The Queen Victoria Maori Girls' School Golden Jubilee celebrations attracted the most interest, from a national point of view, of any Maori gathering held in Auckland so far this year.
Guests and old girls from most parts of the North Island and some from the South came to honour the 50-year-old school.
Though the week-end programme was mainly social, the old girls had got together primarily to revive their association. To them this was serious business, and they met twice to discuss it. The result is that the Old Girls' Association is functioning again.
But, apart from the Old Girls' Association revival conferences, there was little conference-style business done during the celebrations, though there were many serious and thoughtful speeches and many informal discussions.
More than 150 old girls gathered in Auckland to mark the Jubilee, celebrations of which carried through from Friday, June 12, to Sunday, June 14. The old girls present represented every decade in the history of the school, through which 1,156 pupils have passed.
On Friday night the celebrations got under way with an informal reception for old girls. The following morning the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. W. N. Panapa, was the preacher at a Service of Thanksgiving and Commemoration of Founders.
After this there was an official welcome, at which the speakers were the Bishop of Auckland, the Rt. Rev. W. J. Simkin, the Mayor of Auckland, Sir John Allum, the Secretary for Maori Affairs, Mr T. T. Ropiha, the Chairman of the General Trust Board of the Diocese of Auckland, Mr A. N. Seaman, the Senior Inspector of Maori Schools, Mr W. Parsonage; the Headmistress, Miss A. R. Berridge: Mrs B. Taua, President of the Old Girls' Jubilee Reunion Organising Committee: the Rev. Mutu Kapa, who spoke for the tangata whenua: and
Mrs H. D. Bennett, who spoke on behalf of the old girls. Several of the speakers told of the good influence which the school had had on the Maori people.
Mr Ropiha stated that schools such as Queen Victoria had an advantage over State schools in that they taught the 4th R—Religion. He said that in the dual society in which Maoris lived, religion was most important.
He said, too, that schools like Queen Victoria, played a big part in helping Maori and pakeha to go together, hand in hand.
The first Old Girls' Conference followed the welcome speeches. It was at this Conference, and at a later special one called for the same purpose, that the question of reviving the Old Girls' Association was thrashed out. This was the main business of the week-end. An Old Girls' Association Committee was elected to supersede the hard-working Committee which had organised the Jubilee. Prior to the Jubilee Committee the Association had not functioned since before the war.
The revived Association's aims include plans to help the School by raising funds for a permanent chapel and scholarships. Old girls made it plain at their conference that they wanted more reunions.
On Saturday afternoon, the scheduled physical education display by present pupils, and the basketball match between present and past pupils, had to be abandoned because of heavy rain. The old girls, however, were not cowed by the weather. They gathered indoors at the school, and in light-hearted mood ‘let go’ in an afternoon of songs, haka and general good fun.
In the evening, 200 guests attended the Jubilee dinner, afterwards making their way to the Jubilee concert and dance. For their singing at the concert and throughout the weekend, the pupils won high praise. They are trained by Mrs P. Raudon. As well as a selected group, the whole school sang some numbers at the concert. Hymns which the girls sang during the week-end included ‘Kei Riri Tonu Mai’ and the 23rd Psalm, to Brother James' air. The present pupils gave a folk-dancing display at the Saturday night concert as well as singing and poi items.
The whole school's singing of ‘Kei Riri Tonu Mai’ at the Sunday morning service at St. Mary's Cathedral created a most hallowed atmosphere. The Bishop of Auckland was the preacher at this service, which was attended by old girls as well as present pupils.
At the concluding event of the celebrations, Sunday luncheon, there occurred one of those spontaneous and rather moving episodes which, though unplanned, seem to develop at most huis. It concerned the school jubilee birthday cake. Every girl in the school had been invited to give a stir in the mixing of the cake. Its 50 candles had been lighted the previous evening at the dinner by early scholars, and had been blown out by the head girl, Grace Henare, and the senior prefect, Polly Hopa. But as most of the present pupils had not seen the ceremony it was repeated at Sunday lunch.
And it was then that the memorable incident occurred.
Mrs Taua, as President of the organising committee, and Mrs Hoeft, one of the early scholars, took the platform and explained that they wished sections of the cake to be taken back to the various districts from which the old girls had come, so that other girls from those districts who had not attended the celebrations could gather round the cake and be told of the Jubilee weekend in Auckland.
The bottom section of the cake was cut into four sections, one each for north, south, east and west, and four delegates accepted the sections to take them to those areas.
Four Third Formers of Queen Victoria Girls' College wearing the new summer uniforms designed, cut and sewn at the School by the senior students. Left to right: Judith Harawene (Bay of Islands), Beverly Everett (Devonport), Constance Herewini (Awanui), Tina Haig (Tokomaru Bay). Photo: J. Ashton
On receiving the cake each delegate sang a pao appropriate to the occasion, and spoke enthusiastically in promising to gather other old girls from their home districts round the cake. The Headmistress, Miss Berridge, received a section of the cake on behalf of the Trustees, and called upon a group of ‘my old girls’ to sing a suitable action song. Then prefects received the top tier of the cake on behalf of the school, the school singing in return.
One of the most popular people who attended the Jubilee was the veteran former Headmistress, Miss M. Brereton. The only living former headmistress, Miss Brereton was at the school from 1920 to 1934, and again for a year in 1942. Miss Brereton received a thunderous ovation from the old girls. During her two terms over 400 girls passed through the school.
In nostalgic mood on the rainy Saturday afternoon during the Jubilee, Miss Brereton fondly recalled that Queen Victoria was always a very happy place. ‘It's still the same, I think,’ she said, ‘It's the Maori nature.’
QUEEN VICTORIA SCHOOL JUBILEE
Miss Brereton recalled that when she first knew the school it had no electric light and no fire alarm. The gaslight was so bad that the girls could not do their prep. by it.
As time progressed, Miss Brereton remembered, the new pupils used to arrive with better and better education. There was a tremendous advance in the standard of education, she said. Perhaps the advance was too great considering the little time that had passed since the Maori met civilization, she said.
Miss Brereton is now living in retirement at Nelson.
Foundation members present at the Jubilee weekend included Mrs H. D. Bennett (formerly Wikitoria Park), Mrs Farrell (Rangi Tamihana), Mrs Maraea Carr (Colenso), Mrs Eliza Brown (Te Raina), Mrs Daisy McGruther (Ormsby), Mrs Pare Poihipi (Franks), Mrs Ema Ryan (Waitoa).
One of the 1904 scholars present was Mrs F. A. Bennett, wife of the late Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt. Rev. F. A. Bennett. Mrs Bennett's maiden name was Hemana. Also from 1904 was Mrs Makuini Paora (Hei).
Mrs A. Aubrey, of Lepperton, whose daughter and granddaughters also went to the school, was another old-timer present. Mrs Aubrey, formerly Alice Franks, was at school in 1905–06. Her daughter, Mrs K. Rangi, Taranaki Welfare Officer, was at school in 1921–27. Mrs Rangi was present for the weekend but her daughters, also old girls, were too preoccupied with their young families to attend.
Miss Mira Petricevich, a graduate of the University of New Zealand, was also present for the Jubilee. Miss Petricevich spent her first three years of secondary schooling at Queen Victoria, starting in 1936.
The school was built as a permanent memorial to Queen Victoria in the hope that it would carry out an object always dear to her heart, namely, the benefiting of the women of the native races over which she ruled.
A history of the school, published for the Jubilee, points out that when Queen Victoria School came into being there were no institutions for educating Maori girls except Hukarere and a Roman Catholic Girls' College, both in Napier. This caused great difficulty because educated Maori boys could find few women of similar interests whom they could marry. The remedy lay in founding more girls' schools where the girls could be educated to fit them for their duties as wives of educated men. Thus, says the history, when the school came into being the emphasis was on the cultural rather than on the academic side. The wisdom of that policy, it states, has been borne out by the great contribution which the Maori women have made to the social progress of their people.
Queen Victoria's foundation stone was laid by the Duke of York (later King George V) on June 12, 1901. The school was dedicated on May 23, 1903, though apparently it began to operate in 1902. The dedication service was conducted by Bishop Neligan.
It has been the aim of the school to provide one general course which will achieve both individual and racial development. Academically, it provides a good all-round education up to the endorsed school certificate standard and University Entrance. The Maori language is an examination subject. Maori history and traditions are also studied. In the practical, everyday community life which is practised outside the classrooms the school aims to develop as fully as possible: (1) A personal sense of responsibility; (2) a willing team spirit; (3) capacities for leadership.
Queen Victoria aims to serve the Maori race. Miss Berridge believes that racial survival, with true partnership and co-operation is more desirable than assimilation. She believes that it is the school's function to present the best elements from the two racial heritages. Miss Berridge says that the best results come from pupils who, with some comprehension of the aims and spirit of the school, elect it in preference to other alternatives. Unfortunately, she says, attendance involves considerable cost and effort, and increased opportunities are needed for those whose economic circumstances make it impossible for them to elect to attend the school.
The present scholastic record compares very favourably, she says, with the average State secondary school. The scholastic record has been improving over the last few years, largely because Maori parents have been persuaded to leave their daughters at school for longer periods.
Maori schools, including Queen Victoria, are progressing according to the needs of the people, says Miss Berridge. Where formerly the accent was on training, so that the girls would be good wives and mothers, nowadays the scholastic achievements have grown in accordance with the general demand for increased education. Nowadays, too, there are more avenues open to Maori girls than formerly. One of the reasons why, till ten years ago, so many old girls became nurses or teachers was that
Oldest Living Pupils — Classes 1903. Left to right, Mrs F. A. Bennett, Mrs H. D. Bennett, Mrs J. McGruther. —Photo: J. Ashton
One matter which has been causing concern lately is the financial position of the school. The report of the Trust Board for 1952 showed that the expense of running the schools, Queen Victoria and St. Stephen's, was increasing in greater ratio than income, and it was apparent that drastic action was needed. The report said that the Trust was considering several alternatives, ‘but it is not improbable that sheer lack of finance will force the closing of at least one of the schools.’
This year the drastic action came. Fees were markedly and suddenly increased. In 1942, the education of a girl cost £35; in 1952, £70; and today, the cost is £120. This is more than many Maori parents can afford. The need for scholarships is greater than ever.
This year's increase in fees was so that existing standards could be maintained, and, says Miss Berridge, it shows faith on the part of parents that they have been willing to meet the expense. Despite the financial hurdle the school year started with a roll of 78, only two short of its maximum 80.
And despite the financial barriers the demand for higher education goes on. Whereas, in 1942, the senior pupils comprised the smallest group, in 1952, pupils in the third year upwards made up half the school. And nine of the 11 successful School Certificate candidates in 1951 returned the next year to do Sixth Form work. During the last decade, 56 girls have obtained School Certificate, practically half of them returning to leave with Endorsed School Certificate, several with University Entrance.
The variety of vocations which the girls take up is shown by the fact that of the girls who attended the school in that decade, 32 went to Teachers' Training Colleges, 20 trained as nurses, 14 went into clerical work, three became school dental nurses, two hospital laboratory receptionists, three telephone exchange operators, two took up tailoring, and one became a librarian trainee. Others were dressmakers, uncertificated teachers and nursing aids.
But Queen Victoria's reputation does not rest alone on schoolroom work.
The School excels in basketball. It has produced the champion school senior A team in Auckland for eight years, and was the first school to get into the Auckland Basketball Association Tournament Senior A grade.
First aid and home nursing, too, find a place in the school. Last year a Queen Victoria team as the Auckland representative team won the Dominion St. John Nursing Cadet Team championship at the annual competitions held in Wellington, and this year the school was selected to represent Auckland in Dunedin during the August holidays.
And in the field of singing the school's welltrained recorded voices have been used in a B.B.C. Commonwealth programme, and also in a lecture tour publicising New Zealand in the U.S.A. as well as by Radio New Zealand.