Alumni Success Stories - Herald Sun Feature | Fintona Girls' School

Alumni Success Stories - Herald Sun Feature

20 July 2020

Read some of the extraordinary stories of our alumni featured in the Herald Sun today.


Published by Herald Sun, 20/07/2020

The past students of Fintona are a clever and diverse bunch. From opera singers and winemakers to doctors and lawyers, these are some of the Balwyn school’s top alumni.


Jill Sewell was the second woman and paediatrician to become President of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

Jill Sewell enjoyed ‘having a go’ at Fintona, with school work, sport, social activities and friendships. She has continued that style throughout her life, taking up opportunities that came her way.

She studied medicine at the University of Melbourne, became a developmental behavioural paediatrician, then saw the value of understanding the health system as a whole, both to enrich her field of early childhood health and development, and to raise standards across the health profession.

She was the second woman and second paediatrician to become president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, has influenced workforce flexibility for medical women, has served on state and national bodies for quality improvement of health service delivery, was a director of Alfred Health for nine years, and has recently been elected as president of the Australian Medical Council.

She has always maintained her clinical interest in children with developmental, behavioural and learning difficulties and is the deputy director of the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital where she has overview responsibility for the developmental and behavioural speciality clinics. She is also a clinical director of the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Bioethics Centre.

Jill was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for services to child health. In 2013 she was honoured to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Medical Science from the University of Melbourne.

In November last year, she took part in the largest all female expedition to Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound Women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) Leadership Program that supports women to develop skills to move into leadership roles.



What journey took Andrea Coote from being a Fintona student to being a Member of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament for 14 years representing Balwyn and its surrounding suburbs?

Andrea gives credit to an excellent education that gave her the confidence to believe she could make a difference for the wider good and gave her great values on which to base her career choices.

After leaving school, Andrea did librarianship and became one of the librarians for BHP. She then graduated from Hawthorn Teacher’s College and worked as a teacher librarian at a technical school and as a reference librarian at Swinburne University. She then graduated from Melbourne University with a Bachelor of Arts.

Her varied career path lead to her election, and extraordinarily to growing mushrooms as Mrs Coote of Cootehill, where she lived on an estate in Ireland near the village of Fintona, for which her old School was named.

Back in Victoria, she established the State Library of Victoria Foundation, worked with federal and state MPs and finally worked in public relations and communications.

She was elected to the Victorian Parliament in 1999 and enjoyed a very fulfilling career. She held several senior positions of responsibility including Parliamentary Secretary for Communities, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Chair of Legislative Council Committees and numerous shadow ministry positions.

Her major role now is as Chair of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Advisory Council.\



Gael Jennings was the ABC’s first national science and medical reporter for TV news in 1986. Picture: Supplied

Gael attended Fintona from Prep to Year 12, graduating in 1969.

She completed a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours at the University of Melbourne and a PhD in Immunology from The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Half way through the PhD, she realised a lab life was not for her; she wanted to make research come alive to others. She had a five-year plan to do it, and became the ABC’s first national science and medical reporter for TV News in 1986, then, over 30-plus years, for The 7.30 Report, for Quantum and Catalyst, and presenter of ABC radio 774 midmorning and afternoon shows.

She developed science, ethics and natural history content for ABC TV Documentary, was presenter of Insight on SBS TV, a regular on ABC TV’s Einstein Factor, and is currently a regular commentator on ABC TV News Breakfast and an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Her extensive awards include the NSW Premier’s History Award, Walkley Award National Finalist, Austcare Media Award, winner MBF Wellbeing Journalism Award, numerous Michael Daley Journalism Awards, and UN Media Award Finalist.

Gael is author of two books, MC and facilitator in science, education, gender equity, violence against women, and media. The 14 Boards she has served on include the Melbourne Writers Festival, Cancer Council Australia, Museums Victoria, and the YMCA. She is currently a member of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority Board.

Gael received a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in this year’s Australia Day Honours for significant service to science and broadcast media.



Amanda Leach worked in Darwin for more than 30 years in the Child Health Division at Menzies School of Health Research.

Amanda graduated from Fintona in 1972 and went on to study a Master of Agricultural Science at La Trobe University (1983), then completed a PhD (Medicine) in 1998 from the University of Sydney.

Working in Darwin for over 30 years in the Child Health Division at Menzies School of Health Research, Amanda has been responsible for leading research into improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

She has been successful in attracting National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding for clinical trials to evaluate strategies for the prevention and treatment of middle ear infections and hearing loss. Chronic ear infections and hearing loss affect almost all Northern Territory Aboriginal children and many adults, limiting their the social, cultural, education and employment opportunities.

In 2004 Amanda won a NHMRC career development award and in 2011 a senior research fellowship for top ranking female applicant in the clinical category.

Amanda is now a Senior Principal Research Fellow, Leader of the Ear Health Research Program and Principal Investigator of the Centre for Research Excellence in Ear and Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

She is also Joint Chair of the five-year Hearing for Learning Initiative, a funding partnership between The Balnaves Foundation, the Northern Territory Government, and the Australian Government.

In 2019, Amanda was awarded the Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year. The award recognised her tireless work in improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through medical research.\



Alison Duxbury is the Deputy Dean at Melbourne Law School. Picture: Supplied

Alison completed all her schooling at Fintona, graduating in 1987. She was involved in several activities, including debating and the orchestra.

She studied a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Melbourne and a Master of Laws at the University of Cambridge where she was a Pegasus Cambridge Commonwealth Scholar.

In 2008, she received her PhD in international law from the University of Melbourne.

After working in major commercial law firms in Melbourne and London, Alison embarked on a career in teaching and research. Her areas of expertise are in the fields of international law and human rights law.

Alison is now a Professor and the incoming Deputy Dean at Melbourne Law School. She is also the Associate Director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law and the Chair of the International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a non-governmental organisation with offices in Delhi, Accra and London. Alison is a member of the Council of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law and the Executive Council of the Asian Society of International Law.

Alison has been a Visiting Fellow at the universities of Cambridge, Hong Kong, London and Oxford.

She is also the recipient of three teaching prizes, including the Barbara Falk Award for Teaching Excellence and a National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.\



Louisa Rose was voted the best winemaker in Australia by 100 of her peers in 2014.

After graduating from Fintona in 1987, Louisa completed a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in physics, from the University of Melbourne. She then studied winemaking at the University of Adelaide, graduating as Dux in 1992.

While studying she worked as a cellar hand at Yalumba in the Barossa, and then returned to join the team after completing her qualifications.

Twenty nine vintages later now Chief Winemaker and a member of the executive management board, Louisa has been involved in almost every facet of winemaking, viticulture and cellar management.

In 1999 she was named Barossa Winemaker of the Year, in 2004 she was awarded International Woman in Wine by the London based International Wine and Spirit Competition and in 2008 was named Winemaker of the Year by the prestigious Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine.

In 2013 she was awarded Winemaker of the Year by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology, and in August 2014 voted the best winemaker in Australia by 100 of her peers – winemakers, sommeliers and wine buyers from around the country.

Louisa has been heavily involved in judging at both Australian and International Wine Shows and has also been Chair of Judges, the first female winemaker to do so on the Australian National Wine Show circuit. Louisa is also the first female to be Grand Master of the Barons of Barossa. She is Chairman of the Board of the AWRI (Australian Wine Research Institute) and Chair of the University of Adelaide Alumni Association.



Dr Bronwyn King began her career treating lung cancer patients at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Bronwyn attended Fintona from Prep to Year 12, graduating in 1992.

She studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and began her career treating lung cancer patients at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

While doing her best to help her patients (many of whom had started smoking in childhood) Dr King observed first-hand the truly devastating impact of tobacco – many deaths and much suffering. She was unaware that at the very same time she was investing in Big Tobacco via her compulsory superannuation fund. Tobacco Free Portfolios was set up in response to that uncomfortable discovery.

Since then, Dr King has championed the switch to tobacco-free finance across the globe. She led the development of the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge, a global initiative backed by President Macron, UN agencies and the World Health Organisation. The Pledge now has 138 Signatories – leading financial institutions from more than 20 countries that control a combined total of US$10 trillion.

Dr King’s 2017 TEDxSydney talk has been viewed more than three million times.

Dr King is also a former elite swimmer who represented Australia and for ten years worked as Team Doctor for the Australian Swimming Team. Dr King has received numerous awards in recognition of her unique contribution to local and global health, including being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to community health. She is the reigning Melburnian of the Year, an award bestowed by the City of Melbourne.



Louise Bawden has represented Australia at the Olympics three times. 

Louise embraced all sporting opportunities while she attended Fintona and was heavily involved in basketball, athletics, and diving.

At the end of Year 11, she was awarded a volleyball scholarship to attend the Australian Institute of Sport and joined the Australian Women’s Volleyball Team.

As a professional athlete, Louise represented Australia in three Olympics; Sydney 2000 for indoor volleyball, followed by London 2012 and Rio 2016 for beach volleyball.

Other sporting achievements included the World Beach Volleyball Association’s Top Rookie Award in 2009 as well as Asian Champions between 2013-2017.

Louise won the Australian Championships six times with various playing partners and was the recipient of Volleyball Australia’s female athlete of the year on multiple occasions.

Louise spent 10 years competing on the Beach Volleyball World Tour, visiting more than 35 countries and climbing the beach volleyball ranks.

With partner Taliqua Clancy, she achieved a world ranking of 5th in 2015/16.

In the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio, Louise and Taliqua made it to the quarterfinals, falling to eventual bronze medallists, the USA.

Louise has also completed a Bachelor of Communications and journalism. Following her retirement in 2018, Louise shifted her focus to coaching and secured a role as the assistant beach volleyball coach at Stanford University in the US.

Louise continues her love for volleyball, learning and travel as an instructor for the world volleyball association, the FIVB, and has conducted coach education courses in Tuvalu and India.



Lucinda Hartley has been involved in kickstarting a range of social change initiatives including slum resettlement projects with the United Nations.

Lucinda graduated from Fintona in 1999 and in Year 12 was School Captain, a House Captain and Captain of Athletics. She then gained a Bachelor of Arts and Science from Monash University, followed by postgraduate study in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design at the University of Melbourne.

Having started her career as an urban designer, she set aside a traditional career to embrace her passion for making cities more socially inclusive and connected.

Over the past decade, she has been involved in kickstarting a range of social change initiatives including slum resettlement projects with the United Nations and delivering more than 100 neighbourhood improvement projects in Australia through her consultancy, CoDesign Studio.

Lucinda’s latest venture with her co-founder, is Neighbourlytics, a company that uses a social data analytics platform to enable decision makers to understand how cities work by gaining an insight into the wellbeing and local life of communities.

Lucinda’s work has been widely recognised receiving more than a dozen urban planning and design awards.

She was named as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review and one of Melbourne’s Top 100 most influential people by The Age.

Lucinda has also featured in an interview in Vogue Australia and has spoken at the Vogue Codes Summit in Sydney, and was selected as a 2018 Myer Innovation Fellow and 2019 Westpac Social Change Fellow.

Lucinda is passionate about data, technology and social change.

She does not separate work and personal life: first we shape our cities, then they shape us.



Olivia Cranwell made her Victorian Opera debut as Gossip in Angelique.

Olivia graduated from Fintona in 2005 and in her final year was school music captain.

Olivia went on to study a double degree of Bachelor of Music and Arts at the University of Melbourne.

In 2012, she was selected as one of only eight singers to be awarded a scholarship for Melbourne University’s inaugural Master of Music (Opera Performance), a two-year postgraduate opera performance degree.

While undertaking her Masters, Olivia was accepted to the position of Developing Artist with Victorian Opera where she made her debut for the company playing the role of Gossip in Angelique, since then she has performed as soloist in many productions including the world premiere of The Magic Pudding.

Olivia went on to work with various companies throughout Australia. Most recently, for Opera Australia performing the roles of Ortlinde in Die Wälkure, Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and returned to City of Stonnington as Mimi in La Bohème where she previously sang the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly.

Olivia has performed as a soloist for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and the Murray River International Music Festival in Mildura.

Olivia’s notable achievements include runner-up in the Herald Sun Aria 2017, and at the 2014 Italian Opera Foundation Awards Olivia was also recently awarded the Australian Opera Auditions Committee’s Opera Scholarship and in 2020 was an ensemble member with the Vienna State Opera, performing as a soloist in their 2019/2020 season after which she returns back to Australia to perform in the Brisbane Ring Cycle.