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The latest edition of Namalata, the Woodleigh community magazine, is out now! Featuring stories on Woodleigh's partnership with Wugularr School in the NT, a spotlight on reimagining education and all the latest arts, culture and community highlights from all corners of the Woodleigh universe.

To read online, here.

Woodleigh has offered traineeships through the AFL SportsReady Traineeship Program for many years. AFL SportsReady is a national not-for-profit that has launched the careers of thousands of young people in fields as diverse as it, media, visual arts and sport. In 2022 all three of our trainees were past students.

We had a chat to Harrison Robertson (2021) Anika McClean (2020), and Aidan Bolch (2021) – to hear about their experience.

When I tell people that I work at the school I just graduated from, the common response is “At the school you just graduated from?! I would never go back to my school. I got out of there as quick as I could!” But at Woodleigh, the attitude of recent graduates is often completely different. My Woodleigh friends visit as often as they can for Musicales, markets, media nights and the like.

When Adam Liddiard walked into the Year 12 Media class in 2021 and told us all about the Marketing Traineeship in the Community Office, I knew then and there what my 2022 was going to look like. A traineeship at the school would be an opportunity to further develop my video editing and photography skills, and to catchup on all that was lost in two years of COVID lockdowns.

At the end of Year 12 I applied. Who would have thought? I got the role, and I’ve been working as a staff member in the Community Office all year.

I’m often asked what the transition from student to staff has been. If I’m honest, the transition was strange for a couple of weeks, but I quickly settled in. But the truth is, Woodleigh staff and teachers are different, and by the time you’ve reached Year 12, you’ve developed a strong connection, much more like colleagues than teacher-student. While there are clear professional boundaries, the teachers here treat you as a growing human. Teachers would always be there for a chat at lunchtime, for a hike in the mountains and especially for me, someone to vent to. It’s been really fun and interesting to see a different side of the school, especially the junior campuses, which are completely new to me; the opportunities that the junior kids get make me jealous!

During the year, I have gone from a photography newbie and editing novice, to creating pictures and videos that I am truly proud of. This year I’ve not only developed my technical skills, but also my character and my passions. I’ve become particularly passionate about First Nations storytelling, self-determination, and rights, helped in no small part by Woodleigh’s events held during NAIDOC Week of truth telling; stories of Invasion, Stolen Generations and the continued challenges and silencing of our oldest living culture.

My Year 13 has nearly come to an end. Looking back, it has almost gone as quickly as Year 12! Although I will miss Woodleigh, I am excited for the future. In 2023, I plan on studying a Bachelor of IT (Networks and Cyber Security) doubled with a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications, Indigenous and Cultural Studies) at Monash University.

Harrison Robertson 2021

After finishing my VCE at Woodleigh in 2020, I began my first year at university in a Psychological Science degree at Deakin University. Coming off the tail-end of a Covid-filled VCE, having online uni classes was not ideal. That first year of uni in 2021 was an uncertain and confusing time for me. I questioned what I really wanted to study, and if university was even for me.

It was during this time that I got the opportunity to showcase my VCE Studio Arts final at the Monash Gallery of Art. I received the news that I had been shortlisted for the TopShots exhibition, and shortly after received a phone call to let me know I had been chosen as the winner! I was ecstatic.

Fatefully, later that afternoon I picked up a call from Gina Bolch. She asked me what my plans were for the following year, and invited me to apply for the Art Technician Traineeship at Woodleigh. Suddenly, my plans for the year ahead became a lot more certain. It seemed as though everything had happened for a reason. I made the decision to defer my Psychology degree with little hesitation. I would consider this day a pivotal turning point in my life.

Being at Woodleigh this year as a Year 14 student has reminded me of my love of learning art. Working with the teachers that once taught me has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I would consider these key people as some of the most influential people and mentors in my life. This year has inspired me to pursue a more creative path. I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and I hope to continue to push myself in further jobs, study, and other experiences.

My advice to any recent Year 12 graduates would be that it’s okay to not know where you want to be, what career you want to pursue, and what kind of person you want to become. The best thing you can do is say yes to the opportunities that come your way, because you never know what it might lead to.

Anika McClean 2020

I heard about the AFL Sport Traineeship through Gina Bolch; she’s my mum, and careers advisor for the school. She suggested I apply for the traineeship to gain experience in the teaching environment and take a break before heading into university.

I’m interested in a potential career in PE teaching, and I thought there would be no better way than being involved and gaining the experience straight out of school.

I had plans of studying either exercise and sport science, or PE teaching. My plans of going to university changed when I finished Year 12 in 2021 and took on the traineeship. I felt as though the traineeship would provide me with the information and experiences that I may not be able to have otherwise.

This year, I’ve learned that so much happens behind the scenes for things to happen in a school. As a student, sometimes you don’t realise how much work and effort goes into the things that happen every day. Whether is it the actual planning of a class, or the setting up of equipment for the class, students can be quick to overlook the work that staff do for things to be able to run.

What really stood out the most to me this year is how much everyone has been affected by COVID. Things are still far from normal due to the past few years we have lost.

Next year I will be heading off to university and study PE teaching and Indonesian, with lots of travelling in between hopefully.

The advice that I would give to current Year 12s is pursue your passions and take a break if needed. Don’t do something that you won’t enjoy and rush to make a decision you will later regret.

Aidan Bolch 2021

Families in the Chelsea, Patterson Lakes, Waterways and Sandhurst areas will be thrilled to hear we have a new bus route, just for you! This contract bus operates Monday to Friday, and connects with our existing bus network servicing the Minimbah, Penbank and Senior Campuses.

For further information, visit our website or contact Robyn Kent at Senior Campus on 5971 6100.

Welcome back! What a holiday we've had.

It has been great to welcome our community back to school, and in particular, to welcome new students and parents at the start of the year. It has been an incredibly positive start to the school year, and I am grateful to the efforts of our staff, our students, and our families for working tirelessly to bring together a great beginning.

As is always the case at the start of a new school year, I am often asked, 'how was your holiday?' In previous years, I might have given the obligatory 'OK' answer. However, this year has been different. I have quite unapologetically answered, "the best holiday ever."

Why was my holiday so great? Well, I had an amazing holiday, which began on our last working day of 2022, catching the evening ferry to share Christmas in Tasmania with family, surfing every day and enjoying everything the great island state has to offer. After New Year's, I travelled to Japan with my daughters to enjoy two weeks of powder skiing in Hokkaido; a difficult place to get to, but well worth it.

While both of these on their own are trips of a lifetime - full of adventure and in some cases, risk - it was the journey with my daughters that was the highlight for me. For three weeks, we surfed, skied on beautiful snow, enjoying amazing Japanese cuisine; yet for me it was the time we spent together that was most valuable. To be honest, we could have been camping down at Wilson's Prom and my holidays would have still been amazing. Precious time with my adult daughters and my wife was regenerative for me personally, giving me the mental break I needed to come back to school refreshed and excited about the year ahead.

It wouldn't be a trip to a far-off place without running into several Woodleigh students and their families, enjoying the snow of Japan or the clean waves of Tasmania. True to our culture, they are always happy to see me, showing an interest in why I am where I am, and what I am doing.

This is my fourth year at Woodleigh, yet this is the first start I have had where our planning and communications haven't been dominated by COVID rules and instructions. Instead, we have been able to meet as a leadership group and with staff to clarify our purpose and our direction for this year. What is it we hope to achieve, and how will we lead the change that we aspire for?

We have some incredibly exciting projects beginning this year, and we can't wait to share with families what's in store for their young people. But before we talk about these projects, we need to come back to the why. What is it we are hoping to achieve? And why?

To understand this, I have been reflecting on my purpose in this world. I try my best to respect the environment and to act sustainably in the way I live my life. However, the impact of my individual actions will be nothing compared with the opportunity I have to lead this school, and the impact that will have on each of our students. Our impact in developing a better future will have much greater efficacy if we work together to achieve things collectively.

"A Woodleigh education that is not only about what we learn academically, but how we develop and grow as human beings during the learning process."

As teachers we have an amazing opportunity to work with parents to purposefully help our students to develop character, compassion, resilience, creativity, and skillfulness, to enable them to thrive in a complex and ever-changing world. At school, we are preparing our students for life beyond school. This must be at the heart of everything we do. This is our purpose.

For me, this comes back to our responsibility to prepare our students for their futures, creating in them the skills to become the leaders of the future who will help to guide our country and the world to a better place; a place where the environment is worshipped, and we do everything we can to act not only sustainably, but regeneratively. That is how we can add value to the environment and society in general.

We also have the desire to create a world that is equitable, respectful, and values each person for who they are. We want to encourage them to develop their own voice to have a say, not only in their own futures but all of our futures.

These are ambitious goals, which will require a lot of work and a great amount of commitment and dedication. After a great Summer, it is now time to roll up our sleeves, get on with the work at hand and strive to do our best in everything we do. I will be doing that with the leadership team, our teachers, and all Woodleigh staff.

I wish every member of the Woodleigh community a wonderful and successful 2023, a year of great optimism and hope.


In December, 12 Senior Campus students went to Cambodia to teach at Chumkriel Language School for just over two weeks. We stayed in a place called Kampot while we were teaching and, on the weekend, we went to Kep, a beachside resort. We spent a lot of our time at Chumkriel, playing intense games of soccer, giving kids piggybacks and teaching… TEACHING a lot!

We taught in the morning school, where most of us would teach an English class, or a class about the importance of recycling or spend a lesson in the library. A few of us went off to the small school (a classroom) in the Salt Fields to teach. Ash taught some super adorable toddlers, while Finn and I taught the older kids (and pretended not to hear the loud games of duck duck goose Ash was conducting just outside!).

After lunch, we were teaching again with a new group of students, and this was followed by Evening school that finished at 7:00pm. Then we did it all again the next day. And it was epic!

I came to this massive discovery that it's actually easier to teach kids when they listen to you! I also learned that teachers actually want to teach, and like it when kids are engaged in the class. Turns out all that stuff teachers blab about is true! My favourite part of the trip was the break times at the Salt Fields when a couple of the kids just wanted to learn everything. We were learning about rainbows and days of the week and shapes. It made me realise that we get to come to school every day and learn as much as we want to and having time to ask questions is something really valuable. I had a special student, my little genius Sreynut, who would thrive in an environment like Woodleigh. Unfortunately, Madams said we weren’t allowed to smuggle kids home through customs, which sucked! This is probably why half of us spent the bus ride home from the final day balling our eyes out …

Year 12

When people ask me about the time I spent in Cambodia, I always say the same thing: “It was the best thing I have ever done.” I loved every minute in Cambodia and even had nightmares about leaving. I have made memories that I will treasure forever. Playing soccer with the kids was the best part of the trip. All the kids loved soccer and debating over who was better, Messi or Ronaldo. Over the trip, I earned the nickname Harry Maguire, and kids would scream “Harry Maguire!” whenever I scored.

Teaching the kids was one of the best parts of the trip. Seeing them progress and learn felt really rewarding. I am extremely glad I had the opportunity to go on this once-in-a-lifetime trip and I would highly recommend applying for this trip if you get the opportunity.

Speak to Mr Adams if you are in Yr10 or 11 and you are interested in this year’s trip in December.

Year 12

The small township of Ampilatwatja is a 4-hour drive, on a long, red, desert road, northeast of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It is the home of the Alywarre people, with a transient population of approximately 500 people.

Ampilatwatja is not open to the public. You need a permit, and an invitation from the community to enter.

Woodleigh and Ampilatwatja School have been in a partnership for 12 years. The connection began through a former Woodleigh student who became a teacher and worked at Ampilatwatja school.

When we visit the community, we stay and volunteer at the school. Deep friendships and connections have been made over the years. Students, staff, and elders from Ampilatwatja school also visit us at Senior Campus.

The pandemic restrictions suspended our reciprocal visits for 3 years. So we were particularly excited to be able to return to Ampilatwatja, as part of the Broadening Horizons program, in December last year. And the community was so pleased to see us. We were the first visitors that they have had in 3 years.

Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs

During the party, I made a close friend; so close that I wasn’t allowed to leave her until the band stopped playing music. They didn’t stop till midnight! She was very shy at first, but I saw her watching others dance and I knew she wanted to as well. After asking her to dance a few times, she finally said yes to my invitation.

The smile on her face once she was confident enough to dance with me gave me so much joy. I loved that I could help her find this confidence. By the end of the night, she asked her mum to take a photo and video of us dancing, and we shared the saddest and longest goodbye that I have ever experienced.

Despite the sad goodbye, this visit was amazing. Getting to take a step back, hang out with the kids, and truly share the Ampilatwataja pace of life was incredible and life-changing.

Year 12

Most days I spent the morning on the Ampilatwatja school bus which picks up kids and families from their houses around the community. This was a great way to meet a lot of the students in a more relaxed and informal setting before walking into school with them for breakfast, sport and classes.

During the school day, I mostly worked with the kinder kids where I had the very important and difficult role of acting like a four-year-old. During my time there, I enjoyed many wooden cakes at the play shop, gave plenty of piggybacks and played many MANY games of basketball.

I really appreciated the chance to just be with the kids, and play in their company, often without ever talking. It was refreshing not to approach the school feeling like we had something better to offer them/ and instead/ properly embrace the relationships and connections as shared experiences.

Year 12

The Woodleigh-Ampilatwatja partnership provides students with an amazing opportunity to experience life in a remote Aboriginal community. And for the students of Ampilatwatja, it is a chance for them to share their lives with us, and to journey off country, to Melbourne and Woodleigh.

Students interested in being a part of this program can contact Carey Saunders in Jago, or email

Ampilatwatja School will be visiting us in Term 3, and we will be visiting them in Term 4. The Woodleigh Senior Campus Reconciliation Group also meets twice a term. All students are encouraged to get involved.

Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs


I live in Sydney, but was in town for the 20-year Woodleigh reunion at the beginning of October. Everything had changed, but really nothing had changed.

If I had to describe Woodleigh to Sydneysiders in three words: Footy. Wattle. Transformative.

The photography dark room has gone. The smoking spots are still there (and probably a bit easier to hide because the trees have grown up). The Agora is still exactly the same. The art room and gallery; 20 years on, that space has not aged a day and smells exactly as it did; a heady mix of timber, hot sun on glass, acrylic paint and ceramics. The trees have grown, and I think Brian Hendo would be very proud of how his banksias are looking.

The path to Woodleigh for me was not all that straight forward. I had a detour via Padua and Mornington High before I finally ‘made it’ to Woodleigh for Year 11 and 12 on a scholarship. The real struggle for me was getting to Woodleigh. When I arrived, I was so relieved and awestruck: it felt like where I belonged, but at the same time it came with pressure to perform. Managing that pressure was quite formative, but I never felt as though I had to do it alone; encouragement and belief came from every single teacher, reception person and friend I met along the way. It grew a sense of ambition and confidence in me that I could do anything. But to really do anything, you have to ask for help, be helpful and cultivate a community of support and reciprocity.

The loss of Kate Boden and Emily Masterton in 2000 deeply affected all of The Class of 2001. The way that loss was dealt with by everyone remains one of the most enduring examples of courage, kindness, and compassion I have ever experienced. To this day, I cannot walk past flowering wattle without remembering not only Kate and Em, but how elegantly and compassionately that loss was honoured, and how their lives were celebrated. That level of care, connectivity and value of community has remained, and will always remain with me. That to me is the ‘Woodleigh Way’ and has undeniably made me a kinder person, leader and friend.

Jess Miller 2001

When was the last time you were back on campus?

I was back on campus for the 10-year reunion in October 2022.

If I could describe Woodleigh in 3 words, it would be … unique, adventurous, a privilege.

What has and hasn’t changed at Woodleigh? Although the new Homesteads are seriously lush, a lot of things haven’t changed; the VCE history classroom; the smell of Jago; the feeling of having the bush all around.

Michael Norman is famous for his ‘no growth without struggle’ quote. What was a struggle you faced during your time at Woodleigh? And how did you grow from it?

Ms Shep never believed me when I explained that it wasn’t me who took out the IOU at the canteen in Year 7, even though my best friend admitted to taking out debts under my name. Consequently, I was in the bad books of the most powerful woman at Woodleigh from Year 7 to 12. I tried to fix it by trying to suck up to her, which (unsurprisingly) never worked. I put my foot in it again and again. Eventually I gained the dual gifts of acceptance and humour in the face of dire circumstances.

They say when you leave Woodleigh, the Woodleigh stays with you. What’s the biggest Woodleigh element that has stuck with you out in the Real World?

Apart from my friendships, probably the biggest lesson I took away from Woodleigh was the understanding that fitting in is boring. Caring about the things you actually care about – no matter how niche – is the best ticket for a life well lived.

Gabi Stanszus 2012

When was the last time you were on campus?

Besides our 20-year reunion, I have been lucky enough to be invited back by former head of the Arts Faculty, Kristen Guthrie to run Photography lessons during Arts weeks and Activities weeks.

If I could describe Woodleigh in 3 words it would be …

Grounding, creative, supportive.

The main difference on campus is …

Maybe the same thing most people from my era notice, all the new Homesteads.

What hasn’t changed is

The smell of the Jago. Not sure how or why, but it’s been like that since day one. Also, the feeling of the courtyard and senior area of the arts buildings. I spent a lot of time there, I just remember it being a lot bigger.

What was a struggle you faced during your time at Woodleigh? And how did you grow from it?

Our Year 12 Arts class had a rough start to the year. We lost a brand new teacher right at the start of the year. It actually led to an amazing art teacher, Rachel Boggan (now Rachel Bryant), who stepped in to team-teach and switch up the classes. Looking at the photo from that class, even with that rough time, there are now over half of that class working in some sort of creative / art profession.

They say when you leave Woodleigh, the Woodleigh stays with you. What’s the biggest Woodleigh element that has stuck with you out in the Real World?

I guess that it’s not just about making friends and meeting people in your own years; it’s also the people above and below you. Outside of Woodleigh I have seen and worked with more people in the years below me; Tristan Graham, Francesca Laude (Pizzey), Thomas Rennie, Serrin McCallum, Marc Baker, Frances Richardson and Sam Davis, to name a few. The amazing thing is that we all get along because of the unique experience we had at school.

Ryan Wheatley 2002

This morning we celebrated a new group of leaders at our Minimbah Campus with our annual Year 6 assembly and smoking ceremony led by the Bunurong Land Council.

This rite of passage is an important one as these young people reach the peak of their primary school journey, and become the biggest fish in the pond.

Leadership at Woodleigh isn’t about popular vote, and it’s not about ‘being chosen’. We recognise all of these young people as emerging leaders in their community. A big part of their learning involves reflecting on what leadership is, to think about the leaders they look up to, and to role model those qualities. This learning begins in the classroom, but it goes far beyond those walls; we see it in the playground, at home, on the sporting field, and out in the wider community. It carries over into the kind of people these kids are becoming.

We’re super lucky to have naturally diverse and interesting playground environments at each of our Woodleigh campuses.

And our Minimbah playground just got a fresh new addition just in time for the start of Term 1. Toward the end of 2022, our Minimbah Foundation to Year 2 students had the opportunity to co-design their new playground with the team from @jeavonslandscapearchitects . Over the Summer break, Rotary Overseas Relocated Playgrounds carefully removed the old playground, and the crew from @adventureplus_aus installed the new playground just in time for the new school year. We're proud to say the old playground will be shipped off and rebuilt for a second life on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea.