A Graduates View: A Look Back on Boarding

A Graduates View: A Look Back on Boarding | Kinross Wolaroi School

“Kinross Wolaroi has been such a good building block for things later on in life. Learning to be independent, learning self-awareness and your strengths and weaknesses and all those things get tied up in boarding.”
Mrs Kelly Dowling, KWS Class of 1987

Boarding at Kinross Wolaroi School is an experience that builds values of independence, resilience, leadership and inclusivity. Purposefully the School is focused on developing individuals’ strengths, sense of self and pride in their abilities and in response the benefits of KWS’ nurturing boarding environment extend far beyond the school gate into communities and workplaces all over the world and into new generations of families to come. 

Here are the personal stories of two past boarding students, Gunning farmer, Kelly Dowling from the Class of 1987 and Jack Yeomans from north of Walgett from the Class of 2013.

Walgett boy Jack Yeomans describes the co-educational boarding experience at Kinross Wolaroi School as ‘the full package’ where sport, friendship and leadership converge. As one of five children (his sister Bridget will finish KWS in 2020) Jack and his family have a long association with boarding and KWS. Jack recalls leaving the confines of life on the farm in 2008 to begin KWS as a Year 7 boarder as a strange feeling. “I always knew I was going to boarding school and it was exciting but also scary as well,” says Jack. “I battled a little at first because I am the eldest of five children and home was always good fun so I missed being with mum and dad and my brothers and sisters.” But as is usually the case, it didn’t take Jack long to form friendships that ended up lasting a lifetime with the other boys in Trathen House.

Despite the initial adjustment, Jack saw boarding school as a huge opportunity that he is thankful to his parents for and he made the most of every opportunity. He loved sport - swimming, water polo, rugby (particularly the Wolaroi vs Weymouth matches) and cricket and then other extra-curricular pursuits such as cadets, musical productions and equestrian.

“Being away at school meant we were in the right spot for any opportunity we wanted to pursue, be it guitar lessons or sport or music,” says Jack. “I learnt to fly! Every week in Year 9 on Wednesday’s I had flying lessons. Going to boarding school just opened up so many doors that I never would have had in Walgett.”

In Wolaroi House Jack gleaned leadership skills from boys he looked up to. “The culture at Wolaroi was the best thing about that House. Everyone just looked after each other, I always had a lot of support from the older boys there and that was passed down to me and I always took care of younger blokes as well,” says Jack. As he climbed the ranks in cadets he learned how to look after teams of people, a trait that he put into practice after school in stock camps on a cattle station in Cloncurry in Queensland and now at home on his family’s farm and concreting businesses. “When you get into those higher roles in cadets you are out in the bush with forty-odd kids and you’re the boss and you’ve got to make sure they are all safe and you get to where you’re supposed to go. Being a CUO certainly taught me a lot about leadership and responsibility,” says Jack.

Boarding life has resulted in a solid appreciation for family. “While I was at KWS I really learnt that family comes first,” says Jack. “Kinross Wolaroi is a very family orientated school, it’s like one big family and I did spend a lot of time with both of my brothers. Now that I am working with my family and with my Dad, I realise just how important family is and I think that comes from my time as a boarder.”

Jack’s siblings, Ned (2014), Joe (2016), Maggie (2018) and Bridget (2020) all attended or are in attendance at Kinross Wolaroi as boarding students.

When Kelly Dowling came to Kinross Wolaroi from Gunning in southern New South Wales as a Year 7 boarder in 1987 she’d see her parents once a term. 

“I absolutely loved boarding 95% of the time. The first year was pretty tough as a 12-year-old and I was the eldest of our family so I was the first one to head off but as for the rest of it, it was absolutely fantastic,” says Kelly. “I suppose Mum and Dad always put into our heads that it was an opportunity and a privilege to go to boarding school and it wasn’t a negative thing so that is how we took on KWS; as a huge opportunity for the next stage of our lives.”

Kelly was involved in anything and everything at Kinross Wolaroi and among her long list of achievements was becoming a Prefect, Captain of Stuart Douglas House and recipient of the Wellwood Shield for Sportsmanship, Leadership and School Spirit. “I still get a buzz when I see it handed out because it meant a lot to me. I loved my leadership roles,” says Kelly. Kelly and her brothers, Rob (1994) and Luke (2001) attended Kinross Wolaroi as boarders from Year 7 to Year 12 and now Kelly’s son, Ned is boarding at KWS. “It was a no-brainer to send Ned to Kinross Wolaroi,” she says.

“When I look back, I recognise that Kinross Wolaroi has been such a good building block for things later on in life. Learning to be independent, learning self-awareness and your strengths and weaknesses. All those things get tied up in boarding because you are very aware of yourself and responsible for your actions and you don’t have your parents there on your back all the time,” says Kelly.

After school, Kelly found herself drawn to the male dominated industries of defence and farming. She became the first female district wool manager with Elders based in Mudgee and says she really thrived in this environment, something she attributes to co-education. “The co-educational aspect of Kinross Wolaroi was really positive for me. I think it made my life easier when I went to the Australian Defence Academy (ADFA). In those growing up years it’s really nice to be able to communicate and have access to boys. It really sets you up for some good relationships with men professionally and personally later on in life,” says Kelly.

As a young person in farming, Kelly says she often felt as though she was the only young person and the only female in her field, but it didn’t worry her, in fact she always saw it as an opportunity. “I’ve never lacked any personal confidence in who I am and what I can achieve. I would put some of that down to my personality but I’d put a lot of it down to boarding and KWS as a school,” says Kelly.  “It fosters a really amazing way for individuals to make the most of who they are, which is why I picked KWS for Ned - I think the School is very good at fostering the individual strengths of students in a very balanced way.”

The nature of the boarding staff at Kinross Wolaroi cannot be overlooked says Kelly. “I think they do an outstanding job in selecting house masters and House Mothers because at the end of the day they are the people who are caring for your child, when they are crying, happy or naughty.”

If Kelly had to describe Kinross Wolaroi in a sentence it would be, ‘a well-balanced school’.

“I find Kinross Wolaroi sticks to the basic principal of developing good, considerate and respectful kids that can actually communicate with an adult. Kinross Wolaroi builds confident people within themselves and I am happy to be an example of that.”