From rival schools, two women power state politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk returns to her old school to motivate current students.

When Queensland’s two most powerful women face each other in State Parliament tomorrow, for the first time as Leaders of their respective political parties, they may spare a few moments thinking how hard work in their high school days in Ipswich got them there.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington are both products of the Ipswich education system: St Mary’s College and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School respectively.

The Premier was at high school from 1982-86, and the new LNP boss from 1984-88. They crossed “school paths” for at least three years and may have opposed each other on the sporting fields or debating teams back then too.

Few State or Federal Parliaments in Australia or around the world could claim the two central political protagonists are women or were school “mates” from the same city at the same time.

Ipswich has that honour and can claim both Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deb Frecklington as “home-grown” or at least “home school” educated.

St Mary’s College was established in 1863, while Ipswich Girls’ Grammar celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. It is also one of the eight original grammar schools in Queensland.

Both IGGS and St Mary’s have a history of strong and successful women, with many being pioneers in their chosen fields.

The founding IGGS headmistress, Miss Fanny Hunt, was the first woman to graduate from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Science. The first enrolled student, Eleanor Greenham, was the first Queensland-born woman to earn a Degree in Medicine.

More recently, St Mary’s student Leah Neale, 22, was awarded the Key to the City, after winning a silver medal at swimming (4 x 200m freestyle relay) at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

St Mary’s College Principal Judith Finan said this year was the school’s 145th anniversary and “since this time we have been privileged to educate strong, skilled and successful women”.

“We are proud that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk graduated from St Mary’s College and freely shares her admiration for her Catholic education,” Ms Finan said.

“Annastacia is a testament to Ipswich and an inspirational role model for all young women.

“St Mary’s College endorses that through hard work and perseverance, our girls can achieve their personal best.

“Annastacia was a determined young woman who had political aspirations throughout her adolescent years; quoting her desire to be a Prime Minister in the 1986 St Mary’s College Year Book.”

Deputy Principal of Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School Rhonda Nolan said IGGS also had a proud history – particularly in the political arena.

“At Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School, we inspire our girls to become confident, well-educated young women, and Ms Frecklington MP’s rise as the first female leader of the LNP epitomises our school motto of Omnia Superat Diligentia – diligence overcomes all,” Ms Nolan said.

“As a school community, we are proud of her achievements and she is a wonderful role model for our students.”

 Ms Frecklington is the third Old Girl of IGGS to achieve a significant political appointment, joining fellow past students Vi Jordan, who was the first female Labor MP and only the second woman elected to Queensland’s Parliament (1966-74), and Rachel Nolan, the youngest woman elected to State Parliament (2001-12).

“The school has a strong focus on community service as part of a holistic education. We encourage each girl to think globally and act locally through our social responsibility program which we believe helps our students to develop compassion for others and inspires them to facilitate change,” Ms Nolan said.

 “To have such a strong representation – past and present – of IGGS Old Girls among our state political leaders is a source of great pride for the school.

 “As strong, female leaders, they are an inspiration for each young woman who passes through our halls on her own journey to making a meaningful contribution to our society.’’

Deb Frecklington in Year 9.

Annastacia Palaszczuk is at top right.

The Premier as a prefect.

I have so many great memories from my time at St Mary’s and I will always hold dear the lifelong friendships that I made-and these are friends that I still keep in contact with to this day.

There were so many great things about St Mary’s and looking back, I really appreciated the commitment of the teachers because they provided me with so many valuable skills and I believe having a catholic education taught me strong social justice values that I am committed to and I use these values in my work today as Premier to ensure vulnerable people and those less fortunate get the support they need in the community.

My favourite subjects were history and English classes, I loved the school concerts and I must make mention of beating the year 12 boys at St Edmunds at debating when we were in year 11 – that was definitely a highlight. 

I remember travelling to school by train and then walking 1.5 hours each way per day and then every afternoon we would try to drop into McMahon’s to grab a soft drink on the way back to the train.

I was deeply honoured that the school recently awarded me the first St Mary’s medal which I value dearly.

People in Ipswich have a wonderful sense of community, and are proud of who they are and where they have come. I am proud of my connections with the city and will continue to be a fierce advocate for the Ipswich region.

Annastacia Palaszczuk

Premier of Queensland

I was a boarder at Ipswich Girls Grammar from 1984 – 1988. I came from a small, one teacher school at Gulugaba (near Miles in Western Qld), so going to a large school like Ipswich Girls was very exciting.

In fact, there were more year eight boarders at Ipswich Girls than there were students at my whole primary school.

As boarders, we stuck together and looked after each other and I loved my time there.

My friends from school are still some of my closest friends today.

My time at Ipswich Girls taught me that there was a world of opportunity, and that as a woman, we should always strive to achieve our goals.

I also firmly remember the school motto ‘Diligence Overcomes All’ and I think this ideal is something that will certainly help me in my new role.

I have very fond memories of Ipswich because it’s where I spent my teenage years and enjoyed great times with my friends.

As a boarder, we often headed into town on our weekends and were always in trouble for not coming back to the school on time.

Ipswich has changed so much since I left school and each time I return I am amazed at what a beautiful city it is.

My aunts, uncles and cousins still live there and it’s a great place for families to live and raise their children, with a lot of opportunity, great schools, but still with a country feel.

Deb Frecklington

State Opposition Leader

Ipswich has a proud history on the sporting front, on the fields of war over a century or more, and also has a reputation for rolling up our sleeves and getting on with the job.

Few though might recognise the city’s academic prowess and associated achievements – the fact that our schools have produced some very notable Queenslanders and Australians.

Ipswich Grammar School (IGS) old boys such as Sir Harry Gibbs, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and John Bradfield, the engineering genius behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Story Bridge, to name but two. We can also claim one of Queensland’s first Premiers, Sir Samuel Griffiths, principal author of the Constitution of Australia, who was educated in Ipswich.

And two very powerful women: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, who both attended high school in Ipswich.

Since Deb Frecklington was appointed LNP Leader after the November 2017 State Election, no one has picked up on the fact that both her and Premier Annastacia went to school just a few kilometres apart: Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School (IGGS) and St Mary’s College respectively. They were two years apart in their schooling and now face off in Queensland’s House of Parliament.

It will be a proud day for Ipswich tomorrow, when the 56th Parliament officially opens. For the schools, teachers, students and parents, in fact the entire city.

It shows that going to school in Ipswich is no border or barrier to bigger and better things. These two schools, with more than 275 years of pedigree combined, have produced many fine young women who have gone on to a bright and prosperous future.

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deb Frecklington are perfect examples of how having a dream and studying hard in your teens can bring about incredible success in adulthood.

They are two very inspiring women.

I come from a household of women (my wife and five daughters) and have witnessed firsthand their academic and personal achievements. While three of my daughters have graduated, school days are not over in the Antoniolli household just yet, but I know that going to school in Ipswich has helped put them on the road to what they want to do and where they want to go in life.

I was at school in the same years as Annastacia Palasczcuk and Deb Frecklington, attending Ipswich State High School (1983-88) and was lucky enough to be School Prefect in my final year. That education served me well and, as Mayor, I am proud to say that Ipswich boasts some of the finest schools in Queensland, both public and private, whose staff work tirelessly to provide the highest level of education to our young people.

Andrew Antoniolli

Mayor of Ipswich

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