Red Hill Primary School calls the roll for its 60th anniversary year

Ian Bushnell 6 February 2020 32
Emma Campbell

Emma Campbell is researching a history of Red Hill Primary School and wants to hear from former staff and students for its 60th anniversary this year. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

It’s a special back-to-school for Red Hill Primary this week as it prepares to mark its 60th anniversary and organisers are reaching out to former staff and students to join them in the celebrations.

The Inner South school opened in 1960, and has become one of Canberra’s largest and most diverse primary schools with families from Indigenous, diplomatic, government, defence, academic, and business backgrounds.

It started with 330 students and there are now 850 students representing 50 nationalities. It was also one of the first International Baccalaureate schools in Australia.

Now the Red Hill Parents and Citizens is calling on former students and staff to share their stories about the school, and participate in key events it is hosting to celebrate the anniversary – a ‘60s-themed evening soiree and a Community Open Day.

P&C member and historian Emma Campbell has been tasked with producing a school history, assisted by an ACT Heritage Grant that will also help the school stage an exhibition at the Open Day on 3 May as part of the ACT Heritage Festival.

“We know there are many Canberrans who attended Red Hill Primary School and we want to know what their school experience was like,” she said.

“We are interested in seeing old photos, uniforms, school reports or other memorabilia that they have from their time there. We will also be recording oral histories with former students, teachers and other support staff at the Open Day so that we can have a comprehensive account of its past 60 years from a variety of perspectives.”

But she admits it could be challenging to track down past students, as many would be overseas and find it difficult to come back for the anniversary events.

“It would be great to think that as a result of getting this out to the community, that we are having celebrations and are doing something for the anniversary, that through channels and connections people still have years later, we may find out where so many of our students have ended up over the years and what they’re doing,” she said.

Ms Campbell has been delving into the digitised back issues of The Canberra Times on the Trove site at the National Library of Australia, which also holds some of the school’s newsletters.

She said the first principal Frank Dwyer raised eybrows when he left Sydney’s Bellevue Hill Public School to take the Red Hill position.

“Many of his Sydney friends hadn’t understood why he wanted to leave one of the most attractive parts of Sydney for what he called almost the bush. But he was delighted to come here,” Ms Campbell said.

She said the school’s location meant it received many visits from prime ministers and senior ministers over the years, and she was sure her research would turn up some famous alumni.

“Hopefully, people will contact us and say I went to school with such and such who has gone one to achieve great things,” she said.

Former students or staff who want to get in touch with Ms Campbell with stories about their time at the school can email her at

The Community Open Day will be held on Sunday 3 May as part of the ACT’s Heritage Festival and with support from the ACT Government. It will include an exhibition of items from the school’s history, and past students are invited to organise class reunions, bring in their memorabilia to be photographed, or participate in an oral history recording of their school memories.

The adults-only soiree will be held on Friday 3 April and will feature a buffet, live band and bar. Tickets are $75 per person and available from Eventbrite.

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32 Responses to Red Hill Primary School calls the roll for its 60th anniversary year
Vanessa Dangerfield Vanessa Dangerfield 10:27 pm 03 Mar 20

Thanks for your comments, we would love to hear more at the Soirée on 3 April or the Heritage Community Day on 3 May. Please see Eventbrite, or email for more information

Mel Godfrey Mel Godfrey 4:00 pm 11 Feb 20

I was there for Kindy and first grade in 1980/81. I remember I had Mrs Brown in Kindy and Mrs Jenkins in year 1. Sadly, we moved away but I still have fond memories of being there.

Amgad Naguib Amgad Naguib 2:42 pm 11 Feb 20

Ms Peters! You were my fifth grade teacher!

Erin Mulgrue Erin Mulgrue 8:23 pm 10 Feb 20

Started there after the May holidays in 1960 in grade 4, then grades 5 and 6 in ‘61 and ‘62

Jim Mitchell Jim Mitchell 7:16 pm 09 Feb 20

My name is Jim Mitchell and I started as a first year out teacher at Red Hill PS at the start of third term (September) in 1960 the year the school opened.
I had never ever seen such a modern and well resourced school in all my life, from a teacher’s study in every classroom to a fully equipped dental clinic and a proper library with a full time librarian. It was amazing.
Frank Dwyer the Headmaster was less than impressed with my arrival as he had expressly asked the Dept of Education for an “experienced teacher” and they’d sent him a first year out probationer. Mr Dwyer as we all knew him, was well liked and respected as a caring and courteous headmaster.
At the start of the 1964 school year an new beginning teacher, Miss Clark arrived on staff, I’d met my future wife.

    Cathy Gallop Cathy Gallop 3:14 pm 20 Feb 20

    Hi Mr Mitchell
    I was the overly enthusiastic bossy clarinet player in the band. Such fond memories. You were endlessly patient.
    Cathy Gallop
    PS still bossy

Sharon Dalla Costa Sharon Dalla Costa 11:19 pm 08 Feb 20

Rachael gosh I feel old.

    Rachael Eason Rachael Eason 11:33 pm 08 Feb 20

    Sharon Dalla Costa wow, doesn't feel that long.

    Kaitlyn Dalla Costa Kaitlyn Dalla Costa 9:34 am 09 Feb 20

    Sharon Dalla Costa you should go mum

Holly Diggle Holly Diggle 10:37 pm 08 Feb 20

I went there!

Liz Peters Liz Peters 7:46 pm 08 Feb 20

Kate Diggle you were in my class xxxx

Mrs P

Liz Peters Liz Peters 7:44 pm 08 Feb 20

My name is Liz Peters .

I taught at RHPS from approx 1980 to1991.

Grades 1,2,3,5,

Had the Old Colonial.Days. built the slab hut, Had the Old Colonial.School, gold rush hunt days, Had a hot air balloon on the oval for Bastille Day!!! And its more. Class filmed for docs for opening of new Parliament House..

My daughters Clare and Helen were at the Ecole Maternal in the French pre school .

From aged 3.oved my years there. Espevially bopk week. Dressed whole class as nuns one year and sailors another.

Got old pics, jumpers, ...

Helen noticing in UK Married 2 girls, Clare living near me with her daughter Emma.

Hope i can get to one of the open days

    Melanie O'Byrne Melanie O'Byrne 9:15 pm 09 Feb 20

    I remember Clare! I’m pretty sure we both had Ms Willis in year 2 and Mr Walters in year4 4. I was at RHPS from ‘84-‘86 and then moved to the US for four years, going to high school in Newcastle after that.

    Liz Peters Liz Peters 7:27 am 10 Feb 20

    Melanie O'Byrne I think that would be right

    Vanessa Dangerfield Vanessa Dangerfield 10:21 pm 03 Mar 20

    Hi Liz, please email we would love to hear more, and borrow your uniforms if possible ?

Susan Spruce Susan Spruce 9:20 am 08 Feb 20

I attended the dental clinic there from St Bedes at Red Hill. We were booked for visits and would walk from our school to there. I remember having 4 teeth extracted - 2 at a time- and returning back to school for normal pick up. That was in the middle to late 70’s.

Sarah d'Arx Sarah d'Arx 7:52 am 08 Feb 20

Looking good Emma Campbell!!

Gillian McKinlay Gillian McKinlay 6:26 am 08 Feb 20

May 1960 and 1961 years 5 and also our Mother Molly Mulgrue helped out in the office typing for Mr Dwyer the headmaster

    Vanessa Dangerfield Vanessa Dangerfield 10:22 pm 03 Mar 20

    Hi Gillian we would love to hear more if you would like to email ?

Lesley Fisk Lesley Fisk 11:55 pm 07 Feb 20

1960 when it opened and 1961- years 5 and 6.

    Jim Mitchell Jim Mitchell 7:21 pm 09 Feb 20

    Hi Lesley, I think this is you leading the Red Hill Recorder Band down Astrolabe St.

Kel Bed Kel Bed 11:53 pm 07 Feb 20

Caroline Nader Ramatu Umar Bako - surely we have some stories ? Yr 6 class of 1984

I have newspaper clippings from that year about the school .

    Ramatu Umar Bako Ramatu Umar Bako 12:02 am 08 Feb 20

    Kel Bed Thanks Kel. Will go check the link!

    Vanessa Dangerfield Vanessa Dangerfield 10:24 pm 03 Mar 20

    Hi Kel, we would love to see / copy the newspaper clippings if possible could you email ?

Lizzie Catanzariti Lizzie Catanzariti 11:14 pm 07 Feb 20

I went there from kindergarten in 1983 til year 4 in 1987.

Kate Diggle Kate Diggle 10:39 pm 07 Feb 20

I went there!!

Chloe Lankshear Chloe Lankshear 9:58 pm 07 Feb 20

My old school! Dale Lankshear

    Dale Lankshear Dale Lankshear 10:01 pm 07 Feb 20

    They will open the time capsule???

    Margaret Donaldson Margaret Donaldson 10:43 pm 07 Feb 20

    Chloe Lankshear my old school tooooo...

    Dale Lankshear Dale Lankshear 9:48 am 08 Feb 20

    Margaret Donaldson As a kid?

    Margaret Donaldson Margaret Donaldson 1:01 pm 08 Feb 20

    Dale Lankshear I was a bit childish at times...but no, as teacher it wad my school.😁

Anandi Venkatesh Anandi Venkatesh 9:20 pm 07 Feb 20

Shruti Bhat-Ruzario Chris and Sarah might be interested?

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