’72), Peta Brown (Johnston ’94), Shannon Brown (’13) and Tori Brown (’15), who are one of countless families who possess a special bond that is steeped in maroon, gathered in our much-loved Belvedere to discuss why St Mary’s had such a profound impact on their lives.

The family’s St Mary’s legacy began in 1968 with Lorraine, who commenced as a boarder in Year 8. Hailing from the small country town of North Baandee, Lorraine arrived at St Mary’s during a time when the School’s boarding facilities remained at West Perth but classes were held at its burgeoning Karrinyup campus, which was emerging from the ground before the students’ eyes.

“I boarded at West Perth, but the actual school campus was located at Karrinyup. We would get ready in the morning, receive a brown paper bag containing our lunch and morning tea – a sandwich and an apple – and then we would hop on the bus and make our way to Karrinyup, which at that stage had only two wings and an undercroft. Otherwise, it was just sand for as far as the eye could see. It is mind-blowing to see the School today, with its magnificent gardens and towering buildings.”

Lorraine loved her time at St Mary’s and especially enjoyed forging strong friendships with fellow students, who came from a myriad of regional and international locations.

“I got to meet so many people from across Western Australia and the world. In our year we had girls from Japan and the Congo. The School has given me lifelong friendships and I am still very close with a lot of girls I boarded with. Whenever you meet somebody who attended St Mary’s, there is an instant connection; you have an immediate bond.”

Most of all, Lorraine valued the life lessons that she learned during her time at St Mary’s, and that is why she was adamant about sending her daughter, Peta, to the School.

“St Mary’s gave me everything I needed to succeed in life and I wanted my daughter to have that too.”

Peta started her St Mary’s story in 1989 as a Year 7 student, when the Junior School was located where the mathematics department stands today. Having lapped up all of her mother’s tales about St Mary’s, it is fair to say that Peta had high expectations of the School. Fortunately, those expectations were not only met but exceeded.

“I believe that being a St Mary’s girl gave me opportunities that I would not have been otherwise afforded. The School’s pursuit of excellence was always so inspiring; everybody strived to be the best version of themselves,” Peta said. “The sense of community was also amazing. We really are one family forever and it is true when they say that once you’re a St Mary’s girl, you’re always a St Mary’s girl.”

Needless to say, Peta’s time at St Mary’s inspired her to pursue a career in education.

“I am a teacher now because of my experience at St Mary’s. My mum’s home economics teacher, Gaena Duncan, was my home economics teacher and all I wanted to be was a home economics teacher. She inspired me with her passion for cooking and her cake-baking competitions. Because of her I am now the Head of Home Economics at Mater Dei College.”

As you might have gathered, there was no question in Peta’s mind about what school her daughters would go to.

“Since my girls were old enough to talk, they knew that they were going to St Mary’s. We are certainly not affluent by any means, so we sacrificed everything to make sure that our girls could go here, which is what my mum did for me.”

Any fears that Peta might have had about her sacrifices going unappreciated were quickly allayed when Shannon and Tori beamed upon learning that they would follow in their grandmother and mother’s footsteps by attending St Mary’s. In fact, Tori made her delight known to everyone – including her former primary school classmates.

“I remember when I got my St Mary’s backpack and uniform before starting in Year 5. I took them to my old school and showed them off at recess. I was so excited because of everything I had heard about the School from my mum and grandma,” Tori said.

Like their grandmother and mother before them, both Shannon and Tori relished their schooling experience at St Mary’s. Shannon savoured her interactions with many motivating teachers, while Tori discovered her passion for the theatre.

Shannon said the pair felt honoured to attend St Mary’s.

“We both had such a fabulous time at the School and I think having the family legacy made it all the more special,” Shannon said. “We all wouldn’t be who we are today without our experiences at St Mary’s.”