A round up of happenings and achievements in the Grammar community


Volunteers go to Lismore

The recent catastrophic flooding at Lismore on the Far North Coast of NSW peaked at a record high of almost 14.5m and nothing could have prepared the residents for the degree of devastation that it caused.

Our own Warren Cree, Deputy Group Captain Northern Beaches District NSW RFS, had already been discussing with the School the possibility of deployment to the region when the call came in for his RFS district to send a Strike Team. Twenty-four volunteers were quickly assembled, including Warren as the Strike Team Leader, his son Mitchell Cree (OS 2021) and Blake Dutton (OS 2014) and they set off on Thursday 3 March.

On Friday they were briefed and put to work in the Lismore CBD.

As Warren relates: “Our mission was to prepare hotels and motels to take people from the evacuation centres. This involved performing a Rapid Damage Assessment on the buildings, cleaning them out, and getting them up and running again.

“Our crews hosed and mopped out premises as best they could for three full days, always remaining alert to the dangers of snakes, COVID-19, Japanese encephalitis, and sewage. It was not a very pleasant task, but the resilience of the locals was inspiring. Amongst all the filth, I saw one group of locals having a beer in the street and singing happy birthday to someone.”

Warren’s team were flown home on Monday afternoon after a replacement crew came in to take their place.

The day after returning from Lismore, Warren was out until midnight with the RFS doing flood work on the Northern Beaches followed by an assignment in the Nepean/ Hawkesbury River area.

Warren continues: “I visited Wiseman’s Ferry for a day, leading eight appliances tasked with cleaning up a caravan/water-ski park. It took an entire day, working in ankle deep silt and muck, to empty caravans, hose them out and cart rubbish away.

“The whole experience has certainly left a lifelong impression on me.”

The below video records some of the devastation witnessed by the team

Strong HSC results

Despite the ravages of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions through their HSC year, the young men of Grammar’s 2021 cohort have achieved impressive HSC success.

Capping strong results across the whole cohort, an unprecedented twelve boys achieved the maximum ATAR in 2021 – a remarkable outcome and all credit to the boys’ hard work and determination.

In NESA’s published Higher School Certificate merit lists for 2021, Grammar boys were conspicuous. Five boys achieved a total of nine First in Course results. Boys at the School earned 48 places in the Top Achievers in Course list, the most of any school in New South Wales. In total, 62 boys were listed as All-Rounders for achieving top band results in 10 or more units, and 159 out of 184 boys were listed on the Distinguished Achievers list for achieving at least one top band result. The School once again placed as the top independent school in New South Wales according to The Sydney Morning Herald’s league table.

The School’s table of ATAR outcomes over time has now been updated on the School website with figures for 2021

Click here to view the ATAR table

Click here to view the NESA merit lists

Dean of Sydney appointment

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Canon Sandy Grant (OS 1986) has been appointed the 13th Dean of Sydney, a post with a history stretching back to 1858 when William Macquarie Cowper became the first Dean.

From 2004, Sandy was the Senior Minister of St Michael’s in Wollongong where he was involved in a wide range of social issues. He chaired the Diocesan Task Force on Domestic and Family Violence over the last seven years and led the Diocese in addressing this critical issue, including through the adoption of wide-ranging policies and practices for responding to domestic violence in the church. He was a passionate anti-gambling advocate and he also promoted indigenous reconciliation locally in Wollongong and through the Synod, including as a member of the Diocesan Social Issues Committee.

Sandy remarked that “It has been a privilege to provide a voice to the city of Wollongong in the name of Jesus and his followers, and I look forward to trying to offer the same perspective to the great city of Sydney, where I grew up.”

A prolific author

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Dr Luke Harley, a Housemaster and English master at College Street, is also a writer; his work has been published widely in the USA, UK, France and Australia. Notable works by Harley, a former London-based music journalist, include An Apollonian Scream, Words that Bleed Music, Poetry as Virtual Community, Searchlight Intelligence: Barrett Watten’s Critical Poetics, Music as Prod and Precedent, and his series of interviews with the language poet Ted Pearson.

In June 2021 Harley’s work appeared in Nathaniel Mackey, Destination Out: Essays on His Work, a new book from University of Iowa Press. Mackey, winner of America’s National Book Award in 2006, has been the subject of feature articles in The New York Times and The New Yorker of late, and Harley was the only non-American author invited to contribute to this first book of essays on Mackey’s work. Harley’s essay, Wariness Notwithstanding, draws upon personal experiences with the poet, including time spent together at a conference in Paris in 2016. It specifically focuses on the musical aspect of Mackey’s poetry and prose, in particular his collaborations with musicians such as Don Cherry, Hafez Modirzadeh, Royal Hartigan, Marilyn Crispell, Henry Grimes, Vattel Cherry and Sid Richardson.

Fulbright Scholarship

The Fulbright Scholarship Program is the largest educational exchange program in the world, designed to promote education, strengthen collaboration, and enhance cultural exchange between the United States and Australia. Michael Gvozdenovic (OS 2012), was awarded the scholarship in 2021, and was provided the opportunity to go to New York to pursue a Master of Laws at Columbia Law School.

Michael chose to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship because of its unique focus on studying in the US and using that experience and knowledge to give back to Australia.

Michael writes: “It is a great privilege to be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. Undertaking postgraduate studies in the US offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn from world-leading academics, further develop my research interests, and help me pursue my career goals. More broadly, it will undoubtedly improve my own critical thinking, pedagogy, writing, and research capabilities.

“There are a variety of career goals that I plan on exploring. I hope to design and teach a competition and antitrust law unit at Sydney Law School. I also hope to be involved with ongoing research projects at the University of Sydney, including the possibility of an international centre focused on competition regulations. Finally, I hope to continue practising in commercial litigation and competition law, with the aim of working on high-profile enforcement actions, and perhaps becoming involved in future reviews or reforms to the regulations.”

Michael has also recently had his two-volume edited collection, Current Issues in Competition Law published with the Federation Press.

Online Open Day

The Open Day is an important moment on the Sydney Grammar School calendar as the School extends a warm welcome to future boys and parents through the College Street gates. The Open Day allows our guests to experience the rich education and love of learning that is fostered across academic, sporting, and co-curricular pathways.

With the pandemic preventing us from hosting visitors onsite in 2021, a selection of masters and boys from all Forms worked alongside the Technical Services Department to create an “Online Open Day”. This virtual experience was released in late October and provided a snapshot of the breadth of offerings available here at College Street.

Dr Malpass’s welcome presentation filmed in Big School highlighted the importance of the fee assistance programme, the strength of the pastoral care system, and the unique path that each boy takes at the School. The boys reiterated the Headmaster’s final point with recorded anecdotes, testimonies, and performances; some comical, others more profound, but all showcasing their high level of achievement and sincere gratitude for the opportunities and support they receive at School.

Although we are hoping to host our Open Day guests onsite in 2022, this online tour permitted the School to connect with more families than usual. Furthermore, it delivered a strong message to our ever-growing community that it is the success in a diverse number of fields and the happiness of the boys that best illustrate the School today.

Click here to view the Online Open Day introductory video



Geography triumph

In March 2021 all boys studying Elective Geography in Forms II to V entered the Australian Geography Competition. The School finished first in Australia on overall results.

Charlie Veeneklaas (VI) and William Stafford (V) finished first in Australia, while Findlay Gordon (II), James Boyle (III) and Manas Jiwane (III) finished equal first in NSW.

As the highest performing pupil in Form V, William Stafford won a place on the NSW team for Geography’s Big Week Out to be held on the Gold Coast in January 2022. This is the selection camp for the Geography Olympiad to be held in Paris (July 2022).

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Left: Charlie Veeneklaas (VI); Centre: Will Stafford (V); Right: Manas Jiwane (III), James Boyle (III) and Findlay Gordon (II)

Slam poetry success

Sasha Danko (IV) has won the Sydney Slam Poetry competition – a commendable achievement in this all-ages event. He went on to represent Sydney in the NSW finals and was the youngest in the competition, just missing out on qualification for the nationals. Sasha was cheered on by several Grammar boys at both events and is keen to advance further in the 2022 competitions.

Click here to see samples of Sasha's poems

OSU Scholarship

The OSU has had a long history of supporting boys at the School through the OSU Scholarship. The process and award of the OSU Scholarship is part of the OSU’s unwavering commitment to the School, following a long tradition and support of outstanding representatives of the School. The 2021 Scholarship was a difficult choice as the six boys selected were all excellent. However, the committee decided the award would go to Mackley Stalker (V). Mackley has achieved excellent academic results as well as being a keen sportsman, particularly in rowing. Mackley has consistently demonstrated high levels of leadership skills at the School as a Cadet, a Peer Support Leader, Second Prefect and, more recently, as a discussion group leader for the Form III tutorial on consent, as part of the Future Leaders Programme. We congratulate Mackley on his award.

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Mr Walter MacCallum (OS 1987), Mackley Stalker (V) and the Headmaster

Constructing cajones

Upon return to school after a lengthy lockdown, Year 6 boys at St Ives constructed their very own Cajones during their Term IV Visual Arts lessons. The Cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument originally from Peru, played by slapping the front or rear plywood faces with the hands, fingers, or sometimes various implements such as brushes, mallets, or sticks. Cajones are traditionally played in Afro-Peruvian music but have made their way into flamenco, contemporary jazz and funky rhythms as well. Construction was frenetic but it was such an exciting and enjoyable end to each boy’s time in the Art Room.

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L–R: Alexander Thomas and James Mizens (both Year 6)

Nicholas Barbara honoured with University Medal

The School extends its warmest congratulations to Nicholas Barbara (OS 2015), to whom the University of Sydney awarded the 2020 University Medal and Honours Class 1 in his combined degree, Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Aeronautical Engineering) and Bachelor of Science (Advanced). He also won the Outstanding Proficiency Prize in Senior Advanced Aeronautical Engineering from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering. This is a wonderful achievement.

Nicholas has now embarked upon a PhD to study motion planning for dynamic bipedal robots in rough terrain. He will carry out his work at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, one of the largest robotics research institutes in the world. The School wishes him every success in his endeavours, and hopes soon to see one of his two-legged creations in action.

University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC and Nicholas Barbara (OS 2015)

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Edgecliff ISDA

Edgecliff entered two teams in the ISDA (Independent Schools’ Debating Association) competition. Our teams were prepared, strong, energised and ready to debate. But this year was quite a different experience for our two teams, not surprisingly because of COVID-19. Instead of travelling to different schools and debating face-to-face, they debated over Zoom. Once each topic was announced, our debaters, naturally curious and eager to learn, flew into action preparing for the arguing back and forth, rebutting and explaining what was ahead. Our two Year Six teams made the most of the experience, despite the challenges of online debating, and remained exemplary role models within the School.

An invitation to Old Sydneians

Since retiring from her position as Headmaster of St Ives, Mrs Rowena Lee has continued to share her passion for books and reading with teachers, parents and pupils.

When speaking to parents, Rowena highlights the important role reading aloud plays in developing children’s vocabulary, comprehension and imagination. She also suggests that parents can enrich their children’s lives and learning by making books and reading part of home culture.

Last year, Rowena returned to St Ives for a presentation titled ‘How to raise Readers and Writers’. In it she explained the role of fiction and non-fiction texts, how to recognise and assist reluctant readers and the importance of developing writing skills.

In 2022, the current Headmaster, Mr Ian Stephens, wants to extend an invitation to Old Sydneians and their families to attend a similar presentation about books and reading, and a tour of the Preparatory School.

All Old Sydneians are most welcome to attend, regardless of their association with St Ives. The presentation is designed for families with children aged 0-14 years and will include reading guides as well as strategies to develop positive reading habits.

For further details and to register interest, contact Mrs Edwina Alexander at St Ives Preparatory School.

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RAHT testing blitz

As COVID-19 case numbers exploded over the summer, the State Government was determined that the pupils should nonetheless return to school onsite for Term I. To do this safely required staff and boys to wear masks and to be regularly tested. Supplies of Rapid Antigen Home Testing (RAHT) kits were scarce in NSW and were only delivered to the School on the Tuesday afternoon preceding the boys’ return on Thursday. This gave one day – Australia Day – to get the kits out to boys and staff. A dedicated team worked well into Tuesday evening to unpack, sort and label the RAHTs so they could be collected by parents and boys from the College Street and Stanley Street gates the following day. Staff were able to collect their kits from designated areas within the School.

In the end, the operation progressed smoothly and enough kits were distributed to allow boys and staff to test themselves twice a week for the first few weeks of school. More kits have subsequently become available and have been distributed.

Procedures also had to be developed for the registering of positive test results and for the use of Zoom by any affected boys or staff. It has been a busy start to the year!

A warm thank you to Mr Tom Watkins, Mr Klaus Ossowski, Mr Greg Whitbread and the team for working so tirelessly to meet this particular COVID-19 challenge.

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Katharina Rysensteen departs for Denmark

Katharina Rysensteen resigned from Grammar at the end of 2021 after more than twenty years at the School, so that she could continue to support her elderly family in Denmark amidst all the difficulties of COVID-19 and travel restrictions. She leaves behind her a devoted following among the many members of her past Tutorials and among all those who worked and came into contact with Katharina in the Library and elsewhere.

Katharina’s kindness and supportive approach have been a hallmark of her time at the School, and these qualities fed directly into her passionate support for the School’s Community Service programme and broader charitable work. With her own background as a musician, Katharina found great joy in the School’s music and arts programmes. Her own sons, including two who attended Grammar, Alexander McKenzie (OS 2006) and Tom McKenzie (OS 2009), have gone on to pursue work in these areas as their vocation, also now based in Denmark.

A fond farewell to Jo Thame

Mrs Jo Thame retired at the beginning of Term I after almost twelve years as the Assistant to the Sportsmaster. Jo spent ten years assisting Mr Michael Curran as Sportsmaster and then paved a very smooth path for Mr Johnathan Redenbach as he entered into his new role as Sportsmaster in 2020.

Jo came to the role after working at two other schools and brought with her many skills that made her an ideal fit for the job. She has a genuine love of sport, the ability to manage issues, and to swiftly adapt to last minute changes when required. Jo was also extremely organised and fulfilled her role with great gusto and genuine care. Grammar sport has benefited greatly from her dedication and love for the School over twelve years and her contribution has been truly appreciated. Jo will be greatly missed but we wish her much happiness in her retirement.

In Gallant Company

Dr Philip Creagh’s (OS 1965-1966) book honouring the Old Sydneians who died in World War I is now available. This book includes short biographies of each Old Sydneian who didn’t make it home. To purchase the book, go to the Humanitix online payment site at For further enquiries, please contact the Archives and Alumni Office on (02) 9332 5833 or (02) 9332 5843 or email

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Australian History Competition


Form II Mandatory History classes took part in the Australian History Competition back in June 2021. This required participants to answer multiple-choice questions on a range of areas of Australian history and was intended to foster greater interest in history across the country.

We were very pleased to hear that one of our boys, Xavier da Cruz (II), achieved an equal first in the Year 8 division for the state and we congratulate him on this achievement.

Rowing training in lockdown

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COVID-19 presented some challenges for our rowers at the start of 2021 summer season, but we did manage to host a number of online training sessions. Many boys zoomed in from the comfort of their homes for general fitness and strength conditioning with the Sandhill Warrior. Others jumped on their ergs to work on their technique and regain some stamina after an extended break from organised sport. All the sessions were well attended and we hope that they provide a much-needed booster for the upcoming season.

Edgecliff Book Week

Historical fiction writer Mark Wilson shared his passion for art and Australian history during our virtual Book Week. A gifted storyteller, Mark spoke to the boys about how his family history and related experiences inspired many of his stories, especially the war-themed narratives. He shared some insight into the creative process behind illustrating his stories and taught some magical sketching lessons. Deb Abela, Mark Greenwood and Leigh Hobbs also presented Zoom sessions sharing their passion for the writing process, dropping in tips and tricks along the way!

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St Stephen’s choral scholarship

St Stephen’s Uniting Church on Macquarie Street offers choral scholarships to soprano, alto, tenor and bass tertiary singers each year. The scholarships are normally only granted to tertiary and vocal pupils at the Conservatorium, but Ben Sweeney (V) auditioned nonetheless, hoping to be considered even though he was only 15. The audition was successful, and the audition panel were particularly impressed with Ben’s outstanding sight singing. Apparently, he sang one sight singing excerpt in the audition more accurately than any tenor applying has in the past - including Masters vocal pupils at the Conservatorium. The scholars sing with the choir on Sundays and boost the sound of the choir, leading their sections from within.

NSW Junior Chess League triumph

There are many elements of chess that appeal to Grammar boys. The game is strategic, open-ended, competitive, and underpinned by logic. Year after year, boys at St Ives Preparatory School are drawn to this game. During our Chess Club mornings, boys can be seen playing friendly matches and engaging in formal lessons where famous games or strategies are considered. Many boys also partake in competitive interschool chess matches.

This year, we had six teams representing St Ives at the NSW Junior Chess League (NSWJCL) Primary Schools competition. Our A team performed well here and finished atop its division. The season looked to have drawn to a close with lockdown but our return to school coincided with the resumption of the NSWJCL competition.

A series of tightly contested playoffs were conducted, and our A Team was crowned NSW State Champions for 2021! Our team went on to represent NSW at the Australian Schools Teams Championships (ASTC) in December.

This was a tremendous honour for Lucas Lin, Isaac Huang, Nathan Arav, Paul Wang and Louis Van. Our team rose to the occasion at the ASTC and, over the course of five rounds, finished in an outstanding second place!

Congratulations to the boys and their coach, Mr Kevin Harrison, for this fine result.

St Ives Chess A Team