Woronora River Public School

Encouraging responsibility, respect and independence in all students

Telephone02 9521 3111


School history

The first subdivision of land in the Woronora Valley took place early in the century. The blocks of land were narrow and long and had weekenders built on them.

1927 saw the commencement of construction of the Woronora Dam. A number of the workers and their families moved into the valley and rented the weekenders as it took a long time to get to the dam site by public transport and very few people owned their own car.

This influx of population led to many changes within the River community. Every family faced hardship in one form or another and a true community spirit sprang up. A sense of collective identity and purpose led to a desire to form a committee for the betterment of the area and so the Progress Association was formed.

In 1938, the Progress Association approached the Education Department about starting a school in the area as 27 children, 18 of them infants, walked through the bush along Price's Track, two miles or more to Sutherland School each day. The Local Inspector, Mr. Cantello reported, "It would not be unreasonable to claim that the walk is too severe for any school pupils other than sturdy boys."

The Minister for Education, Mr. Drummond, accompanied Mr. Hodgen, President of Woronora Progress Association and others on a visit to the River on 2nd March, 1938. Mr. Drummond felt that there were too few children for an Infants School, and that there was no suitable land.

In other matters, the Progress Association saw the need for a regular method of crossing the river at Prince Edward Park. Price's Ferry, from the Menai side of the footbridge to Prince Edward Park did not run to a timetable and had to be hailed. Alternatively there was the road bridge, built in 1912 and therefore the first one built in the Shire. They managed to convince the council of the need for a footbridge and work commenced in 1939. The footbridge was officially opened in 1940.

The Progress Association reignited the matter of a local school with Sutherland Council in 1939 and the Valuer-General pointed out that Crown Land was available adjoining Prices Avenue. In 1940, Mr. Munro suggested the site should be acquired for a school site. An area of two and three quarter acres for a school site was gazetted on 4th April, 1941. This original area was sloping, full of clay and covered with small rocks.

Plans were made for a full Primary School, with the Infants section to be opened as the first stage. At this time about 50 children attended Sutherland School by bus. Classrooms became available when Woronora Dam was completed in 1941 and 24 x 21 foot room was acquired in from the construction site 1942 and moved to the present school site.

The school was opened in May 1942 with 27 enrolled students and Miss Hamblen was appointed in charge of the new school. At this time there was no electricity or phone at the school and the toilets were pan toilets set on a clay-filled site on the hillside.

The Auxiliary requested electricity and fly screens from the Department but because of the war the flyscreens could not be obtained. However electricity was supplied by 1945. Miss Buckman, the new teacher, brought her own portable wireless so the children could hear the Infants Wireless Programme. Enrolment was now 50 and there was accommodation for 38 at the school. The Department supplied 8 dual desks to accommodate the extra pupils.

By 1946 the population of Woronora had doubled from 500 to 1,000. The enrolment was 60, still housed in the 24 ft by 21 ft room and Inspector Mr. White recommended that a new classroom should be built and the school should become a full Primary School with two teachers. It was found difficult to obtain a second classroom, but in 1947 a hut from the R.A.A.F. camp at Camden was re-erected at the school.

In 1948 Woronora became a full Primary School, the official date being 3rd February with Mr. J. Pauling as the first headmaster. The attendance grew again, so in 1949 all children above 4 class were sent to Sutherland School. An additional classroom came in June 1949 but was unfurnished until the beginning of 1950 when it was occupied by 5th and 6th class. The enrolment was now 120 pupils with 3 teachers.

In 1953, the Minister for Education, Mr. McGrath visited the school, accompanied by Mr. Dalton M.L.A. and Members of Federal Parliament. The need for enlarging and improving the school was discussed. As a result two new classrooms and an ex-Army hut were added to the school and a large area of ground was levelled and tarred for an assembly and playing area. There were now four classrooms, an office block and a weathershed.

The next year, 1954, a bushfire threatened the school. Mr. Smith, the headmaster, reported:
"Shortly after afternoon lessons began [on 11 October], smoke was observed within a half a mile to the south west of the school.
"Pupils were then assembled and marched across the footbridge to the park across the river accompanied by Miss Hornby and Mrs. Smith.
"The male teachers returned to the school and with volunteers prepared fire breaks and fire-fighting material until the arrival of the fire brigade. Although much of the school ground was burnt out, no damage to buildings or equipment was caused."

The Director of Primary Education conveyed to the headmaster and staff the Department's appreciation of the way in which they had safeguarded the pupils and the school property.

Bushfire again threatened the school in 1968. Parents collected several pupils from the school and the fire brigade filled the gutters with water and hosed the buildings down. School pupils were evacuated to the park under the supervision of the female teachers.

In 1970, work commenced on the brick school building. Building such a structure on the site meant that the area was crowded with work sheds and materials. To ease the crowded situation children were taken down to Prince Edward Park for some lunch hours.

When the magnificent new building was finished and ready to occupy in 1973 the numbers at the school had again increased and the teaching staff numbered five for the first time. As the new building had only four classrooms (the fifth room was a Craft room fitted out with large work benches, cupboards for storage and sinks at the back of the room), one unfortunate class had to stay in the old buildings.

With the extra room, the library was removed from the corridor of the office block and placed in the original school building. The ladies' Auxiliary used the old staff room for it's meetings and the old school storeroom was used to store Auxiliary material.

It was at this time that Prices Circuit was being connected to the sewer line. So rather than dump soil removed from the excavation for sewerage in the river, it was placed on the very uneven bottom playground and then bulldozed to create a level surface. This flat area was then covered with turf resulting in the much improved grassy playground.

The school grew until all the old portables were used as classrooms. Then two demountable classrooms were brought to the school and placed on the bottom playground. Portable toilets were also brought in and placed between the current toilets and Room 6.

Throughout the school's history the local community has been outstanding in the support that it has given the school. When one considers the population of the valley, and the number of families that attend the school, the finances raised are, and have always been, incredible. But it is the physical help given that is amazing. The number of parents and friends who assist at working bees, the Bush Fire Brigade with their efforts to clear the area near the school, the State Emergency Service with their assistance at the Natureathons, and the R.S.L. with it's donation of facilities and annual donations to the library, are all very generous and supportive. Whenever any person or organization in the community is asked for assistance the response is gratifying. This is one of the characteristics of the river community which is fortunate for the school.

Particia Ridgway in the Golden Jubilee Booklet.