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Loreto Normanhurst 120th Anniversary

21 April 2017

Mr MATT KEAN ( Hornsby—Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation) (17:37): Tonight I celebrate the 120th anniversary of an outstanding school in my electorate, Loreto Normanhurst. It is a school very close to my heart due to my family's long and close association. I note the Parliamentary Secretary's association with the college, given that his wife worked there for many years.

In 1892 Mother Gonzaga Barry had led the Loreto nuns from Ballarat to Sydney with the aim of setting up a Catholic school for girls. The original school was established in a rented premises in Randwick but within five years had grown significantly, and the need for boarding facilities was deemed necessary. Thus began the search for a suitable site. In 1896 Mother Gonzaga's prayers were answered when Mr Frank Coffee of Wahroonga sent her an urgent message to come and see a property that was for sale a short distance from his home. It had been raining, but as the nuns arrived at the site, the sun burst through the clouds and formed a beautiful rainbow over the estate. That was a sign they needed, and in 1897 the land was purchased by Cardinal Moran for a school first known as Loreto Convent Hornsby.

Loreto Normanhurst is part of a worldwide network of schools, including seven in Australia, which recognises Sister Mary Ward as their head founder. Sister Mary Ward established the Loreto movement 400 years ago to empower young women and invest in their education. Sister Mary strongly believed that "Women in time to come will do much". It is a sentiment which has echoed through the ages and is strongly embraced by Loreto Normanhurst's current Principal, Barbara Watkins. Principal Watkins is an outstanding principal, and an outstanding community leader. She leads the school community by example by instilling Sister Mary Ward's Loreto values of "freedom, justice, sincerity, verity and felicity".

I am delighted to say that Sister Mary's and Principal Watkins' shared values are warmly embraced by each year group that passes through the school. Loreto's students continue to amaze me with their think big and reach for the stars attitude. As the local member I am so proud to see these young women reaching out to help others in our local community, and often overseas.

Loreto's diverse academic and extracurricular achievements throughout the years have been nothing short of remarkable. I would be here all night if I were to mention each and every one, so I will mention but a few of those notable women. Stephanie Lorenzo used her time at Loreto to work towards founding her own charity, which aims to stamp out human trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls in developing nations such as Cambodia. Monica Frost, Alicia Brown and Hillary Matchett helped to raise $35,000 at the school's annual Loreto Days to support a milk program in Zambia to provide formula to babies with HIV-Aids. Casey Thomas and my friend Kate Vartulli set up a school charity knitting program called "Wrap with love". In a group effort, the girls managed to knit more than 1,000 squares that were made into blankets and sent overseas to people in need.

Loreto students also continue to showcase their fantastic academic skills. Loreto recently finished as the top performing Catholic school in New South Wales—a remarkable 76 per cent of students finished with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank [ATAR] of 80 and above. It is easy to see why, with students such as former student Kathleen Champ winning the international Future Problem Solving competition in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her plan to alleviate poverty for low-income families. Other more recent students such as Jessica Murray formulated a case study that won the National Mathematics Talent Quest. Sarah Fletcher put her talents to the innovation and design sector by designing a world-first body-preserving boat transport buggy, which prevents boat loading injuries.

Much has changed over the school's 120 years but its commitment to providing exceptional education opportunities remains unchanged. My sister Emma Kean and cousin Amy Kean are both proud old girls of Loreto Normanhurst and my uncle John Kean has served as the School Council chair for many years. Loreto has continued to adapt and change over the last two decades to cater for the growing needs of our local community. In 2000 the school received a visit from the former Governor General, Sir William Deane, to open its new aquatic and learning resource centre. That was a big win for the local community at that time, but much more has been achieved in recent years. In 2010 Loreto's request to expand its student population from 915 to 1,150 was approved by Hornsby Shire Council. Four years later the school also formally approved re-opening a primary school facility that had previously been closed in 1982.

Today, Loreto continues to provide new and rewarding educational opportunities to young primary school girls and young ladies preparing to enter the workforce. I congratulate the Loreto Normanhurst school community on this momentous milestone. I take this opportunity to thank some of the wonderful women who have served our school and our community over the years. In particular, I acknowledge outstanding Principal Barbara Watkins; past principals Leoni Degenhardt, Denise Demarchelier and Maureen Saunders; chaplain Kerry McCullough; Head of Primary Maryanne Dwyer; parents and citizens association co-presidents Sue and Louise; Ex-Students' Association President, Mrs Janneke Chudleigh; and current school captains Annie Clarke and Tatendaishe Mwanza.

To read the full Hansard transcript, click here.