leadership

The corporate clique ruling Australia’s private schools

Jaclyn Densley /

The directors of elite Melbourne Girls School Methodist Ladies College (MLC) have been pressed into arbitration after Uniting Church moderators raised concerns about the board’s sacking of principal Rosa Storelli.

The story has garnered an unusual amount of attention, largely due to the high-powered corporate personalities involved. But as Andrew Crook revealed in Crikey yesterday, many private schools have similarly impressive boards.

Last week’s high-profile axing of principal Rosa Storelli from Melbourne institution Methodist Ladies’ College over the alleged non-repayment of salary perks got us thinking about the blue-chip corporates who helm the country’s elite band of independent schools.

Sometimes behind the scenes, more often screaming for attention on school websites and LinkedIn pages, the nation’s business leaders regard a private school sinecure as the ultimate networking opportunity, a chance to “give back”, or to stay in touch with the kids they neglected to pursue their white collar careers.

The perfect boardie for many schools is an old boy or girl turned-CEO of a listed company, a current or former parent, with a few other directorships thrown in for good measure. More overtly churchy campuses usually include an archbishop such as Sydney gay lifespan expert Peter Jensen at the helm in a ceremonial role?—?but pulling the strings are a who’s who of Australia’s boardroom players. Many sit beside a high-powered “foundation” charged with raking in cash from benefactors, in addition to the millions gleaned each term in fees.

MLC’s jaw-dropping board responsible for Storelli’s sacking includes Melbourne University Press CEO Louise Adler, Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour, KPMG media gadfly Bernard Salt, Qantas, NAB and JB Were director (and current parent) Patricia Cross, former La Trobe deputy VC Belinda Probert and ex-Crazy John’s CEO and Australia Post director Brendan Fleiter. The board was previously chaired by former Qantas chair Margaret Jackson.

Amusingly, Salt denied in yesterday’s Herald Sun that the group was too corporate, claiming it “comprises pretty much the kind of people you would find at any MLC function.”

Let’s kick off with some schools drawn from Mark Latham’s 67-strong 2004 private school hit-list that, as Inside Story’s Peter Browne discovered recently, was actually a bonus for Labor in the polls. And after seven long years, it’s also time to update Crikey’s list of famous old boys and girls from the nation’s bastions of blazer-clad privilege, some of whom are listed below.

Send all additions, changes and corrections to [email protected] and we’ll keep the list updated

New South Wales

Ascham School: chaired by Macquarie, Bluescope and (former) Woolworths director Diane Grady; treasurer is Morgan Stanley CEO Steven Harker and Goldman Sachs investment banking co-chair Tim Burroughs is also going strong

Cranbrook School: eastern suburbs power factory chaired by corporate director extraordinaire and Bradley Review co-author Helen Nugent (Macquarie, Origin Energy and Freehills), multi-millionaire vice chair Roger Massy-Greene (Eureka Capital Partners chair) and former News Limited cadet Sarita England. The education committee is chaired by Sydney Uni VC Michael Spence.

Frensham School: board chaired by Qantas HR supremo Gabrielle Curtin

Kambala: Annoyingly fails to list its 14-member school council on its website. Was previously chaired by former federal Liberal Party president Chris McDiven.

Knox Grammar School: blue-chip council heaving with A-list talent including ABC kingpin and old boy Mark Scott, KPMG CEO Geoff Wilson, Metcash, Tower and Selmat director Fiona Balfour, ex-Rural Press director and Fairfax family right hand man Peter Roach, Merrill Lynch MD Richard Alcock and the St James Ethics Centre’s Simon Longstaff.

MLC School: chaired by finance industry tsar and old girl Pauline Johnston

Newington College: board stacked full of old boys including land and environment judge Robert Talbot and crime Magistrate Greg Grogin. When’s ABC old boy Tony Jones hopping on?

Pittwater House: chaired by leading NSW beak Todd Alexis

Presbyterian Ladies’ College: medical focus including Sydney Uni Bosch Professor Warwick Britton and prominent doctor David Lim

Pymble Ladies’ College: chaired by REIT industry figure and Trafalgar CEO Braith Williams

Ravenswood School for Girls: chaired by former Minters CEO Guy Templeton

St Ignatius College, Riverview: star-studded board including PR queen and multiple-government boardie Gabrielle Trainor and St Vincent’s health director Paul Robertson

SCEGGS Darlinghurst: former ABC 702 host turned Coke spinner Sally Loane, Good News Week talking head (and old girl) Julie McCrossin and Australia Post/BlueScope Steel director Penny Bingham-Hall all there

Redlands: AMP general counsel Brian Salter is a director

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