Yvonne Wallace (Fraser) - Geophysicist, Australia
"A sincere thanks to all those teachers and other staff who made our school life so rich."
Name: Yvonne Wallace (nee Fraser)
Studied at HHS: 1989 - 1996
Current role: Geophysicist, Australia
What are your memories of HHS?
I attended Heathfield High School from 1989 and 1996, coming up from Black Firs Primary School. Teachers I particularly remember from my school days are Mr Lovatt, Mr Griffiths, Mr Palmer, Mrs Pickle and Mr Curtis.
Mr Griffiths was my tutor in the first five years and then I went into the sixth form to do A Levels. I was pretty shy and found a lot of school quite nerve wracking, but somehow got through it.
Along with the piano, I learned to play the flute (badly) but that got me into the school band, which I loved. It was sort of a saviour – especially on a cold rainy day when lessons were frustratingly stop-start and I felt tired and worn out - to go into the music room at lunch time, play or sing some music and let Mr Lovatt make us all laugh with his quick wit and refreshing outlook (he did).
We were so lucky to be able to go on language exchanges, music tours, Europe city visits, always on the local Bostocks coaches, which took us across the channel late at night on the cheapest tickets. There were sports days, interschool comps, work experience, community service, evening events at school, end of term concerts, school musicals... the list goes on and on. We were so lucky to have such a broad range of opportunities.
During GCSE’s I was doing well at maths and science, but also loved physical geography and French. Mum and I used to watch documentaries on TV about volcanoes and earthquakes and that got me really interested. At A Levels I did maths, physics, geography (mostly social, I was disappointed to find out but Mr Curtis was a great teacher), and AS Level French.
Adding that last subject was probably a bit too much for me, along with doing Grade 8 piano but I managed to scrape through all of them and get to uni. So glad I stuck with it, as the ability to speak not-quite-fluent French has been a real joy since!
Celebrating our final days at school, our maths class went out for dinner one night with Mr Palmer and Mr Broad, having been taught by them for 7 years. We took the school mini bus and it was a really nice night – so good to celebrate the time and effort they had put into us.
Mr Palmer was my teacher the whole way through and I’ll never forget his very methodical, clear, calm, and patient teaching that meant I was always able to follow what was happening and not get lost. So different to my later uni experiences!
I also remember a pub visit to Heath Farm with some of our teachers on our last day or so. We were all Year 13 so well over 18 by then. Most people had had their licence for over a year and everyone drank, but I never remember anyone drinking and driving - despite the very frequent pub visits (a norm at that time) there was always a skipper.
Route after leaving HHS:
During my final year at school, I knew I wanted to go to university but didn’t know which subject. I just couldn’t find anything that seemed to sum up my interests – I liked the outdoors and didn’t want to be stuck at a desk all the time, didn’t really like big cities, was good at maths and ok at physics, loved physical geography – if only there was a job in it, I thought!
In the end, as I was flicking through a uni prospectus I turned to ‘geophysics’ – field trips, looking for gold and oil, pre-requisites maths and physics… perfect! I then applied to five courses and got in. I deferred entry for a gap year, and then went to Leeds for 3 years to get a BSc honours in Geophysical Sciences, then to Durham for a year to get an MSc in Exploration Geophysics.
I then came to Australia on a dime, and, although it took a while to get a foot in the door, I got geophysical work eventually and have been working in the mining and related sectors ever since.
Based in Western Australia and working with two large mining companies, Placer Dome and Barrick, I spent lots of time on mine sites throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea, as well as short visits to Canada and Chile. The work entailed planning and managing geophysical surveys (magnetics, gravity, electrical, etc), processing and imaging data and using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to integrate with geological and geochemical data to interpret the geology and generate/ assess gold targets.
I now work part-time as a desk-based consultant in Perth using my experience in exploration geophysics to help clients explore for gold, copper, lithium, base and other metals, as well as water exploration and other applications.
So – a sincere thanks to all those teachers and other staff who made our school life so rich, I hope you are all doing well and can take some time to congratulate yourselves on the good work you have done through teaching.