To mark Somerville House’s 120th birthday, the Old Girls reflected upon the incredible achievements of Somerville women over the past century. Lead by Lyn Cox, our working group created a list of living Old Girls whose diverse journeys since completing school were a source of inspiration and awe. These women have led change and advancements in their chosen fields, made significant cultural and philanthropic contributions and enriched their communities.

We invited the school to select some of their brightest writers and aspiring journalists to participate in this project. Under the mentorship of Walkley award winning journalist and Inspirational Old Girl herself, Nance Haxton, the students conducted interviews with their subjects, uncovering previously untold stories of challenges and triumphs.

Somerville House Old Girls Association

The Inspirational Old Girls project epitomises the Old Girls' purpose; connecting past and present Somerville ladies - respecting the past, honouring the present and enriching the lives of future members through priceless opportunities.

Over the coming months we will showase some of the stories written by students.  Our sincere thanks to Nance - our student journalists and our Inspirational Old Girls for being involved in this special project. 


A message from Nance Haxton

I have so enjoyed giving back to the school that gave me so much.  And I can't think of a better way to do that than helping today's Somerville House students with real world experience of a newsroom.


I was determined that the students who wanted to take part in the Inspirational Old Girls Project would do so in a way that was as close as possible to my lived experience in a newsroom that I could replicate.


It was great meeting the students and talking through their projects one on one. The workshop where we went over the receipe of every great news story - the five w's and the h - was a great place to start.


And I think that firm foundation showed in the final stories that were submitted. 


I know I wanted to be a journalist from when I was nine years old. So I was thrilled to be able to help these talented girls with another step along the way to their writing career, if that is where they choose to go.


There is no doubt an element of luck when pursuing these of my favourite sayings is that you can't control the wind but you can set the sails. You have to put the ground work in first to be ready for these stories when they emerge. And it was so encouraging to me to see the high standards that Somerville set for me when I was at school continue to this day. I sub-edited all of the students’ work, and was so impressed with what they achieved.


I hope I have encouraged each of them to trust in their storytelling ability, to tell their stories in their own unique way. Australia needs to hear their perspective.

I still think one of my greatest assets as a journalist – regardless of the medium – is empathy. I largely have my intellectually disabled brother Ashley to thank for teaching me that. I think if you can’t walk in someone else’s shoes even for a moment – you can’t write about them either.

And I hope I have passed on some of those experiences to these impressive young women.


I hope I've encouraged them, here at the cusp of their careers, to not be daunted by big cases or big moves to places they've never heard of. By interviewing these incredible Somerville women who have gone before us, and to see and understand what they have achieved before the rights of feminism were taken for granted. I hope I have left them with the confidence to pursue stories, issues, and assignments that interest them, and not to think they should be left for more senior people, smarter people, or more experienced people. Sometimes life flings you opportunities that you can bat back, or jump straight into. I hope I encouraged them that often as young people their sense of injustice is more honed and less jaded than the senior people they work with. Learn to trust your instincts and gut feeling on when something is wrong, and follow it up.


So be encouraged. Think outside the square. You might end up in the end of nowhere beyond the black stump like I did, when I got my first ABC posting at Port Augusta, reporting on my own from a two room office in the South Australian outback. And you might find that’s the best move you ever made. I hope these impressive young women go out and are inspired to follow their passion. Wherever that may lead. And that passion cannot be reduced to a set of numbers or school results. It's the fire in your belly that is important. It's what drives you and makes you excited and glad to be on this earth contributing to this crazy community on this funny little planet. Whether you do exceptionally well in your exams, or were disappointed in how you went this year, none of that changes your passion. Keep in touch with that. It will guide you in your life and your career regardless of what your university entrance score is. 


I love teaching so much, because I come away more inspired than my students. Always. I learn as much if not more then I teach. So thank you Somerville for the opportunity.


Nance Haxton

The Wandering Journo

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