Mr Andrew Galbraith brings a wealth of business and legal experience to the position of Chair of the Goulburn Valley Grammar School Board.
Mr Galbraith took over the role with Mrs Prue Dobson’s retirement in 2018, after nine years at the helm and an involvement with the school from its earliest days. “We want to continue to offer the best form of academic education in the Goulburn Valley,” Mr Galbraith said. “Our focus is high-quality academic education. Part of that education is providing a happy and well-organised environment for the students. The impression I have is that, on the whole, students love to be there and they love to learn.”
Mr Galbraith has been a member of the council since 2007, the year after his eldest child Henry started at the school in Year 5. Henry was School Captain in 2013 and is now finalising his law a nd international relations degrees at the Australian National University in Canberra after a stint at the Australian Mission of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland (see previous issue of Nexus).
Mr Galbraith’s daughter Eliza finished in 2015 and then spent a gap year working at a boarding school in England and will be entering her third year of studying arts (journalism) and law at Monash University.
Mr Galbraith is a director of Shepparton law firm Dawes & Vary Riordan and has more than two decades of experience in the commercial, property and corporate sphere. “I don’t know what happened,” Mr Galbraith laughed, referring to the fact that both his children ended up following in his footsteps by studying law. “I would have thought they would have learnt from grumpy dad coming home late!”
Mr Galbraith works directly with large and well-known businesses in the region and beyond, as well as individuals and families and for local authorities. He is one of only two Accredited Business Law Specialists in the Goulburn Valley. “With work in the country you can form enduring relationships with your clients,” he said. “That’s what I’ve enjoyed about country work.”
Mr Galbraith grew up in Melbourne and graduated in Law and Commerce from the University of Melbourne. Shortly after being admitted in 1986 he moved to Perth to work for Hamersley Iron (now part of the Rio Tinto Group). While in Perth he met his future wife, Tanya, who had a degree in fashion and design and worked as a milliner. They married in 1992.
Mr Galbraith intended to head back to Victoria at some stage, but wasn’t keen to work in Melbourne. The thought of a big country town appealed to him. “I had read an article about five relatively young partners in a well-known and respected law firm called Riordan & Partners. I bought The Age one day on a whim, responded to an advert they had in the paper, had the interview, passed the test of a late night dinner party that night and started shortly thereafter. That was at the beginning of 1992.” Now, with the merger with Dawes & Vary, the firm is one of the largest in regional Victoria with significant clients and a staff of more than 80.
Mr Galbraith is also chair of the Shepparton Access Foundation, allocating funding to Shepparton Access, which supports people with disabilities to become more involved in our community. He was previously on the board of Goulburn Valley Family Care, a member and later President of the School Council at Orrvale Primary School for a number of years, Chair of the inaugural Board of Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation and is a fellow of the Fairley Leadership Program.
Mrs Galbraith is also a major contributor to the school, coordinating and creating the costumes for numerous school productions.
Over the past 11 years on the Board, Mr Galbraith has helped oversee significant building works, including that precipitated by the Federal Government’s Building Better Schools program, which included a new Year 5/6 building, language centre and various building improvements. “This was just after the school had completed its new library so the new funding that followed it really accelerated the school’s building program.” Since then works include the WB Hunter Music Centre, a new staff precinct, significant additions to car parking and improvements to landscaping. “We are certainly hoping for more improvements in the relatively near future, and some of them will be significant.”
He wants to see the school continue to be an attraction to families across the Goulburn Valley – not just Shepparton. The school reached out to many outlining towns in the region in the early days, mainly to bolster enrolments. “That is not really a concern now but it remains something that is important for the school to do, in my view,” he said.
Although the school clearly fosters academic learning, Mr Galbraith thinks it is most important that the school-enrolment policy retains its position of not being selective on the grounds of initial academic excellence. “A school can greatly improve its academic credentials without having to do it the ‘easy’ way by just bringing in bright kids,” Mr Galbraith said. “Even if a student completes his or her schooling without a tremendous ATAR, by and large, that student will have left the school with gainful experience, with friends and with knowledge on how to learn and learn well.”
Mr Galbraith is proud of parents, who over a number of years and in particularly tough times, continue to prioritise school fees. “It is not easy,” he said. “A private education comes at a cost. Many regional families have income levels that rise and fall as a result of factors, many of which are outside their control. Fees do rise even though incomes may not. They are very resilient.”
Government funding is always an issue front and centre for the school, as it is for all education institutions.
Mr Galbraith said the Board is keeping a close eye on the debate about government funding for private schools. “There’s uncertainty about how the new Federal Government model will work and how it will affect the school financially,” he said. “We constantly monitor the finances of the school. It is in great financial shape at present but government funding is such an important component.”
Mr Galbraith said it is a tremendous privilege to chair the Board. “The school had great founders and myself and other members of the Board are the beneficiaries of all of their good work,” he said. “I still see many of them who offer me encouragement and support. There is also a considerable amount of responsibility to all parts of the school community to see that the school remains focused on its values, remains financially viable and faces and deals with the challenges ahead.”
Although his children have left school, Mr Galbraith was happy to remain involved to see that the school continues to provide quality learning, to encourage achievement and to have a well-balanced environment.
What makes him happy are the many positive stories about the school. “They come from many voices: students, past students, parents, grandparents,” he said. “I don’t think they say it just to start a pleasant conversation. By and large, the stories are unprovoked and glowing. A school can put down on paper many good objectives. It is another thing to carry them out. I believe this school carries out its objectives really well and that is why the good words come back.”