When Mascha's family immigrated to Australia from the Netherlands in 1981, they moved to the Dandenong Ranges. It was here that Mascha's love of the natural world began - setting the scene for her studies and lifelong career.
Mascha attended Mater Christi from 1984 – 1989 and says she settled in well, especially given that her older sister Esther was already here. Mascha’s love for the environment and the world’s inhabitants meant she thoroughly enjoyed the College surroundings.
“I loved that Mater Christi was perched on top of the hill, overlooking Belgrave, and we could do our school cross-country runs through the Dandenong Ranges National Park. I loved camps and remember being very impressed one day when my Maths teacher rescued a huntsman spider from a class of screaming Year 9s, picking it up with her bare hands and setting it free through an open window”.
After graduating from Mater Christi, Mascha returned to the Netherlands to intern in a zoo aquarium – at this point, she says she was 'hooked'.
“I loved the passion and care that went into giving the animals the best possible life in captivity and the education, conservation and breeding programs conducted by the zoo to ensure the survival of these animals and their habitats in the wild.”
Mascha went on to study a Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology and Zoology) at James Cook University in Townsville, working weekends as a ranger at Billabong Sanctuary and later became a zoo keeper at Healesville Sanctuary.
After having her daughter, Mascha took some time off from zoo keeping and discovered her second passion, horticulture. She began reflecting on how humans impact the environment and decided to live a more sustainable life. Her backyard became an organic vegetable and fruit garden, and she enjoyed keeping chickens, bees, and goats.
Later completing a Diploma in Horticulture, Mascha has since worked in various horticulture jobs, using her knowledge of insect lifecycles and chemistry to enhance her work.
Reflecting on the 60th anniversary of Mater Christi College, Mascha says that while there may have been changes in facilities and staff since she attended, the overarching values and sense of community remain the same.
“What hasn’t changed are the strong community values the school encourages and the supportive learning environment it provides girls, no matter what subject they are interested in. My time at Mater taught me the joy you can achieve from contributing to something greater than yourself.”
Mascha’s love for the College was later reflected in her decision to send her daughter Mieke here. Mieke now works at Mater Christi as a Piano Tutor while pursuing her own dreams of becoming a professional composer.