Come February, the children of the Kinglake district will be back at their respective schools and, hopefully, 2022 will be a more ‘normal’ year for them and their teachers than the last two years have been.
The first time that children of our district gathered at a school was on Wednesday 29th October 1879. The Kinglake State School No. 2188 was the first school to open in Kinglake and it came about after a number of petitions from Kinglake families to the Minister for Public Instruction who was the head of the Education Department which had been set up under the Public Instruction Act of 1872. This Act had put in place a system of free, compulsory and secular education for all Victorian children between 5 and 15 years of age.
By 1876, a number of families had arrived on the Kinglake Range and selected land to establish farms. They were soon conscious that a school was needed for their children. A petition sent to the Minister in 1877 was signed by Messrs Staff, Ford, Finegan, Fitzgibbon, Lynch, Wood, Connell, McMahon and Wright and stated: “We most respectfully beg to call your attention to the entire absence of schools in this district, there being no school nearer than 10 miles distant.”
The petition contained the names and ages of 29 children of school age who would attend the school and, after some delay in the Education Department about choosing a site, a portable building was sent, a teacher was appointed and the school opened in October 1879.
This first school was the only school on the mountain for 15 years and children from Kinglake Central walked miles through the bush to attend it. But, by 1895, the Kinglake Central families decided to petition for a school of their own. The petition was signed by Messrs Beale, Aspley, Campbell, Exton, Ingram, Jamieson, Johnston, Lawrey, Nagel, Paskins, Power and Wrigley and, after some disagreement about moving the Kinglake school closer to Kinglake Central, the Kinglake Central State School No. 3315 was opened in November 1898 at the corner of Exton’s road. The Education Department had not been able to provide a building so the little school was actually built by the parents from local split palings.
Meanwhile, the number of farms and families established at Kinglake West had increased to the point where a school was needed to serve that growing community. Petitions were sent, signed by Messrs Rawsthorne, Campbell, Pollard, Scott, Burton, Janman, McPherson, Butler and King and listing over 20 children eligible to attend. The parents pledged that a site would be provided, on land donated by the Snell family, and that the school would be built by the parents’ voluntary labour. The Kinglake West State School No. 3255 was officially opened on 9th March 1896.
From that time, the Kinglake district has had three primary schools, placed apart so that no children had to walk more than four miles to school. Those who had longer distances to cover received a small allowance to keep a pony, and each school had a ‘pony paddock’ where the horses were kept during school hours.
Times have changed but the importance of these three schools to the Kinglake district community hasn’t. They are a vital part of the history of the district and the Kinglake Historical Society wishes them all the best for 2022.
Kinglake Historical Society
c/o Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House – phone 5786 1301