St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, 1970.
St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, 1970. Contributed

Looking back on century of education at St Joseph's

LOOKING at the vibrant, modern St Joseph's Catholic Primary School Gayndah community today, it is hard to believe that 100 years have almost passed since it was founded.

However, as Gayndah is one of the oldest towns in Queensland, it is no surprise to discover that the history of Catholic education in the area is also long.

The school was originally meant to open in January 1920, but Archbishop James Duhig, alongside Mathor Mary Marcella, announced during his visit to Gayndah on September 13, 1919, that the school would open on October 6, 1919.

The pair were in town to open and bless the parish's new convent, which parishioners were constructing alongside the school.

At this stage, the parish was onto its third church, the first two having been lost to natural disaster.

George McLeen was the first child entered on the new school's roll - 56 children had registered by October 6, and there were 70 by the end of the year.

Numbers increased throughout 1920 and boarding students were housed in the convent.

Michael Lutvey was the school's first scholarship winner.

The school was a flurry of activity during World War II, as the school hosted Sisters and boarders from Lourdes Hill Convent in Brisbane, when it was feared the Japanese would conduct bombing attacks.

In 1969, the school's Golden Jubilee, St Joseph's still had an enrolment of about 70 students.

Many families have continued to send their third- and fourth-generation children to the school.

In 1990, the Good Samaritan Sisters entrusted the leadership of the school to its first lay principal, Mr Lindsay Dean.

The Good Samaritan Sisters continued to take an active part in school activities.

In 1995, the school's second lay principal, Mr Gary Burdett was appointed.

St Joseph's Convent Years 4, 5 and 6, 1963.
St Joseph's Convent Years 4, 5 and 6, 1963. Contributed

This was a significant year in the school's history, for during this year, the remaining Sisters decided it was time for them to move out of the convent building and into a smaller house in town.

This was also the year when planning started in earnest for the rebuilding of the school facilities.

An application was eventually lodged with the Block Grants Authority for funding and this was approved in 1996.

Building began in 1997, the same year St Joseph's third lay principal, Lawrie Knott, was appointed to the position.

The year 2005 saw the closing of a chapter when the Preschool/Year 1 class moved out of the convent building into the new purpose-built early years unit, provided with funding from Brisbane Catholic Education.

With the combination of financial grants and hard work by the parents of the school, the children were provided with tables and seats in the eating area, a senior and junior adventure playground and many classroom resources including laptop computers.

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School tug-of-war, date unknown.
St Joseph's Catholic Primary School tug-of-war, date unknown. Contributed

Irrigation pipes were laid and a multi-purpose court (basketball, netball and tennis) was completed in 2006.

The year 2008 saw the retirement of St Joseph's last Good Samaritan Sister from staff.

Sr Eunice Osborne spent 51 years in Catholic Education, including the final 11 years as a learning support teacher in Gayndah.

In 2011, a Federal grant of $2.4 million led to the redevelopment of the convent into the Gayndah Arts and Cultural Centre.

This project, which involved St Joseph's partnering with Gayndah State School and North Burnett Regional Council, has enabled the historical building to be restored and developed into a modern art gallery and art centre which is now enjoyed by all in the community.

Current principal, Terese Shephard, took over in 2018, collaborating with staff to ensure all learners are progressing and achieving.

In 2018, the school achieved its 'SMART Goal for Literacy' and is well on track to achieve a higher result this year.

Learner dispositions and behaviour expectations have been re-written in line with 21st century learning.

The school has gone 1:1 with iPads and has revitalised furniture to provide a more contemporary educational setting.

The school attracts funding from many sources as it is the most rural located catholic school in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

St Joseph's is hosting its centenary celebrations this weekend.

See the Facebook event for more information.

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