This Friday August 28, Yamba Public School reenacts the walk its students, teachers and parents made from the school’s original site on the corners of Wooli, River and Coldstream streets, to its current Angourie Road address.
Geoff Gorman was the school’s principal from 1983 to 1991; Geoff Helisma met with him at his Yamba home.
Geoff Gorman says he “doesn’t remember much” from the time 25 years ago when Yamba Public School moved from the corners of Wooli, River and Coldstream streets, where the Yamba Bowling Club now stands … but the memories soon come flooding back.
It took about five years of lobbying from the school’s P & C before the state government agreed to relocate the school to its present site and five further years before the move took place. “The original school was bursting at the seams,” Geoff says. “It was a hotchpotch of the original building, new buildings and several demountable buildings. It was very obvious to all that the school had to go to the block allocated to it on Angourie Road.
“Bruce Muggleton was the leader of the P & C in the push for a new school. There weren’t many bureaucrats and politicians that weren’t pestered by Bruce at one stage or the other.”
However, once the process was underway, there was some meaningful consultation with the school’s community. Standing amid the “sandy waste” of an area that had been clear-felled, “a whole collection of people gathered in the middle of it” and met with “the education department people from Sydney”.
“They said, ‘Now, what do you want? They came up and gathered a whole lot of representatives of Maclean, Maclean shire, the North Coast education department, school staff, P & C members and the district inspector.
“We then said we would like to have covered areas facing the north east, we would like the back of the school facing the south, we would like a buffer of trees between the proposed new Coldstream Street, which hasn’t been extended yet.
“They then sent us back the new plans for the new school a couple of months later and said make some suggestions if you wish.
“We sent back about 40 suggestions and then they adopted some of those and sent back the plan again and said, ‘would you like anything changed – now this is your last chance’ – so they gave us two goes at the plans for the school.”
However, all the consultation and planning didn’t account for the number of students that were enrolled by the time the school opened. “The school people were staggered that there were not enough classrooms for the students at the school, we had to have two demountables at the beginning.
“They said that’s where the money ran out. People said, ‘look you’ve got two, Kempsey West is all demountables’.”
It was definitely time to move by the time August 28, 1990 arrived – the old site had reached critical mass. Geoff recounts some “moments when there were cars [from the bowling club] among the children in the playground” and times when “balls were punted onto the green” and occasions when the bowling club had to replace “sheets of glass from time to time – but they never blinked an eye on the issue”.
He remembers how he and Vic White met with some opposition from some of the bowling club’s board members (“There was steam coming out of their ears.”) when asking for assistance to erect some playground equipment at the new school. “They demanded that Vic and I go and see the board about this request for $13,500 worth of equipment. When we got in there they were as tame as anything and said, ‘yes you can have it’.”
Geoff says the town was very engaged with the process, particularly with Yamba Bowling Club’s involvement. “The bowling club, the P & C and the school community were very pleased that the bowling club got the grounds [at Wooli, River and Coldstream streets]. Historically, all of that block was school grounds, the whole block and, in 1936, people … were able to get a part of the school block to build the bowling club.”
Geoff recalls the day of the move. “It was quite emotional, there was quite a sense of excitement; it almost felt like when you get something new in your home, a new television a new car; and here we were going to a new school. There were a lot of new facilities that the old school did not have: a special canteen, brand new classrooms, an office area and handicapped facilities.
“The school had a long weekend holiday so that we could move lots of the old equipment from the old school to the new school. We all gathered on the Tuesday morning outside the front door of the old school, a couple of speeches were made and [teacher] Maureen Curtin officially closed the door of the old school.
“Each of the classes assembled in their class orders and walked out the back gate, which was near the present skate park, and then down Coldstream Street, then Yamba Street [in the CBD], around the corner at Wooli Street and then down to the [Angourie Road] intersection and up to the entrance of the new school.
“There, Vic White, the president of the P & C, and [state member] Ian Causley helped two kindergarten children cut the tape. We then proceeded to go around to the back of the new school and various speeches were made. The best speech was made by Jonathon Whale, captain of the school. He was accompanied by Robert Newberry, vice captain, and the two girl captains, Shelly Verstappen and Natalie McPherson.”