Three decades of care and encouragement

After 32 years, Scotch’s Dean of Boarding, Mr Doug Galbraith is relinquishing the role and beginning a new phase of his Scotch career.


For an Old Melburnian who wanted to be a farmer and worked two years at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Mr Doug Galbraith is now just about as ‘Scotch’ as you can get. Thirty-two years on the Hill have seen to that.

Now, after more than three decades of nurturing, encouraging, understanding and helping, Doug – Scotch’s Dean of Boarding since 1999 – is handing the reins over to the current Head of Arthur Robinson House, Mr Chris Braithwaite, and beginning a new phase of his Scotch career.

On the eve of his departure from the Hill, Great Scot interviewed Doug one lunchtime in the bustling Boarders’ Dining Hall.

When you began your teaching career did you imagine you would one day become a boarding house master?

I had no idea that I would take on that sort of role, although I did have an affinity with the country – in fact, I wanted to be a farmer. So, after leaving Melbourne Grammar where I was a day boy, I worked in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in Canberra for two years after gaining my Bachelor of Commerce degree; I then returned to Melbourne and worked as an auditor while pursuing my studies to become a CPA.

It was then that I decided on a change of career. I studied for a Diploma of Education and then a Bachelor of Education, and I began at Scotch in 1977.

In 1979 the great boarding house master, Don Macmillan invited me to join the Hill staff. It was not a straightforward decision: my wife Lesley and I had just refurbished our home in Ivanhoe and Lesley was pregnant with our first child, but we decided to give it a one-year trial. Thirty-two years later, we’re still here – not counting one year we spent at Wanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand.

After that year in New Zealand, Don Macmillan had moved on to Peninsula School, and there was a vacancy for a house master in School House. I applied for this job and got it, and I remained as School House Master for 11 years.

In 1999, the position of Dean of Boarding became available. I applied for, and was appointed to that position. That’s where I’ve been ever since.

What innovations have you introduced in the boarding house in your position as Dean of Boarding?

Don Macmillan was a real role model for me as a boarding house master, and I’ve always tried to follow his principles of respect for the individual, treating boys fairly, giving praise when it’s due, fostering team spirit, never losing my sense of humour, and recognising that boys will always be boys.

In my time we have further developed the Wedderburn Cup activities in the ‘closed weekends’ in Terms 1, 2 and 3, which were actually introduced in Don Davenport’s time on the suggestion of Old Boy Graham Turnbull (’51).  These weekends have become excellent opportunities for fun and friendly sports competitions between the boarding houses, as well as helping to integrate boys from a variety of cultures and interests.

I have strongly encouraged boarders to visit Gordon Owen Lodge at Mansfield, where I was involved in a number of projects and activities. Boys have a great time together there as they develop independence and teamwork. As well, I could list the transition camps and orientation weekends for new boarders; mentoring new and younger boarders by Year 11 boys; and developing the role of prefects.

Appointing a Hill Activities Officer to help run many of these events has also been an important innovation, and it has worked very well.

How has boarding changed during your time?

Some of the examples we have already discussed show how things have changed, but I do think in general there is a much better relationship between staff and boys – less ‘them and us’ and more trust.

How important is it to have good relationships with boarders’ parents?

It’s most important, and the Boarders’ Parents’ Association is an excellent channel of communication, providing an opportunity for open and frank discussion of issues, and promoting goodwill and social get-togethers.

Can you tell us about some of the lighter moments?

Of course there have been plenty of these, many of them relating to breaking the rules such as boys not returning to the boarding house by the appointed time. One of the ‘penalties’ for this was to have to join me in my 6am run the next day, which finished with a sprint up the Hill. If I beat the ‘offender’ home, he would have to repeat the process the next morning! We’ve had examples of boys attempting to stay out all night without permission – often involving the old ‘pillow in the bed’ trick.

What will your future role at Scotch involve?

I will continue in my teaching role, and I’d love to become more involved in outdoor activities and sports coaching.

My family and I will now move from Callantina Lodge at Scotch to a house we own in West Hawthorn, so I won’t be far away. Of course it’s yet another move, and it underlines the importance of having a supportive family – which is precisely what I have had over the years. My family has had to cope with the unusual demands of boarding house life – lack of privacy, my irregular working hours, answering phones at all hours of the day, and (in my wife’s case) often being a hostess to boys and their parents, while fully participating as a member of the Hill community.

It has been a privilege to be entrusted with the care and nurturing of boys as young as 11 or 12, and to watch those boys progress through the school to young manhood. I do take a lot of pride in playing a part in that development.

I have enjoyed catching up with Old Boys and promoting boarding in the bush at the Field Days, and often welcoming their sons back to the boarding house.

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