Centenary celebrations for tiny school

When the doors first opened at Eurongilly Public School – it was the year when the nation’s first electric train service began, Australia was involved in World War 1 and May Gibbs published Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

Next year, the tiny school of 19 students, located in the Riverina, celebrates it’s 100th anniversary – a significant milestone for any school especially in a small rural community. 

For many students, their family connection to Eurongilly can be traced back through multiple generations. When visiting the school, its history is evident as soon as you enter the foyer where school photos going back to 1971 are on display. Students are able to point out their parents, uncles, aunties, cousins and older siblings and some will have a story or two to share about that relative during their school days. 

After the nearby school of Mitta closed in 1915, the parents and citizens of Eurongilly wanted to open a school in their town and gained the permission of the Education Department, to transport the building to its present site. The building was dismantled and re-erected at a cost of £55, which was paid by the parents. The school opened on March 26, 1918 with the teacher Mr A.C. Southwell. Within the first few weeks 18 students were enrolled.

After the first school holidays, the total went to 22, and by the close of 1920 the numbers had reached 40. At the end of 1933 with the numbers less than 10, it closed, and did not reopen until June 1938 when a former pupil Mr Bennett was the teacher.

The dividing of "Merribindinyah" and "Wantabadgery" stations for soldier settlement after World War II and the organisation of a small bus to transport the students to school, together with the post-war 'baby boom' increased enrolments miraculously and in 1955 a new building was erected by the department alongside the old one and a second teacher appointed.

The P&C built a tennis court in 1959 and the department built the residence at the school in 1962. In 1968, the original old school building was demolished and a new modern, well-equipped building replaced it. At the same time the two old 'pit' toilets disappeared and a solid brick toilet was built. The last remaining original structure from the early years was the weather shed, which was built in and transformed to an attractive and well stocked library. A new weather shed was built in 1979.

In 2011, under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) project, a new covered outdoor learning area (COLA) and classroom refurbishments were established. Eurongilly has had a strong history of sporting success, but also prides itself on providing students with opportunities in many different extracurricular areas, despite its small size and relative isolation.

The centenary celebration is a wonderful milestone for the school and it’s glad to use this opportunity to remember the past, celebrate and share the present, as well as look forward to our schools future. One of the most exciting parts of preparing for the centenary has been to hear the stories and memories being shared by members of our extended community. 

  • Lucy Greene is the the school’s relieving principal.
This story Centenary celebrations for tiny school | Photos first appeared on The Land.