Alumni – partnering with OurSchool

Belmont High School is developing an alumni program to help our former students keep in touch with us. Being part of an alumni community can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Through our alumni community you can:

  • advise, help, and inspire current students at Belmont High School
  • network with other past students working or studying in areas relevant to you
  • stay connected to the people you studied and socialised with.

We are developing the program in partnership with Ourschool, a not-for-profit service that helps public secondary schools build their alumni communities.

Our alumni program will focus on these goals:

  • establishing and growing our alumni database
  • inviting alumni back to school to provide career or study advice to students
  • inviting alumni to offer work experience placements for students
  • helping alumni establish and/or contribute to student scholarships and philanthropic projects/programs

To join our alumni community and to get involved, please complete these questions or email us with your preferred contact details and a brief bio to

Alumni can also stay in touch through the school’s official Facebook page, and alumni (who list Belmont High School on their profile) can join the LinkedIn Group for professional networking to assist with career opportunities.

Milestones achieved semester 1 2022

Alumni spotlight

Rachael Gartland, class of 1995 – ARTIST

Visit to year 11 Studio Art classes.

Rachael enriched our lives today by sharing the story of her life journey, lessons she’s learned and all things art. She brought in two of her stunning pieces of artwork and blew everyone away with the incredible detail, the luxuriousness of the materials and the hand cast framing. These two pieces are a part of a bigger exhibition that’s in development – she can see it perfectly, and now we’ve had a glimpse during our artist conversation, we can visualize it too.

Pia De Bruyn (teacher) was in awe of the pieces and carefully ran her trained eye over them while prompting the students to use their critical thinking skills in advance ways to articulate the story of the art and between the pieces, understand the technical nature of the silk and the interaction with the paint, consider the framing and the museum glass. Discussing these details enhances the studio art curriculum and deepens understanding of the content.

Rachael spoke warmly of her childhood and the international adventures with her young parents (with a little bit of school thrown in between combi van trips) where she couldn’t help being impressed by and learn about the art, culture, and history of Europe. Drawing became a way to express herself as a young girl and her grandfather nurtured her development because he loved to paint.

These early years of travel were a steppingstone for more international adventures as Rachael earned a 12mth student exchange to Germany as an 18yo then returned to Belmont to complete her VCE with the cohort below her. She recalls at school she felt comfortable and competent in the art(s) subjects but told the students that she worked had to really apply herself in math. She believes perseverance is a great thing for personal development and reminds students that sometimes wonderful achievements lie on the other side of lots of hard work. Robbo was noted as one of her favourite teachers and they were thrilled to see each other again after many years.

After high school, Rachael studied a Bachelor of Art, majoring in drawing, art history & print making. She wanted to develop her drawing as she believes it’s a strong foundation for all types of fine art, including painting (where she’s landed as an artist). Travelling between Geelong and Ballarat every day to study and work was key in learning self-discipline, personal organization, and a strong work ethic.

She called London home for a decade as she fortuitously connected with an incredible creative duo of artists who made bespoke chinoiserie wallpaper; Rachael joined their team and worked, lived and breathed their business with them for 10 years then moved to Melbourne and ran their Australian operation. By this stage Rachael was a skilled General Manager and deeply knowledgeable about the unique art form and business of bespoke hand-painted & hand embroidered wall coverings.

Nowadays, Rachael has reached the point in her life where she’s willing to paint full time and take her chance in the art world. She’s is based in Torquay and is cleverly weaving all the threads of her life learnings together by painting on Chinese silk with gouache. We wish Rachael every success and happiness! Go to to see her incredible work.

Key messages to the students…Rachael encourages everyone to:

  • Consider longevity and the benefits of getting a start in something and grabbing every opportunity, fully committing yourself to it and learning as much as possible over a long period of time.
  • Find your own creative voice and hang onto it as it might be a guide for you throughout your life.
  • Unapologetically be yourself, while allowing others to do the same.
  • The ‘otherness’ of being creative is a wonderful opportunity to let the creativity can pass through your body. Sometimes is hard to explain art…it just is.
  • “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Being uncomfortable is a good thing and can lead to positive ends.

Joel Backwell

Joel Backwell, class of 1998

Then: Subjects in Year 12: Indonesian, Legal Studies, Chemistry, Specialist Maths, Maths Methods, English.

Now: Regional Director, Inner Metropolitan Melbourne at the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.


“It could be the best thing you study. Learning Indonesian has opened doors and made my life more interesting.”

Pak Joel spoke to our Year 11 & 12 Indonesian students on Wednesday 23rd March. The purpose of his visit was to enrich the curriculum by sharing insights about the country while speaking in Indonesian.

Pak Joel loves Indonesia deeply – the language, the culture, the people and the diversity – and it all started at Belmont High School in the 1990s.  He credits his Indonesian language teachers with bringing the language to life at school. Joel said, “Indonesian could be the most important subject in your schooling because of the relevance and importance of Indonesia, being Australia’s closest neighbour, and the interaction between our countries on a global scale”.  He also believes that the challenge of learning a second language and a new grammatical system is a benefit for students’ learning skills generally.

Having grown up in Breamlea, on the outskirts of Greater Geelong, Joel said “my world became bigger” after taking up a three-month Indonesian exchange student placement. He lived in Bandung on the island of Java with a host family, made loads of friends and fully immersed himself into the rhythm of life in this town of over 2 million. He maintains these relationships to this day and shared many stories about the loving togetherness of Indonesian culture.

“Get outside your bubble. Reach out and build relationships with others in Indonesia because you’re learning the language. This could take you places.”

After Year 12 at BHS Joel studied at Monash University, doing a double degree in Arts/Law with Indonesian. He incorporated approximately one and half years of Indonesian exchange programs into his six years of university.

Your intrinsic motivation helps you when things get hard. My guiding principle was to spend as much time as possible in Indonesia. This shaped my choices during university. I aimed for scholarships and exchange opportunities and applied to work at law firms that had offices in Indonesia, deliberately positioning myself to work and live there.”

Fast forward to his  time as a young lawyer in Melbourne, and Joel went to Indonesia to work as a team member representing the Bali 9. He described this 10-year period as “life-changing” as it focused him on what really matters in life. For him this has meant helping people in need, supporting human rights and making society a better place for everyone, which drives him now as a senior public servant. Pak Joel talked in depth about the outcomes, the law, geopolitics and the effect the experience has had on him.

“You have a voice, power, influence…use it. You have a responsibility to use your voice.”

A number of other roles in my career have stemmed directly from Joel learning Indonesian, in particular Trade Commissioner to Malaysia and Executive Director, International Education Division in the Department of Education and Training. In the latter he was able to set up a student exchange program for Year 9 Victorian students to spend a month in Yogyakarta, including in homestay, a program that was launched by the Deputy Premier, Minister James Merlino, at BHS in 2018.

Nowadays, he yearns for another visit to Indonesia but while the world restarts post-COVID, he bides his time working to make Melbourne the best city it can possibly be -he notes diversity as a key component to this! He relishes the opportunity to use his language skills and attends Indonesian cultural festivals when possible.

During his visit to BHS he gifted the legal reference books he used to represent the Bali 9 to the Indonesian Department, along with some Indonesian music cassettes and comic books from his personal collection. The students are lucky to have these genuine resources available to them.

Year 12 students reflections on the visit:

The most memorable thing to me was how he was talking about all of his experiences in Indonesia and how valuable the Indonesian language is. It felt very motivating to keep going with the language. It was very inspiring to keep continuing Indonesian.

 I realised that Bahasa Indonesia is more than just the language and includes so much more. I also realised how much learning a language can impact your life and how things can flow on from each other, creating so many opportunities.

It made me realise that there were even more opportunities that I thought if I continue Indonesian; Indonesia is such an important country especially to Australia yet so few people know much about Indonesia let alone its language! It also makes me want to visit Indonesia as it seems like such a great country to visit or even live in!