6 February 2020

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

| Ian Bushnell
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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 rhps.pandc@gmail.com

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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Jim Mitchell7:16 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 Gallop3:14 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

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