Abi Richardson is a director and producer. Most of her work today is with the not for profit sector, helping charities, social services and education providers tell their stories. Her path to this work was moulded by her education at PCW.
For a student who was captain of music, a career in the arts was always going to be a likely choice but importantly, the values that were engrained at PCW helped shape Abi.
“I graduated in 1987 and looking back, I think the Presentation Sisters were way ahead of their time. We see a lot of energy today away from the classroom on social justice, diversity and wellbeing, which is fantastic, but when I reflect I realise we had it all back then. Our school was a kaleidoscope of different cultures, from third generation boarders who came from very successful families in the country, right through to refugees from the housing commission flats - and we were all treated equally. Every girl was valued and was encouraged to support each other, to be a leader.
“Some of the girls were from very poor families, but every single girl in the school felt empowered to be the best young woman they could be. I never felt my life would be different because I was a woman, I never felt disadvantaged and that stayed with me throughout my entire life.”
Abi says the Presentation Sisters always encouraged girls to have an opinion, but importantly, that opinion needed to be well informed.
“They were truly amazing, they travelled the world, experienced different cultures, they were really brave. And those fundamentals are even more important today, especially in the era of social media, those fundamentals stand the test of time."
Caring for other people was another focus of the Presentation Sisters, just like at CBC where social justice programs formed a significant part of the education experience.
“We were encouraged to have a balance between our sense of self and wellbeing, but not at the expense of caring for other people. I remember we would go to Grey Street to help the prostitutes and help the homeless people around St Kilda and it did us the world of good. A lot of the girls were living very comfortable lives and seeing this, in our own backyard, was all part of our education and it was just as important as our maths scores."
Abi believes the spirit of Presentation College will live on with St Mary’s College.
“This coming together will be fantastic for the girls and the boys to share the strengths of both schools and give them a realistic entrée into the real world.”
“It’s a fantastic turn of events and I think both CBC and Presentation College have done an amazing job of looking after students and families that didn’t have the same capacity that some others do over the years. These two schools have such unique histories and legacies.
“We are in a unique position to be able to build a very special school in inner Melbourne, taking the best of the values from Edmund Rice and the Presentation Sisters and I believe that you will not get a better experience in any other school in Melbourne. These schools are about education inside and outside of the classroom and this is going to be a wonderful thing.
“It made me braver, it made me keep trying harder, it made me have a go at things and fail, and all that helped shape me into the person I am today."
“We were always taught to make mistakes, to be brave and there is not one thing I have done in my life that I’ve been really proud of that I wasn’t really scared to begin with, you have to give it a go and that is what my education gave me.”