Warragamba Public School Fiftieth Anniversary

About this Item
SpeakersBeamer Ms Diane; Lo Po' Mrs Faye
BusinessPrivate Members Statements


Mrs BEAMER (Badgerys Creek) [12.36 p.m.]: Today I inform the House of the celebration last weekend of the fiftieth anniversary of Warragamba Public School. It was a celebration for the township of Warragamba, where the public school has been the centre for community activities. Warragamba is a small, close-knit community nestled amid beautiful bushland. The school principal, Ray Farnham, on arriving at the school two years ago after spending five years at Badgerys Creek Public School remarked, "I’ve left paradise for something closer to heaven." Warragamba Public School reached its 50-year milestone despite the fact that it was planned to be demolished after the dam was completed in the 1960s. The site was to be rehabilitated.

In celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the school a number of functions and events were held on the weekend. The classrooms were opened for the display of memorabilia. It was wonderful to see people looking back over old school photos, and I saw a number of people who had not seen each other for decades embrace as they remembered their time together at the school. The official launch of the anniversary was held on Saturday and I congratulate a number of people on their efforts. I congratulate the students who led the anniversary proceedings with such dignity and poise. The school captain, Jenna Parsons, and all the other students excelled themselves in their introductions of various items and speakers. The junior and senior choirs were wonderful and sang together and then separately to entertain those who attended. The efforts and skills of dancers selected to perform at a regional dance exhibition were very evident.

The anniversary celebrations did not come about without a long period of preparation. Two of Warragamba’s longest serving citizens were instrumental in the success of the celebrations. George and Mavis Morgan spent the past few years chasing down information locally, nationally and internationally to ensure that memories of the past 50 years were well documented. Mavis attended what was known as the old town Warragamba Dam 1 public school in the 1940s, and the couple’s children and grandchildren attended Warragamba Public School. The efforts of those two motivated people really need to be commended. Warragamba’s history is tied to the dam. The original school was built in 1942 and was used for several years. It was built by the Water Board and was a single-room structure made from corrugated iron. As honourable members may imagine, it was not particularly well adapted to the climatic conditions.

The new school was constructed on the present site and at the time was considered to be of the latest architectural design. That construction literally fell down two years ago. F block, which had six classrooms at the time, attracted termites, and they took their toll. At the beginning of the first term
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1995 the rooms were evacuated and upon further inspection the ceiling caved in. Children were taught all over the school and in the town hall as demountable classrooms were sought. The new principal, who had been at the school only a day when the school fell down, seized every opportunity to make sure that a new school was constructed. When the extent of damage was assessed it was obvious that the classrooms needed to be demolished and rebuilt. The rebuilding of the school will provide a school of the latest architectural design, and that is nearing completion. The school is looking forward to moving into its new buildings and beginning the next 50 years of public education in the town.

One of the most popular items at the school anniversary was the book published to commemorate the event, A Flood of Memories. The book traces the history of those who have lived in Warragamba, those who have shaped its past and those who will shape its future. I enjoyed reading the personal histories of many of the former students, teachers and principals. Their reflections of their experiences at Warragamba Public School demonstrate that it was an institution which valued the learning environment. However, some of the recollections are more personal. Chris Poli, now a year six student recalls:
      In kindergarten we had a sausage sizzle, my teacher asked if she could push in at the front. I said, "No, go to the end". Then I got sent to the end and out on detention.

Luke Bewley remembers:
      In first class Renee Fenton sat next to me. I noticed her hair was a bit longer on one side than it was on the other so I trimmed it back to her shoulders.

Mrs Denegate, one of the first teachers at the school, was asked to assist in teaching because of the increasing enrolments but was unable to do so unless she took her three-year-old daughter to class, which she was given permission to do. A quotation from the book in relation to Mrs Denegate reads:
      On occasions she took pity on some of the smallest children that had followed their brothers and sisters to school and would keep them in the class for the day. It got to the stage where it was easier to tell their parents to dress and put shoes on the kids and send them to school before they were 5 years old. This was much better than worrying if they got home when they were sent home.

Mrs LO PO’ (Penrith - Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Women) [12.40 p.m.]: I congratulate the honourable member for Badgerys Creek for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I also congratulate the school. I know Ray Farnham; he is a former colleague of mine. His late father used to be my boss. I taught with his brother-in-law and his sister. The Farnham-McKay family are good educators who are concerned for the children in their care. Although I was not aware of and did not attend the celebration I can well imagine that in the hands of Ray Farnham it would have been a great event. People like Ray care about communities; they understand that communities are the backbone of good schooling. I congratulate the school on its fiftieth anniversary, which I am sorry I missed.