Establishing a new school.
The Mentone Girls’ School was established in 1955, thanks to the efforts of Frances Higgins who wished to encourage girls to stay on at school. Nina Carr, a gifted teacher at Colac High School shared her views, and Frances persuaded her to apply for the position of Principal.
The new school opened with about sixty girls in Year 8 but without a building. Classes were held in local halls until the official opening on 11th October of the same year. Miss Carr and her secretary learned their administrative tasks as they went, and they used a public phone box on the busy Nepean Highway to talk with the Department.
The new building had no heating, electricity or sound system and the grounds were undeveloped for a long time. Notices and school news items were written on a blackboard near the general office. Miss Carr lived in a flat in the grounds. She formed clubs for Drama, Red Cross, I.S.C.F. and a school choir and she worked tirelessly with the Ladies’ Auxiliary and an Advisory Council established to support the school. In 1958 a Ministerial Order changed the name of the school to Mentone Girls’ High School.
There were no immediate changes in philosophy or curriculum but a fifth form was established and planning began for Matriculation classes so that students could complete their studies at the school. A debating team was started and there were tennis, basketball, softball and hockey teams
A Parents’ Association was formed in 1960 and members organised film evenings and dance classes. A working party of fathers laid concrete paths and worked on the grounds and Miss Carr took care of the front garden.
By 1962 the school had a sixth form and Matriculation classes which led to thirteen girls receiving Commonwealth Scholarships. Fund-raising was started for an assembly hall that was built two years later – the Nina Carr Hall.
1965 was Miss Carr’s final year as Principal. She was offered the position of Principal at Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, which was a great honour for a woman teacher in Victoria.
Although staff and students at Mentone were proud of her achievements, there was a sense of loss in her moving away from the significant role she had played in establishing the college. The staff presented her with a portrait, which still hangs outside the present Principal’s office, and seems to be keeping an eye on what is happening. Miss Carr’s old flat later became the Year 12 common room.
“There is a need for a girls’ school in the Mentone area.” Miss Frances Higgins, Board of Secondary Inspectors, 1954
Miss Nina Carr, first Principal of Mentone Girls’ School.
Her talents, vision and energy were the source of the school’s ethos and values. Her influence echoes in its corridors today.