Classical Heritage and the Story of Sydney Forum II – School of Humanities Classical Heritage and the Story of Sydney Forum II – School of Humanities

Classical Heritage and the Story of Sydney Forum II

Classical Heritage Forum II: Language and Learning

Our next Classical Heritage Forum turns to the place of Classics in NSW secondary schools. We’ll explore the changing nature of pedagogy in the Classics from the early days of the colony to the present, both within and beyond formal schooling. We’ll also examine the shifting history of Classics as the hallmark of a liberal education, as it has changed from a field that was conventionally the preserve of the educated few to one that attracts a culturally and ethnically diverse group of students, with as many young women as men. Against this backdrop, our panellists will discuss the rewards and challenges of an education in the classics, and their place in the school curriculum of the 21st century.


4pm Arrival and afternoon tea

4:20pm Welcome and introductions
Professor Penny Russell

4:30pm – 5.30pm. Classical Learning: A Shifting Landscape
Our four speakers provide an overview of the classics in matriculation and in schools in New South Wales, from the early colonial period to the present.


  • Professor Penny Russell, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Julia Horne, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Helen Proctor, University of Sydney
  • Dr Emily Matters, President, Classical Languages Teachers Association.

5:40pm – 6:50pm Classical Learning Today (Panel Discussion)
Professor of Classics Peter Wilson leads a round table discussion about the students, the methods and the value of the Classics in the present day.


  • Helen Pigram, North Sydney Girls High
  • Michael Salter, Baulkham Hills High
  • Alison Chau, Sydney Girls High
  • Nathan Bottomley, Sydney Grammar
  • Anthony Gibbins, Sydney Grammar
  • Panel chair: Professor Peter Wilson, University of Sydney

6:50pm Closing remarks
Professor Penny Russell

6:50pm –7.30pm Drinks and supper

(in speaking order)

Professor Penny Russell, University of Sydney
Penny Russell FAHA is Bicentennial Professor of Australian History and currently Chair of the History department at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on families, intimacy and social encounters and the intricacies of education and culture, gender and class, race and colonisation in nineteenth-century Australia. Recent books include (with Nigel Worden) Honourable Intentions? Violence and Virtue in Australian and Cape Colonies, c. 1750 to 1850 (Routledge, 2016) and Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia (NewSouth 2010), which won the NSW Premier’s Prize for Australian History.

Associate Professor Julia Horne, University of Sydney
Julia Horne is Associate Professor in the department of History and University Historian at the University of Sydney, where she helps promote understanding of the university’s history and heritage. She writes on the history of higher education, women and war, as well as the history of landscape and travel. She is author (some co-authored) of seven books including The Pursuit of Wonder (MUP, 2005), Sydney: The Making of a Public University (with Geoffrey Sherington, MUP 2012) and, most recently, Preserving the Past: The University of Sydney and the national unified system 1987-96 (with Stephen Garton, MUP, 2017). She is co-director of Beyond 1914, a biographical website of men and women who served in the First World War.

 Associate Professor Helen Proctor, University of Sydney
Helen Proctor’s research uses historical perspectives and methods to examine the making of contemporary educational systems, contributing both to the research field of history of education and to the field of critical inquiry into current schooling policy and practice. Her principal focus is on the historical formation and reformation of the relationships between schools, families and ‘communities’ from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries; across different kinds and levels of schooling and through successive educational settlements from meritocracy to the rule of markets. Related to this are current investigations of histories of schooling, migration and race; histories of schooling and health and histories of family-school relations.

Dr Emily Matters, President, Classical Languages Teachers Association
Emily Matters studied Classics at North Sydney Girls High School and the University of Sydney. She has taught Latin and Greek in NSW independent and state schools for fifty years, and completed a PhD in 2006 on the teaching of Virgil in NSW since the beginning of the 20th century. She has taken part in writing syllabuses for both the NSW and Australian curricula in Latin and Classical Greek. She has written three texts for use in schools, and has contributed chapters to several books on classics pedagogy and on general education. She is the current President of the Classical Languages Teachers Association.

Helen Pigram, North Sydney Girls High
Helen Pigram began her teaching career with the Department of Education in 1982 and is  currently Head Teacher Languages at North Sydney Girls HS. She teaches Latin but is also qualified to teach French, German, Japanese and Latin and has studied Classical Greek. Prior to her current position Helen taught at Baulkham Hills HS, where she reintroduced Latin.  She has also taught in comprehensive high schools in Western and South-Western Sydney. She has studied Japanese and was awarded a Grad. Dip. (Humanities) in Classics from the University of New England. As well as languages, Helen is passionate about adolescent mental health.

Michael Salter, Baulkham Hills High
Michael Salter graduated with a B.A. in Classics from the University of Sydney in 1995 and a Dip.Ed. from Macquarie University in 1997. Since then he has taught Latin and Classical Greek at St. Ignatius College, North Sydney Boys High and Baulkham Hills High. He has led seminars at many HSC Latin Study Days and has been a member of the HSC Examination Committee. He has also been closely involved with the OzCLO Linguistics competition and has twice led Australian teams at the International Linguistics Olympiad.

Alison Chau, Sydney Girls High
Alison Chau has been teaching Latin at Sydney Girls High School for eight years, maintaining a proud tradition of Classics education in the oldest state school for girls in NSW. She is now serving her third year as secretary of the Classical Languages Teachers Association and is a strong advocate for students building connections within the Classics community through CLTA events such as the Year 8 Classics Camp and Kevin Lee Latin Quiz, and CANSW’s Reading Competition and Latin Summer School. Originally drawn to the Latin language through her study of ancient Rome, Alison relishes the opportunity to share with her students enduring stories from history, legend and mythology alongside a language that continually asserts its relevance and value.

Nathan Bottomley, Sydney Grammar
Nathan Bottomley is the head of Sydney Grammar School’s Classics Department teaching Latin, Classical Greek, Sanskrit and Studies of Religion. Nathan has been teaching Latin and Classical Greek in non-government high schools since 1992, and is about to complete his twenty-fifth year on the staff at Grammar. For three years in the early 2000s, he was Chief Examiner in Latin for the New South Wales Higher School Certificate. His interests include spoken Latin and the use of technology to support traditional methods of teaching Classical languages and literature.

 Anthony Gibbins, Sydney Grammar
Anthony Gibbins has been teaching Latin for ten years, and currently teaches at Sydney Grammar School. He has been a regular participant at Rusticatio, a Latin Immersion event held annually in West Virginia, and is the founder of Rusticatio Australiana. He has a keen interest in spoken Latin and how it can be used in the classroom. Anthony is passionate about the production of teaching tools, and his website Legonium uses games, stories, lessons, posters and Lego to teach Latin. Teachers around the world download and make use of Legonium’s resources. Anthony was the 2018 winner of the David Raeburn Award for the Advancement of the Classics.

Panel chair: Professor Peter Wilson, University of Sydney
Peter Wilson is the William Ritchie Professor of Classics in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney and he is currently acting Head of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. His research centres on early Greek literature and in particular he is known as an expert on the early history of the theatre. Peter is currently writing a three-volume work, A Social and Economic History of the Theatre to 300 BC. His earlier publications include The Athenian Institution of the Khoregia, Greek Theatre and Festivals: Documentary Studies and he has edited and contributed to Dithyramb in Context and The Greek Theatre in the Fourth Century.

Contact us

For more information, please contact: Dr Toner Stevenson E | P | +61 2 9351 2271

Image: ‘University of Sydney students dressed for a Greek play’, 1886. (Image ref: G3_224_1737 courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives.)


Aug 22 2019


4:00 pm - 7:30 pm


This event is free. Registrations essential.

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Madsen Building F09


Classical Heritage and the Story of Sydney
Classical Heritage and the Story of Sydney
+61 2 9351 2271

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