CHIMING IN: Woodlawn’s St Joseph’s Primary school principle Jeanette Wilkins and parish Richard Foley with the bell that was put in the school to commemorate past and future students during the centenary celebrations.
CHIMING IN: Woodlawn’s St Joseph’s Primary school principle Jeanette Wilkins and parish Richard Foley with the bell that was put in the school to commemorate past and future students during the centenary celebrations. Nolan Verheij-Full

100 years of teaching locals

A MUSICAL pageant by students telling the 100-year history of St Joseph's Primary at Woodburn helped celebrate the school's centenary celebrations on October 25 and 26.

The student performance attracted a crowd of over 300, and was "very impressive," St Joseph's principal Jeanette Wilkins said.

For all of her career, Ms Wilkins has taught at bigger schools with over 400 students, but there was something very special about this small school, she said.

"Being in a small community, my eyes are opened every day," she said

Just one example was how the whole school community came together to make the weekend run smoothly. Whenever there was something to do, someone will volunteer to get it done, she said.

The community had a "simplicity of pureness," she said.

Sisters of Saint Joseph founded the school at Swan Bay, further down river from its current site, in 1914, after first reaching the area in 1883.

The school was moved because of the flood inundation.

In its first year, the school had 77 pupils and nowadays has 144.

Former student Jemma Craven attended St Joseph's in the 1990s and said the biggest change on returning to the school was how big it had grown.

Ms Craven was the daughter of a former assistant principal and lived on the school grounds, so her whole childhood was wrapped up in the school.

The best memories included community celebrations like concerts and the firework nights.

A lot of her old class mates make a special effort to stay in touch with each other, she said.

The weekend centenary has brought together people from far and wide, including many of that played a big role in the community over the years.

"The spirit of the school is still very much alive," said Fr Richard Foley.

Having a 100th birthday was a real achievement, and a landmark day in the region's history, not just the school's.

"There are not a lot of institutions that have been around for 100 years in this area," he said.

A living testament to the longevity of the school was the attendance of 88-year-old Betty Powell, who has played organ in the church since she was 17.



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