May 31, 2016
For the hundreds of past students, old school friends and official guests, Saturday’s 125th anniversary of Coolabunia State School was an opportunity to swap memories, tell tall tales and, perhaps, get lost in the hay bale maze set up for the day.
But for school principal Murray Johnston, it was also an opportunity to look back on the 30 years he has spent at the school, doing things “the Coolabunia way”.
“I have built a rewarding professional and personal life here in Coolabunia,” he told the large crowd gathered under marquees in the school grounds.
Coolabunia State School officially opened on June 16, 1881, with 18 students and just one teacher.
Mr Johnston said there were descendants of those early families still residing in the district and still part of the school community.
The first teacher was Fred Horne, a local resident and a former pupil teacher in Yorkshire, England. His descendant, Barry Randall, still lives in the South Burnett and is the school’s unofficial historian.
These days there are 128 students, six teachers and 10 ancillary staff at Coolabunia State School.
“Just imagine what those (first) families would say about our school today,” Mr Johnston said.
He said a total of 1961 students had passed through the doors of Coolabunia State School over the years as well as 24 principals, at least 41 teachers and 30 ancillary staff.
A special guest at the anniversary celebrations was the Governor of Queensland, His Excellency Paul de Jersey AC, QC who officially unveiled the anniversary plaque and helped to cut the birthday cake.
His Excellency lived in the school house as a very small child while his father Ron de Jersey was school principal from 1950-1953.
He said his older brothers John – who was present at celebrations – and Peter attended the school and had “clear memories of slates and ink wells”.
Allan Sommerfield, from the 125th anniversary organising committee, said Mr de Jersey was still remembered at the school for some of the first words he said to students as principal: “You’re like a herd of dairy cattle. I’ll give you the feed,and you’ll produce the results” – an analogy that was well understood in a farming community.
Other guest speakers were Deputy Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell and Tarong site manager Dennis Franklin.
[UPDATED with correction]