News of Old Girls


Congratulations to Jane Cay (Boyce, 1995) from birdsnest who achieved Number One in the 2018 Internet Retail Top 50 people in e-Commerce recently. Jane is the CEO and Founder of birdsnest, which is one of the most successful online retail businesses in the country.

Following her studies at Frensham, Jane graduated with a Commerce degree from the University of NSW. She then worked as an e-business consultant with IBM in Sydney and Canberra, before she and her husband moved back to her home town of Cooma, where they bought a farm and a local clothing store. From a traditional bricks and mortar store servicing a country town, Jane launched in 2008 and started sending parcels to women all over the country and beyond. The online fashion store has consistently innovated and held a place in the top 100 e-commerce sites in Australia, with over 95% of sales now coming from online orders.

Jane attributes the team culture and their personalised service to birdsnest’s success, with over 80% of revenue coming from repeat customers (every online order comes with a handwritten note). birdsnest has won the Best Online Customer Service Award in 2015 and 2016 at the ORIA’s (Online Retail Industry Awards), plus the ORIA 2017 Innovation award. In 2017 birdsnest was also named the fourth best place to work in Australia for companies with over 100 employees, following its eighth place in 2015 for the under 100 employees’ category (BRW Great Places to Work or Study).

As part of Jane’s Frensham 104th Birthday Service Address, she noted:

People often ask why I think our business has thrived in such an internationally competitive field as fashion and I simply say - that apart from luck - it is because we have a team that truly care - they care about each other, their roles and the women we are serving.

You could definitely say that it is ‘in love, that they serve’

At Frensham, we talk about the school motto and spirit and in a business environment people talk about an organisation's culture. They say, and I agree, that when it comes to business success – culture eats strategy for breakfast.

See below for News of Old Girls published in the Chronicle 2017 – click on each name to see the details. News from Frensham Fellowship is featured regularly in the Schools' fortnightly Newsletter, available as PDF documents. (Newsletter page under News & Events)


TRISH BLYTH (PATRICIA CONOLLY, 1950) has had a professional acting career, spanning more than six decades, on stage in Australia, the USA, Canada and the UK, appearing many times in major theatres including on Broadway and the West End. She worked for Sir Laurence Olivier at the Chichester Festival Theatre in the UK, with Dame Maggie Smith in the West End and at nearly every major theatrical centre in the USA and Canada, playing over time, sixteen leading Shakespearean roles. Other classical work includes Hedda Gabbler, The Wild Duck, Ghosts by Ibsen, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. She has returned many times to Australia, performing in plays such as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. With plays by the hundred to her credit, the range of her work is huge and the variety of role and location describes a career that could not easily be achieved today. Trish has also taught and guest-directed students at The Julliard School (New York) and The North Carolina School of the Arts. She is known and respected throughout the profession and has been, and continues to be, a respected theatrical ambassadress for Australia.


ROSE MARY CRAWFORD (WILTON, 1949) has written, directed, and produced numerous plays for children including The Wicked Witch and the Tickle Monster, Never Say Never, The Mad King of Chalupa, and You Gotta Have a Dream. She has also worked as an actor, journalist and poetry workshop instructor. Rose Mary lives in New Mexico, USA with her husband.


Influenced by her experience as Artist-in-Residence in Hill End, NSW, VIRGINIA CUPPAIDGE (1960), when back in her home in New York, created a painting titled Eucalyptus which is now in the permanent collection of the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC. Ambassador Joe Hockey in his thank you letter, said: Given your many years of residence in New York and contributions to the art community, it is particularly fitting to present your works at a time when it is so important to highlight Australian contributions to and relationships in the United States. Her painting Sunset in the City, which hangs in the Esther Tuckey Library, was presented to the School by Virginia in honour of her friend Dianne McKinnon (Klippel) (dec).

'Eucalyptus' – Acrylic on canvas 153cm x 91cm
©Virginia Cuppaidge 2012


AMANDA FORREST (Head Girl, 2004) completed a Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Marketing and a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology at the University of Technology, Sydney, which included 2 weeks at the European School of Economics in Rome. After a variety of roles including time as a Tourism Department Liaison Officer with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (NSW), Amanda moved into the pharmaceutical industry with the international research-based group Bayer. After gaining experience in different areas of the company in Sydney, Amanda was appointed in as Deputy Director Brands, Hematology & Ophthalmology, in Basel, Switzerland in October 2017. This position is a global role and involves travel to many different countries and Amanda is busy learning both French and German, both of which are spoken in Basel. She is living 20 minutes from France and Germany and only hours from Italy and is looking forward to doing some travelling of her own to these nearby countries. Amanda is appreciating the benefits of learning French and Latin at School – both subjects are proving helpful in gaining fluency in French and in studying other foreign languages she now requires in her new position.


ELLIE GAFF (2015) is studying Interior Design at Billie Blue College and has also started her own design business Ginger & Willow Interiors. Her first commission – bespoke lighting – was for The Mill, Bowral. The idea started when she had to make a light for a college assessment and thought it would be sensible to make something useful which led to her first light shade.It was the Head of the Interior Design Department who suggested she go into production. The business name and brand, Ginger & Willow Interiors, came from Ellie’s DAT major work at Frensham. She is now working on developing her social media, Instagram and Facebook so that when she graduates, she already has a ‘brand’ for freelance interior design.

Lights in situ at The Mill, Bowral


ISABEAU GAVEL (2013) has completed her combined Arts/Science degree at the University of Sydney. She is planning to travel to Costa Rica in early 2018 to undertake a voluntary internship at a research station in the cloud forest. When she returns, she will complete an Honours year based on a scientific research project.


SAMANTHA GAVEL (HOLDEN, 1981) has worked for both State and Commonwealth governments since finishing School and university. She has held several statutory officer positions and was most recently appointed as NSW Privacy Commissioner in September 2017. She is also currently Deputy Chair of the Women’s College Council at the University of Sydney. Samantha’s mother, Patricia Holden (Townsend), travelled from England at the age of 25 in the 1950s to teach Physical Education at Frensham and met her husband, Tom Holden, while she was at Frensham when he travelled from Jervis Bay in charge of a group of naval cadets who came to the School to participate in sporting events and a dance.


MARION HALL BEST (BURKITT, 1922) (dec 1988) initially trained as a nurse but after her marriage she took up interior design. Her hallmark was an adventurous and sophisticated use of colour, often combining hot pinks, oranges and yellows for maximum impact, which won her many commissions in Sydney including the Queen’s Club and the Royal Exchange. She took lectures in Architecture at the University of Sydney and an interior design correspondence course from New York, study which enabled her to achieve a more professional standard of presentation and design. In 1938, she opened a retail business, Marion Best Pty Ltd, and commissions included units in Elizabeth Street (1939), Lady Gowrie Child Centre (1941), Moonbah Ski Lodge (1961) and Hyatt Hotel, Kings Cross (1970). An exhibition of her work entitled Marion Hall Best: Interiors was held at the Museum of Sydney from 5 August to 12 November 2017.Marion had a life-long passion for eye-popping, colourful trend-setting designs and examples of her work are held by the Historic Houses Trust of NSW (Sydney) and the Australian National Gallery, Canberra.

Marion Hall Best wearing a Marimekko dress in the courtyard of her home in Woollahra,1968. Picture credit: Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums. Picture: Rodney Weidland.

‘A room for Mary Quant’, display room designed by Marion Best Pty Ltd from the Rooms on View exhibition, Daily Telegraph Home Centre, 1967. Picture credit: Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection,
Sydney Living Museums. Picture: Mary White.


Artist JULIET HOLMES À COURT (1973) held a collaborative exhibition in July with interior designer and artist Ruth Levine and poet Paolo Totaro OA entitled Trembling Man: 2 Artists and a Poet in the Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Paolo Totaro has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the three have worked to entwine their three art forms: poems, paintings and objects, to tell of Paolo’s memories, created by war and love, and of memories fast being destroyed by disease.

This exhibition explores and stores these memories in three different art forms to create a perfect ‘circularity’ with twelve poems. The exhibition was in support of the ‘Shake It Up’ Foundation for Parkinson’s disease.

Juliet Holmes à Court, Paolo Totaro and Ruth Levine. Photo: Shake It Up Foundation. Photo credit: Toby Evans


Before attending Frensham, vocalist JANE IRVING (1988) was involved in choirs, classical piano eisteddfods and studied the flute for a few years. At Frensham, she took acting classes, learned pottery and sang in the Madrigal choir and says that this is when ‘her creativity started to open up’. She discovered jazz in her late teens when her parents sent her to jazz camps in the school holidays. For her HSC Music examination, Jane came 3rd in the State for her classical piano performance. After leaving school, Jane worked as a piano player/singer but a jazz vocal workshop at the Conservatorium in Sydney changed everything: a guitar player there offered her a gig which was the first time she sang without a piano and a rhythm section behind her. Jane formed a band and started singing in and around the Sydney area and at festivals such as Thredbo, Manly and South Coast Jazz Festivals. She also played regularly at popular Sydney spots The Basement, Soup Plus, The Sound Lounge and 505. In 2011, Jane moved to New York with husband, bassist Kevin Hailey. Together they reside in Brooklyn and perform at numerous NYC venues. Jane also continues to play piano on gigs around town.


KIRSTY McIVOR (1984) has spent sixteen years as a journalist working in Australia, the UK and America. She has been Executive Producer of the ABC’s current affairs radio programme PM and ABC Radio News as well as the afternoon presenter on ABC 702 in Sydney. Kirsty then joined the United Nations as the Chief of Communication UNICEF. She worked in Bangladesh and Indonesia before returning to Australia in 2008. Based in the Southern Highlands, she now runs a strategic communications and media training consultancy.


LEX MURRAY-LESLIE (Alexandra, 1988) has enjoyed a diverse and colourful career. While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts (Munich), she met New Yorker Melissa Logan and they collaborated on various projects including a bar, cabaret, arts collective, and performed with the music ensemble ‘Chicks on Speed’ – a multidisciplinary project blurring the lines between media, art, music, fashion and performance. She is Professor of Soundtrack and Fashion Film at Elisava, Pompeu Fabra University, Instituto Eureopeo de Designo, Barcelona, and lectures at Interface Cultures, University of Art and Design, Linz, Austria. Alex is currently undertaking a PhD in Musical Instrument Design for Multimedia Performance, Department of Engineering and IT, University of Technology, Sydney.


ROSIE NIELSEN (Diana, 2008) addressed the annual conference of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) in Bourke in March. She grew up on a property 115 kms west of Bourke and was a student of the School of Distance Education from Pre-school to Year 7 when she began at Frensham. After school, Rosie worked for a year as a jillaroo in the Kimberleys and, after trying Law, decided to apply for Medicine, somewhat influenced by the health inequities she had seen in the Kimberleys. In her interview for entry, when asked to relate a recent stressful situation, she surprised the interviewers by telling of the time she managed to get her horse bogged in swampy quicksand on a salt flat when walking cattle. She had to climb a tree to get enough two-way reception to get onto the head stockman to come back and help the horse – and endure his wrath as he had told her not to ride through the quicksand. He told her: You can hold the gun because we’re probably going to have to shoot her when we pull her out with the ute and break her legs. Fortunately, it ended well with the horse unharmed.The interviewing panel was impressed and told her: That’s pretty much exactly what being a doctor is like. You do the wrong thing all the time. It’s unavoidable. No one has all the answers. You’ll be scorned and ridiculed but the important thing that we care about is the way you react in tricky situations. It’s how you deal with the pressure. Rosie has now finished her medical studies and is currently a doctor at Dubbo Base Hospital. Rosie has nothing but praise for her years as a Distance Education student and the great help it has been in different ways – she developed confidence, never felt there was anything she couldn’t do and, as a consequence, could dream about ‘big things’. It taught her to set priorities and organise, not only for school but for everything else going on, to be flexible and learn to cope. These skills are now invaluable in her career.She is committed to being a rural doctor, concerned that people in rural and remote area and in aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are the most disadvantaged. She believes that encouraging rural children to study is the way to get professionals into rural areas in the jobs needed in those places.Rosie is currently on the GP training programme through the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, developing skills in areas such as Obstetrics, Paediatrics and Emergency, which are hallmarks of a rural and remote practitioner.Her final message was that children in Distance Education or in small country schools should never think they are at a disadvantage – their unique experiences enable them to believe in themselves and be independent in taking on the world.


GENEVIEVE WILLIAMS (2008) Since August 2015, Genevieve has been Associate Director at the Peter Blake Gallery at Laguna Beach, California, a definitive source for modern and contemporary art with its programme focused on monochrome, concrete, and reductive abstraction, with an emphasis on California minimalism and Light and Space. Genevieve completed a BA majoring in Art History and Theory at the University of Sydney in 2012 and then worked with Shapiro Auctioneers and Gallery, Woollahra, as well as Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, assisting the Sculpture Sales Coordinator in various aspects of the administration of the installation. In November 2013, she commenced as Head Registrar at Sullivan+Strumpf in Sydney then became Gallery Manager at the same gallery before moving to California in June 2015. Over the last eighteen months, Genevieve has organised the showing of the Peter Blake Gallery collections across America in Chicago, New York, Seattle, Santa Monica and San Diego.Genevieve’s mother is Cherylynne Williams, Frensham’s Librarian.