Reflecting on a rich intergenerational history with MLC, alumna Bonnie Yue (McCallum 1982) and her daughter, Emma, often use the same word when describing what attending the College has meant to them: 'opportunities'.
“When my great grandmother arrived at MLC on a scholarship in the late 1800s, it was an amazing opportunity for a woman of her time. In 2017, it remains a wonderful opportunity for girls who want to become well-rounded, progressive-thinking women,” says Bonnie, who attended MLC as a day girl in the late 70s and early 80s.
Bonnie's daughter Emma is currently in Year 11, but the connection to MLC stretches back more than 125 years. Five generations of Bonnie’s family have attended MLC!
The first was her great grandmother Lillian (Lily) Hutchings (Edwards 1891) who, in 1890, was awarded a state government scholarship to board as a senior school student.
“She came from Callawadda in the Wimmera,” says Bonnie, explaining the beginning of the family connection. “Being from such as a country background, I can only imagine it would have been a huge change of environment for Lily. But she stayed for two years and was told by the Principal at the time, Rev Dr W H Fitchett, that she had the ability to go on to university.”
Instead, Lily chose to return to the country – a reflection on a generation where women weren’t necessarily encouraged to pursue careers. But Lily was not one to sit still. In addition to marrying, raising four children and being deeply involved in her local community, she also went on to become Australia’s first female amateur (ham) radio operator – a hobby she picked up from her father.
Lily’s daughter, Gwendolyn (Gwen), was the next generation to attend MLC. She started as a boarder at the College 1917, embracing the wide-ranging opportunities that the school offered even 100 years ago.
“One of our family's most treasured possessions is a painting that my grandmother did of the front of the school,” says Bonnie. “It hangs in our lounge room. MLC is indelibly woven throughout the generations of the women in my family.”
Bonnie’s mother, Beverley McCallum (Bolle 1950), started as a day girl at MLC's former Elsternwick campus before moving to Kew and boarding through to Matriculation.
“Mum was very involved in many of the activities at school,” says Bonnie. “In particular she was a dedicated member of the choir and was Hockey Captain in both Years 11 and 12. Her name is still on the honour boards.”
Graduating as a nurse, Beverley was also an active member of many local committees and charities. It is this strong sense of community that Bonnie frequently emphasises.
“Not only did MLC provide – and continues to provide – a well-rounded education and a wide range of extra curricular activities, it engenders a sense of community with an important emphasis on contribution and participation."
Along with her sisters, Nanette McCallum (1976) and Alexandra McCallum (1979), Bonnie embraced MLC's diverse offerings, particularly in music and sport. Prefects, athletes and music captains, the McCallum sisters were the first generation to attend purely as day students.
MLC was one of the first schools to begin teaching Japanese in the 1970s and Bonnie was one of its earliest students.
"I enjoyed it so much so that I went on to develop a close affinity with Asian cultures, becoming a Japanese teacher myself at Korowa, and marrying a Chinese man."
Together with her husband, Bonnie considered other schools before deciding on MLC for Emma's senior years.
“We kept coming back to MLC as the best fit. Emma herself had freedom of choice, but she selected MLC too, even though she travels more than an hour from Bentleigh every day to get here.”
“I love all the choices we have at MLC," says Emma. "There are all sorts of music programs, clubs, overseas cultural exchanges, tour and sporting activities. I have tried to take advantage of as many as possible!”
Like her mother, Emma cites a strong sense of community as being one of MLC’s defining characteristics. Her Year 9 MLC Marshmead experience was a particular highlight.
“I feel like I can do anything, both at school and beyond, once I have graduated. Even though I am not sure what path I will take, I know an MLC education will stand me in good stead, whether at university, taking a gap year or something else entirely!"
There are other women too from Bonnie’s wider family who have played their part in this intergenerational 'story' – cousins, nieces, aunts – all of whom have experienced a strong sense of pride and community from their time at MLC.
“It’s probably best summed up by my experience on the first day of Year 7,” says Bonnie. “I met a girl and we became best friends and remained so all the way through school.”
“She is still my best friend today – even after 35 years and the fact that she lives in another city. It’s the connections and the community and the sense of welcoming every time I walk through the MLC gates that I will always treasure.”