Gwen Wood: Giving Back to the Old Girls’ Association

Gwen Wood (Berrigan, 1963) was a boarder at Santa Maria College, as were her sisters Judith and Frances. The Berrigan family hailed from Pemberton, where Gwen’s father owned the local pharmacy. Gwen started at Santa Maria when she was in Year 9 and left at the end of Year 12.

Gwen has been a long-standing member of the Old Girls’ Association committee. She joined the committee in 2006, one year after its relaunch. She has given her time generously as president, treasurer, and committee member.

Gwen has been involved in organising many alumni events and initiatives. One of the highlights of her time with the Association was the Wedding event, where Old Girls donated their wedding gowns for an exhibition and shared their experiences of marrying in the College Chapel. “I brought my daughters and granddaughter to the event and showed them around the school before we enjoyed a lovely high tea. That was definitely an Old Girls highlight for me, it was such a lovely event.”, Gwen said.

We chatted with Gwen about her time from Santa Maria to now.

“After marriage, whilst busy and enjoying bringing up our family, I was quite involved with our young, newly opened community of Warwick-Greenwood Parish as parish councillor, I was a community representative with the City of Joondalup and enjoyed interests that naturally followed the progression of having young children, playgroup, school (Liwara Catholic primary), and helping with sporting groups. 

“We had a taste for travel, so when Graham had long service leave, we took our children to England and some of Europe. We had a great time, largely living out of a station wagon and BNBs for three months. I had promised the children’s school that we’d do classes on the road. The truth is there wasn’t much done! I think seeing them off into the world of uni, work, engagements, and marriage have been my most pleasurable times, my highlights for sure!

“Travel has been exciting for us. We travelled to Italy to meet up with my siblings and their spouses and hired a chalet for a few weeks. That was great, and so fortunate too, as we lost my sister Frances just two years after that. When my daughter was living in America, we took the opportunity to visit her and saw a good bit of America in the process. We went to Alaska via Canada on a bus, then the Rocky Mountaineer train. This was followed by a cruise to Anchorage. What a trip.  I’d recommend it for interest and excitement.  More recently, we went to England to visit family and toured lovely Devon and the Lakes district (Shades of Pride and Prejudice!).”

Gwen at the 2021 Golden Girls' Lunch

Gwen’s work life has been varied.

“I have a double-major degree in Psychology & Education and a post-graduate Diploma of Business. I am married to Graham, and we have four children.

“I enjoyed a job with the Red Cross, leading a youth group, writing a newspaper, talking on the radio about the organisation’s work and visiting Red Cross youth centres in Perth and the country. It was fun!  After a few years, I changed to become a Commonwealth Employment Officer, helping people into jobs, finding them work, and checking some industrial relations issues. I think that inspired in me a lifelong appreciation of the value of employment for people. My work with Commonwealth Employment, now Centrelink, was dynamic and fulfilling. I now volunteer with the Catholic organisation Centacare Employment and Training to help disadvantaged people into paid employment.

“I also worked as a lecturer, then Manager, at TAFE before finishing off my career at WA Health as a Manager in Contracts.”

In her spare time, Gwen belongs to a walking group and plays bridge, not very well she claims! She also helps with minding her younger grandchildren. “I have nine all up, with another on the way and I particularly enjoy going to their recitals and events.  We have two Year 12 Graduations coming up.”

“I love being involved in helping ex-students stay connected. I enjoy the excitement and camaraderie of reunions and committee meetings as we plan activities to bring us all together.” Gwen also keeps up with her own year group. “We generally meet at least once a year outside of the Golden Girls reunion.”

We asked Gwen about her favourite memory of her time at the College. “When exams were close, seniors were allowed to study late in the library, and sister Collette would bring around hot chocolate and biscuits. It was so kind of her.”

As for her favourite teacher, Gwen said, “Our class all had a high regard for Sister Consilii. She was calm and inspirational. A very good teacher.”

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