‘To lead is to serve’

Over the last eleven years, Mr Roy Kelley, the 14th Headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School, and his wife, Ann, have served our School and School community unstintingly. Roy has led the School with great vision and energy through a decade of unprecedented technological change. His legacy will be justly recognised as profound and impacting upon every area of Melbourne Grammar’s educational programme, across the Senior School, Wadhurst and Grimwade House.

Very early in his Headmastership, Roy initiated three independent reviews of our LOTE, IT and Boarding operations. Upon receipt of the findings, valuable recommendations were made and implemented. In 2017, Roy initiated a similar, external review of Sport across the School.

Roy also oversaw the renewal of the School’s Strategic Plan and its Mission, Vision, Values and Principles Statement. His written introduction to this most important document is a powerful statement of his, and the School’s, philosophy of education: ‘Whilst the School has always highly valued a strong academic culture, we can never overlook the importance of human relationships – between students, their families and their teachers – as an essential underpinning of our learning community.’ He has successfully argued for a ‘sense of community’ to be placed at the centre of Melbourne Grammar’s Values and he has worked tirelessly to enhance and enrich the benefits of engagement, participation and support across the School. Roy Kelley’s operating mantra has always been: ‘The best gauge of the health of any institution is the quality of human relationships within it.’

He has prioritised the development of qualities such as empathy, respect, resilience and collaboration, which Roy believes are the cornerstones of personal growth, wellbeing and community. The Indigenous flag flies proudly next to the Australian and School flags outside the Handbury Student Centre. And, during the School’s annual Pride Week, the Rainbow Flag is unfurled as well. Under the Headmastership of Roy Kelley, the Melbourne Grammar student body has become more aware of, and empathetic towards, the daily lives and challenges of minority groups in our society.

Academically, Roy has constantly emphasised the importance of nurturing ‘the whole person’ – intellectually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually; and, to this end, he has promoted excellence and a life-long love of learning.

Roy has always been a great champion of co-curricular activities. Every weekend of the School Calendar, for eleven years, he could be seen on the sideline encouraging yet another School team. He has been equally passionate in his support of the School’s excellent and varied Art, Drama and Music programmes.

Roy was the instigator of our unique ‘Beyond the Gates’ (BTG) outdoor experience, now in its eighth year. At the beginning of his Headmastership, Roy felt that the School’s Outdoor Education needed improvement. Initially, he dispatched staff members to various parts of the nation seeking an appropriate piece of bushland which included the potential for exposure to Indigenous culture and learnings. When the ideal single site did not present itself, further enquiries and strategy modifications resulted in the unique Melbourne Grammar School BTG experience.

Several parents have told me that their respective sons regard their BTG experience as their most important and memorable of all at MGS. Another commented that half of the photos on his son’s bedroom walls are still those of BTG. And, over the years in our School Council meetings, Roy has reported several times on appreciative emails and letters from extremely grateful parents reporting on the profound increase in both self awareness and self confidence that BTG has effected in their sons.

He has been a tireless champion of our Indigenous Programme. In 2020, for the first time, the demand for places will exceed availability. Currently we offer 11 supported positions at MGS, with an aim to increase that number to 15 and then 20.

Because of Roy’s passionate vision and drive, MGS is certainly a leader in the provision of Indigenous education. Roy had always wished to hire an Indigenous member of staff to serve in the role of Indigenous Programme Manager, and he was able to make a very successful staff appointment in 2018.

It is an uplifting experience at any School event whenever our Indigenous students affirm their identity with a ‘welcome to country’ or by one of their dance performances. Roy Kelley’s Headmastership has also witnessed a growing non-Indigenous interest in, and participation on, the Reconciliation Committee.

Roy oversaw the design and establishment of our world- class Geoff Handbury Science and Technology Hub, as well as initiating major developments in the School’s educational research capability. The Headmaster has always felt strongly about the pedagogic importance of Science and Technology to complement a strong Humanities offering. With the help of many, Roy gathered the design specifications for an ideal Science and Technology teaching and learning environment.

The capital campaign, conducted in just over three years, benefitted from the generosity of over 1000 donors, most notably Geoff Handbury and his family; and, raised money across all four of the MGS Foundation Pillars – Scholarships and Bursaries, Indigenous Bursaries, Buildings and Grounds, and the Foundation Endowment Fund – and increased the number of Witherby Tower Society bequests. Of the $20.1m raised, $15.3m was raised specifically for the Hub. It was the most successful capital campaign in the School’s history. The Headmaster, along with the Chairman of the Foundation at the time, Lloyd Thomas, were instrumental in this extraordinary fundraising success.

Roy is a powerful and effective communicator. As recently as this year’s Valedictory Dinner at the MCG, a Year 12 student mentioned to me that “When the Headmaster speaks, we all listen. We all hold him in the highest regard” – quite an accolade from a young man who is about to leave secondary school forever! And, Roy’s final sermon at this year’s Year 12 Valedictory Eucharist was particularly moving. The counsel he offered to all the Year 12s, and all attendees, was humble, wise, based on a wealth of experience, and inspiring.

Roy has also exerted subtle influences on the physical fabric of the School. The courtyard at the entrance to the Memorial Hall has become more conducive to social activity with the central positioning of our Lone Pine Tree descendant, the installation of seating, and the planting of shrubs and trees. The Sculpture Walk around the School, with seven planned sites for prospective sculptures, with one by Callum Morton (OM 1982) already in situ, is another example.

Pictured above: Mrs Ann Kelley

And Roy has been lovingly, supported, challenged and counselled every step of the way by Ann, a former teacher herself. I would like to emphasise the vitally important role that Ann has played. Her constant presence at school events and her obvious warm connection with parents, staff and students amplifies the outstanding leadership both Kelleys have demonstrated to the MGS School community over the last eleven years. We have been most fortunate to be the recipients of their strength of character, strong leadership, vision, wisdom, kindness, humility and grace.

As you may be aware, one of the outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was the announcement of a National Redress Scheme for survivors, a government-administered compensation scheme to which institutions have been invited to subscribe by 30 June 2020. The School Council, under the skilful guidance of the Headmaster, has very carefully considered the additional opportunity afforded to survivors by the Scheme. At its October 2019 meeting, School Council unanimously decided the School should join the Scheme. The processes for that to occur have now commenced. Importantly, this does not limit any survivors in their choice of options for redress, but instead offers an additional pathway for consideration.

My 12 years on Council conclude at the School Association Annual General Meeting in May 2020. May I take this early opportunity to welcome my successor as Chair, Mr Andrew Michelmore AO (OM 1970), who was the unanimous selection of the School Council. I thank all members of Council for their generous contributions of time, intellect and governance over the year.

Michael Bartlett Chairman