You are here

Middle Dural Public School 125th Anniversary

Mr MATT KEAN ( Hornsby ) ( 18:31 ): It is with great pleasure today that I speak about the start of celebrations for Middle Dural Public School's landmark 125th anniversary this year. For many, it would seem like only yesterday that the school celebrated its historic centenary. I am told the school experienced a touching tribute to mark the occasion when the oldest surviving student, Marjorie Best, was asked to cut the anniversary cake together with the school's then youngest student. What a great way to celebrate this important milestone in the school's history.

Students and teachers at Middle Dural Public School are continuing their commemorations today by selling anniversary school jerseys for students and teachers, both past and present. The staff also recently organised a Colonial Day celebration in conjunction with the school's 125th year, which provided them the opportunity to dress up in traditional costumes from the nineteenth century and to learn more about their school's rich history. Dural resident and parents and citizens committee member Ian McArthur said fellow students from nearby Hillside Public School in Glenorie were also invited to the educational event, which taught the students about the convict era and the growth of New South Wales and included a singing and dancing performance by The Journeymen.

I thank the incredible principal, Ann Mills. She is a local icon and much-loved figure in our community. I also thank her hardworking staff behind the scenes, including Joanne Urio, Lyndon Moss, Susan McLennan and Mr Tyszyk, for organising this early anniversary commemoration event. Middle Dural Public School is indeed an important link to our past. It has managed to stand the test of time and has an exciting history rife with drama and controversy. Its origins precede its foundations, beginning with Mr Arthur Best, a descendant of a convict who had been pardoned by King George III and transported to Australia instead of being sentenced to death. Arthur's ancestor, Mr George Best, had arrived in New South Wales on the convict vessel William and Ann in 1791.

George Best was the model prisoner, and for his services to the Crown as an overseer he was rewarded with a land grant of 185 acres. The land was enjoyed by him and his wife, Martha, their eight children and, later, every student of Middle Dural Public School. In 1890, the villagers of Middle Dural, most of whom were orchardists, submitted an Annex to Application for Establishment of a Public School. Though there were schools in the area, they were deemed unsatisfactory by the parents, and so Middle Dural was established as a provisional school with a quota of 30 students. The Department of Education deemed that there would be approximately 15 enrolments at the school, although it would be a provisional school and therefore had a maximum enrolment of 12.

As a provisional school, it could not be funded by the government and relied upon the community for its establishment and building costs. It was then that Arthur Best offered that the school be built on his family's estate. In 1891, Mr Best notified the department that the schoolroom, founded on the south‑west corner of Foster's Farm with a frontage on the Great Northern Road, was prepared. The school's opening day in mid-March 1891 saw 19 students arrive for class in a building which at the time was described as Middle Dural's "finest piece of architecture".

Middle Dural's first teacher was Lucinda White. Her journey to school each day was not an easy one, requiring a train ride from Parramatta and then a horse-drawn cart to Middle Dural. Ms White proved to be a very popular teacher, and in June 1891 she had 21 pupils enrolled at the school, which was well above the prediction of the Department of Education. Ms White's capability quickly upgraded Middle Dural to a public school in 1892, a mere year after its founding. Ms White's tenure did not last long, however, as a scandal broke out when Mr Best complained that the school was "dirty and filthy" and that Ms White was much too harsh. The reality, however, appeared to be that Mr Best's eldest brother had developed a liking for Ms White and their intimacy had become of considerable concern to his siblings and their families. As such, Ms White was reassigned and was succeeded by Rose Dowel.

Middle Dural's value became apparent only in the early 1900s when Minister Broughton O'Connor made the decision to close the school, deeming it to have "never been needed". This, however, could not have been further from the truth, as a petition was launched with 37 names as well as the names of 50 children. However, the resistance was high from teachers in neighbouring Glenorie and Dural, who would have been subjected to salary cuts if children left Middle Dural. Even the local member of Parliament of the day advocated on behalf of the school, raising concerns about the students' lack of access to neighbouring schools, which were not only too far but also dangerous to young children, who would be subjected to the elements. His calls were heard, as the Director of Education made a personal visit to Middle Dural and overturned the decision.

The fact that the school remains today is testament to the hard-fought battles of the local community over many generations. Following the Minister's visit, the school was reopened and Mr Herbert Hart was installed as the principal. He oversaw a dramatic period of growth at the school, with many new enrolments, thus ensuring the school's long-term future. Middle Dural Public School has endured highs and lows throughout its colourful and fascinating history. It has always remained at the heart of the community in Middle Dural—at the heart of not only students past and present but also community groups and local residents of surrounding areas. Middle Dural Public School is also a fundamental part of the larger Hornsby community. It has forged an identity characterised by triumph and hardship.

Whilst much has changed since that time, one thing that has not changed is the school's commitment to quality education for every student. For more than a century now, passionate and highly dedicated professionals have supported, nurtured and inspired the learning and education of our local students. The strong academic program at Middle Dural has seen students excel in the classroom whilst the diverse co-curricular offering and pastoral care has enabled countless numbers of local children to explore their full potential. I congratulate Middle Dural Public School on its 125 years of service to the Hornsby community, and I acknowledge all the hard work everyone involved with the school has done over the past 125 years. I also recognise the many achievements of former principal Gary Barnes, and Jeanie Keenan, who served as the school's office assistant for more than 25 years.

The school has been blessed by some talented and dedicated parents and citizens association presidents over the years, including Chris Buckingham, Gemma Silvia and Stephen Loughnan, who have all given countless hours of service over a number of years at the school. The future of Middle Dural Public School is in safe hands with the current school captains, Cameron McArthur, Rachael Liu, Hudson Prestwidge, who all impressed me with their knowledge of State politics on a recent visit to the New South Wales Parliament. The trio have certainly stepped up into the shoes of previous school captains Maddy Reimers and Caleb Glass, Vanessa Elkhazen and Julian Nati to represent their school with pride and distinction during a leadership workshop alongside school leaders from 21 other local Hornsby schools. I congratulate Middle Dural Public School on 125 years of quality education in our community and I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries into the future.

To see the Hansard transcript, click here.