On a hot morning in February 1896, in a large house in Mayston Street, Camberwell, fourteen girls gathered round a big dining room table waiting to be divided into classes. At one end of the table sat Miss Annie Hughston and at the other, her brother William. That was the beginning of Fintona.
Today 120 years later, Fintona remains one of Victoria's most successful and respected schools as demonstrated by our consistently high achievements in our VCE and NAPLAN results.
The name Fintona (pronounced FIN-tona) came from a village in Northern Ireland, where Miss Hughston's mother spent her early childhood. In 1898, Fintona was moved to a site on the corner of Burke and Victoria Roads, Camberwell, where it remained until 1936, when the move to Balwyn took place. By 1901 there were 100 pupils and Fintona was acknowledged for its scholastic excellence, and a close affiliation with the Presbyterian Church.
By 1921, when Miss Hughston retired, the School's numbers had reached 450 and in 1923, under Fintona's second Headmistress Miss Isobel Macdonald, the five Houses of Boyne, Clarke, Maxwell, Murdoch and Ower were formed. In 1974, the House of Hughston was added.
In 1927, during the time of Miss Marjory Black as Headmistress of Fintona, the school uniform changed from blue to brown.
In 1929, Miss Jeanie McCowan became Fintona's fourth Headmistress and appointed Miss Cunningham as the School's Assistant Science Mistress and House Mistress of Ower.
In 1935, Miss Cunningham, was offered and bought the goodwill of Fintona from Miss Hughston and became Fintona's fifth Headmistress and Principal. In 1936, Fintona moved into Tourmont, the stately mansion owned by Miss Cunningham situated on the magnificent site where Fintona resides today.
These early days saw the beginning of key events in the annual calendar, such as Drama Day and Shakespeare Day, along with the Annual Music Festival. The major development following the lifting of wartime restrictions was the building of the Junior School and Buick Hall on the Mitiamo site in Balwyn Road, which was purchased in 1939 and named after Miss Cunningham's grandfather, mother and aunt.
When the flag was raised at Tourmont in 1936, Miss Cunningham announced that she had made a Will bequeathing Fintona to the Old Fintonians. A Company known as Fintona Girls' School was formed, with membership available to past pupils and past and present teachers. In 1961, after 34 years of service, Miss Cunningham retired and announced her successor, Miss Elizabeth Butt, as Headmistress, who assumed the position in 1963. Throughout Miss Butt's period as Headmistress, she oversaw substantial building extensions to the Senior and Junior Schools, major changes in the curriculum, a deepening of contacts with other schools, as well as expansion on the sporting, drama and musical fronts.
In 1991, Miss Butt retired after 29 years as Headmistress, and was succeeded by Mrs Deborah Seifert in 1992 who ushered in some more exciting transformations to Fintona, not only through the considerable building work undertaken in the Junior School, refurbishment to the Science laboratories in the Senior School, but also, most visibly, through the return to the blue uniform of the past.
In 1995, an Early Learning Centre was introduced.
Fintona celebrated its centenary in 1996, marked by the start of the construction of a purpose-built Music Building, the Reid Studio.
In 2001, Dr Karen Starr became the Principal and oversaw five years of strong progress and development in the School. Under her leadership, Fintona's reputation for excellence in education continued and was supported by the recruitment of exceptional new staff to the existing ranks.
Mrs Suzy Chandler was appointed in April 2006 and since then she has made her mark on every aspect of school life with energy, astuteness and vision.
In 2018, we welcomed Ms Rachael Falloon as Fintona's new Principal. Her goal is to develop young women who are agile learners – capable, confident and curious; young women who know themselves deeply, embrace opportunity and contribute positively to the world.
For a pictorial timeline of the School's major milestones, click here.