Vale: Miss Audrey Keown OAM

As a community, we are so thankful for the service and love Miss Keown has shared with thousands of PLC Sydney students, staff and friends.

It is with great sadness that we share Miss Audrey Keown OAM passed away on Monday evening. On behalf of the College, the Ex-Students’ Union and the College community, we extend our deepest condolences to Miss Keown’s family and close friends and hold them in our prayers at this difficult time.

Miss Keown is perhaps one of the most impactful and memorable teachers in the College’s 135-year history, teaching at Croydon for 43 years.

Audrey was born and grew up in Concord West, attending Concord West Public School until she was eight years of age when she was stricken by polio which left her unable to walk. The next five years were spent in hospital and rehabilitation. Although her education was interrupted, it was resumed at the school of 'Canonbury', Darling Point, the rehabilitation centre for children where Audrey was in residence.

After returning home, Audrey completed her secondary education by correspondence. Her childhood dream had always been to be a teacher or an actress but at 18 neither seemed possible. She revelled in English literature and History at school and wanted to pursue these interests, but attending University at this time was considered impossible because of her limited mobility.

However, in 1954 Audrey obtained a Trinity College of Music, London Diploma, and became a sought-after teacher of individual students and small groups. Audrey's long-held ambition to teach in a girls' school was realised when she secured a teaching role at PLC Sydney.

Miss Audrey Keown OAM

Commencing in 1959, Miss Keown implemented Principal Miss Freda Whitlam's innovative plans for incorporating speech and drama into the College's English curriculum, including compulsory public speaking for every student in the Senior School.

Miss Whitlam also wanted the entire penultimate year to be involved in the production of the annual school play with an emphasis on the learning process, and with the year group responsibilities being equally as important as the public performances.

Audrey's first day as a staff member at PLC Sydney was, in her words, "the beginning of a great wonderful and exciting journey of forty-three years.”

Left: 1963 Miss Keown and students.

Miss Keown was for many years the only drama teacher at the College, and each year as part of the English course, from the first year of senior school, Miss Keown would choose a play, which in consultation with Miss Whitlam, would be appropriate for each year group. A colleague said, “This was a choice that Miss Keown took very seriously and often formed in her mind as she assessed the year's character in the lessons she gave to the whole year in their first year of senior school... Were they musical? Did they have a flair for comedy? Whimsical? A satirical sense? An understanding of great tragedy? Their play was chosen with a clear and professional knowledge of the students.”

In 1989, Miss Keown received the Order of Australia Medal for services to Education. In 2002, the Audrey Keown Theatre was opened at PLC Sydney, named in her honour and continuing her legacy of producing theatrical plays and musicals every year.

Today, PLC Sydney is considered one of the top public speaking schools in the World, with over 500 students participating in private or group public speaking lessons - a testament to Miss Keown’s leadership and the program she established in the 1950s

I cherish those years, and the girls who gave so much of their abilities, time and goodwill to ensure the play was the thing.

Miss Audrey Keown, 2002

Vale: Miss Audrey Keown OAM

As a community, we are so thankful for the service and love Miss Keown has shared with thousands of PLC Sydney students, staff and friends.

The family will be holding a private funeral for Audrey. In early 2024, the College will hold a memorial for Miss Keown at PLC Sydney. Information about this event will be shared in the new year.

Ex-students and past staff who wish to send a message to Miss Keown’s family may contact the Ex-Students’ Office via or +6122 9704 5635.