Our Foundation Day alumni speaker for 2023 was Kelsey Boreham. Kelsey grew up in the Snowy Mountains towns of Cabramurra and Jindabyne and attended Snowy Mountains Grammar School from its first year of operation in 1996.  

Kelsey graduated from SMGS with the Class of 2001. After a series of skiing-related intermissions, he earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce through the University of Canberra, and Juris Doctor and master’s degrees in law through the Australian National University, specialising in international law. 

Following admission to the ACT and Commonwealth legal jurisdictions in 2009, Kelsey practised commercial and construction law with the firm Clayton Utz. He then transitioned to government practice, working with the Australian Antarctic Division on infrastructure modernisation and working as general counsel to the Commonwealth national parks management agency, Parks Australia.  

Kelsey and his wife Kate Booker (another SMGS 2001 graduate) returned to Jindabyne in 2021 with their two children, Elva and Rhys. Kelsey now works with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, managing environmental and development issues around the alpine resorts. 

Throughout his education and career, Kelsey has never lost sight of his passions. Coaching moguls skiing at Perisher and in North America helped fund travel and his studies. He is also an avid cyclist, both mountain and road, and has raced for many years as part of a National Road Series–registered cycling team.  

What path did you follow after you graduated from SMGS? How did you become interested in that pathway (education, career, interest)? 

Like many kids growing up in the Snowy Mountains, I developed a passion for snowsports from an early age. For many years I remained tied to the mountains, coaching moguls skiing in Australia and North America. That profession provided me with the means to travel the world extensively and tied in nicely with study. 

In various stints (full- and part-time) I spent about ten years at university. It was skiing and the outdoors that kept me motivated and fed for most of that time. As my studies neared their end, I found myself in private legal practice. The haircut, pinstriped suit and billable hours necessary to survive as a corporate lawyer all came as a shock to someone used to earning their living in ski boots. However, time served in that area enabled me to build skills, work ethic and resilience, which were crucial stepping stones to organisations that better aligned with my ethos. 

Working as in-house counsel for the Hobart-based Australian Antarctic Division and Canberra–Darwin based Parks Australia allowed me to use my skills to support scientific endeavour and conservation in some very special Australian locations. The logistical complexity and physical risk associated with operating in remote places such as the Australian Antarctic Territory, Macquarie Island and Kakadu National Park provided a tangible and welcome challenge to the ordinarily abstract profession of legal advisory. 

My wife Kate and I returned to Jindabyne in 2020, working remotely to escape city apartment living, with our two small children. The move was initially temporary but re-kindled our love of the area and desire to provide our children with the kind of upbringing that we’d both enjoyed here. Fortunately, the right jobs came along for us locally and the move became permanent. 

What is your current occupation, organisation and position? 

I currently work as Principal Project Officer with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. I manage a team that deals with environmental management and development-related issues in the alpine resorts of Kosciuszko National Park. We also provide input on the Snowy Mountains Special Activation Precinct strategic planning program as it relates to the park.   

What is the biggest source of motivation for your career and life pursuits? 

I have a relatively disciplined personality that likes to set goals and work hard to achieve them in a fairly linear way. I apply this mentality to most of the threads of my life—career, sport, family, giving back to the community, etc. I think working across the various threads is the key (i.e., keep some balance), so that at least I feel like I’m moving forward in some areas even if others are stalling. Obviously, goals interfere with each other and unforeseen barriers arise but, with some rethinking and recalibration, nothing is insurmountable.  

How did your time at SMGS help you in your journey to your current career and life pursuits? 

I attended SMGS from its first year of operation, when most local kids either endured daily bus trips to Cooma or left home to attend boarding school. A new high school in town was a big deal, but one which offered programs and the flexibility to enjoy everything the mountains had to offer was even better.  

SMGS was a small school, in which I felt comfortable and supported, especially through those awkward coming-of-age years. It provided opportunities and programs that built confidence and independence, which shaped my sense of identity. Obviously, a quality education was important, and SMGS provided that through some dedicated staff and the links to Redlands that existed in the early years.   

Although we didn’t know it at the time, I also met my future wife at SMGS. Given she’s the brains and motivation behind most of my later exploits, that probably warrants mentioning! 

What are some of your most memorable moments from your time at SMGS? 

There were many—my fellow students and I had a fair bit of latitude in those days and probably got up to lots of things we shouldn’t have. The memories that stand out, though, are those from the outdoor education programs: running, riding and hiking. With some general guidance from our ex-army headmaster and our PE teacher, we were let loose in the bush often and for days at a time.  

From the Duke of Edinburgh program, I have memories of navigating through the Budawangs in the dark, and forced marches out of the Lower Snowy in the middle of a thunderstorm. However, add to that some backcountry mud fights and communal hot chocolate pots so thick the stirring spoon would stand upright, and it’s fair to say they’re nearly all cherished memories.     

What programs did you participate in and what co-curricular opportunities did you have? 

Primarily sport and outdoor ed–focused—skiing obviously, but also riding, sailing and running. I dabbled in band, debating and writing. As mentioned, though, the Duke of Edinburgh program was a major focus for me and I pursued it all the way through high school. I remain a firm believer in the philosophy behind the award and its focus on health, community service, the outdoors and the environment. Do the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, kids—it creates great human beings. 

What advice would you give to students who are beginning their HSC journey and starting to think about their future after they graduate? 

There’s a lot going on in the last couple of years of high school—pressure to perform well in the HSC and make decisions that feel like they’re going to shape the rest of your life. Of course, it’s important to make the most of the opportunities you have available at SMGS and give the HSC a red-hot crack. However, treating your results and decisions as ‘make or break’ will cause anxiety and do more harm than good. Remember it’s a long life and this is far from the last opportunity you’ll have to steer life in the direction you want it to go.  

I was someone who stressed overly about the HSC and needed to get the best results, to get into the best university, to get into the best law firm, to pursue the most lucrative career. It took me quite a few years to really figure out what I valued most and what I was good at. Spend your senior years getting a head start on me—work on figuring out who you are and what you’re passionate about, then go after it with discipline and determination.  

What does it mean to you to be a part of the SMGS Alumni/Old Scholars community? 

While I’ve kept in touch with some former alumni and scholars, I’m a relatively recent returnee to the SMGS and broader Jindabyne community. I’m looking forward to reconnecting and supporting that community with the benefit of the skills and experience I’ve accrued.  

There are certainly some teachers I’d like to reconnect with and thank for the time and effort they invested in me. Regardless of the subject, the right teachers leave lifelong positive impressions. I have particular SMGS teachers to thank for instilling in me a love of literature and writing, curiosity about the natural world and appreciation for scientific endeavour.