The first Waldorf school Down Under

By Nana Goebel, April 2019

After its foundation in Stuttgart in 1919, the Waldorf school movement spread not just in Germany and Europe. Who were the pioneers who founded Waldorf schools in all parts of the world? Sylvia Hazel Brose (1915-2001) in Australia was one of them.

Sylvia Brose

Sylvia Hazel Brose grew up in a culturally aware home. The interests of her mother went beyond a general interest in culture. She studied theosophy and read Rudolf Steiner’s writings with her daughter. When Sylvia Hazel Brose wanted to learn German and was looking for a suitable teacher, she met the musician Lute Drummond who told her about Waldorf education. 

Sylvia Hazel Brose’s father wanted her to study medicine and so she ended up as one of the few female students in the medical faculty. But during dissection classes at the latest, she knew that she did not want to continue with medicine and started training as a teacher at Sydney Teachers’ College. Lute Drummond, who had meanwhile become a good friend, suggested at the end of her studies that she should apply for a teaching job at Frensham School in Mittagong, a boarding school for girls. During her seven years at the school, Sylvia Brose developed a close relationship with its head, Winifred West, a widely respected personality with a holistic educational approach on a Christian basis. 

As early as the 1930s, a number of people associated with the Anthropsophical Society harboured ideas for the establishment of a Waldorf school in Sydney but the endeavours to find a suitable building and, above all, teachers who could start such a school did not initially lead to the desired result. Many years later, and still with this goal in mind, Sylvia Brose was asked to train as a Waldorf teacher in Edinburgh. 

It was not until 1954 that a favourable opportunity arose to acquire a piece of land for the dreamed of school: bush land in Middle Cove north of Sydney. When Sylvia Brose returned, she began by taking on the kindergarten in 1957, then a first class, establishing the school one step at a time. After the construction of its first own school building, and with meanwhile 60 pupils, the school moved to a sweeping hillside. Sylvia Brose taught two classes at the same time, the younger ones from 9 am to 11 am, the older ones from 11 am to 1 pm. With this beloved teacher there were no disciplinary problems, even if she went to the other class during main lesson and gave the young pupils tasks on which they were simply expected to continue working by themselves. 

During its first fourteen years, the Glenaeon Steiner School remained the only Waldorf school in Australia and had to see how it could acquire the necessary educational resources. On Saturdays, Sylvia Brose trained her future colleagues; in parallel she obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Letters degrees from the University of New England. In 1968, the school received its state licence and was able to start with an upper school. The first two pupils successfully concluded their time in upper school in 1970. They have been followed to date by about 1,500 pupils. 


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