Who Is Our Founder?
Gemma is the only daughter of Sue and Basil Rice. They raised their eight children on a fine wool sheep station just out of Armidale on the New England Tablelands, about a six-hour drive north of Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Gemma with her seven brothers.
From left: Matthew, Tim, Patrick, James, Benn, Daniel and Nick
After completing secondary school as a boarder at St Vincent's College, Potts Point in Sydney, Gemma went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Melbourne, a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours from Northern Territory University and a Graduate Diploma in Education from The University of New England.
Gemma with her parents Sue and Basil Rice.
At 22 years of age, with the passion and zeal inherited from her ancestor, Edmund Rice (founder of the Christian Brothers movement), Gemma set off to Africa to teach mathematics, science and sewing to girls in Kalungu, a rural village near Masaka township in the middle of Uganda, East Africa.
The years spent in Africa were tough but rewarding years for Gemma as she witnessed and personally experienced a gamut of life's character building lessons. These lessons were gleaned from incredible hardship and painful loss (not least of which, watching her close friend, Gertrude, dying of AIDS), and rich rewards reaped from seeing many triumphs over adversity and forming strong and lasting friendships, including her best friend, soul mate and now husband, Richard Sisia.
Gemma and Gertrude - it was a loyal and loving friend that Gemma lost when Gertrude passed away from AIDS.
As well as founding The School of St Jude, Gemma and Richard are kept very busy with their safari company and their family of four children!
Richard and Gemma - an ocean and a continent separated them... but not for long.
Nathaniel (born October 2011), Jacob (born April 2003), Isabella (born April 2008) and Louisa (born July 2012) are the beautiful children of Richard and Gemma and are adored by the St Jude's community and provide so much joy and amusement for their adoring parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The many members of the school's changing community share in the thrills and spills and provide endless cuddles and playmate opportunities for the kids.
Nathan and Jacob with Isabella when she was born in 2008.
Here are the proud parents with Isabella.
This family portrait was taken in January 2011.
The newest addition to the St Jude's family is Louisa who was born in July 2012. She is as cute as a button and has been welcomed with loving arms into the Sisia family, particularly her older brothers and sisters.
Gemma and Richard with baby Louisa.
Over the years Gemma has been very grateful to be recognised for her work at St Jude’s. She was awarded a Sapphire Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International and her autobiography, St Jude’s, was published by Pan Macmillian Australia in 2007 and remained on the Best Sellers List for over two months. Also in 2007, Gemma’s achievements were honoured by an Order of Australia medal. Gemma’s story has been featured twice in the ABC TV documentary program Australian Story, in 2005 and a follow-up in 2009. In 2012 Gemma was named one of The Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence, nominated in the Global category. She was also a finalist in New South Wales for Australian of the Year.