Nambucca Heads High to celebrate its quarter century milestone

The first faculty lineup
The first faculty lineup

In the third term of 1992, the first cohort of Nambucca Heads High year 7s and 8s finally got the chance to step foot onto their freshly minted Nambucca Heads campus.

For the past year the 60-odd students had been stationed in a demountable outside the only 7-12 high school in town on Boundary St, Macksville.

But finally, after a two-year build, the township had a high school they could call their very own. And the ‘northern kids’ now no longer had to cross the bridge to get an education.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a community to run a school,” one of the original teachers, Mr Neil Gerard said.

A lot of the local businesses were involved in the construction of the school, and are still involved in the running of it.

In fact, with the majority of infrastructure primarily situated in Macksville back then, the new Nambucca Heads High School heralded a new focus and area of commerce for the Nambucca Valley.

“Everything was resourced from locals. And a lot of kids went out and did work experience in the local businesses. So the town’s benefitted by seeing its own get involved,” Mr Gerard said.

And the first squad of staff were thrilled with their new abode – here was a place they could build from the ground up, and they did.

“It was exciting because here was an opportunity to do something different. And once you help organise something, you feel more of a sense of ownership,” Mr Gerard said.

“We began the school with the idea that all staff were one hivemind – a unit. And the school worked well because we had the ethos of being a team from the very outset.”

Class of 1995

Class of 1995

The original faculty had a hand in naming the four school houses – Gordon, Ellis, Whaite and Davis – after four important historical figures in the area.

In conjunction with a parents group, they also decided on the school uniform – teal blue and navy – which was later altered because of the difficulty in sourcing the correctly coloured material.

And of course the school rules and policy had to be determined. 

There was no gym, language centre or TAS block (Technology and Applied Sciences) when the school first opened its doors; the school has undergone a necessary evolution in its 25 years. But two constants during that time have been Mr Gary Cattanach and Mr David Shrubb; “the last men standing”. 

Despite steady growth since the 90s, the school population has remained below 500, which teacher, Pat Nichols, said is essential to the school keeping its uniquely personal touch. 

She said students who had returned from the big smoke after graduating from university had expressed disbelief at the notion that they were considered as having come from a “disadvantaged area” – most of their colleagues having come straight from private school educations.

“They realised the teacher connection and care at Nambucca was something they couldn’t have received at a larger school,” she said.

“It’s provided an opportunity for students of all abilities to get a fair shake.”

 Mr Gerard said he didn’t believe schools should be “judged by their highest HSC score”.

“We have consistently produced good solid citizens – you look around and they’re running the place – and really I think that’s more of a benchmark to measure a school’s success by.

“And we’ve made our mark on the sporting field and in the sciences. We have kids all over the world in all fields.”

Some of those students, including former captains, the school’s first principal Dr Maurice Brunning, and many of the school’s former staff members will be returning this November to attend the 25th anniversary celebrations of the school.

All are welcome to attend.

There’ll be a special anniversary assembly complete with school tour, memorabilia and nostalgic photo displays on Saturday, November 3, from 9.30am.

The four members of the organising committee have left the daytime festivities open for spontaneous trips down memory lane, but that afternoon from 2.30pm there will be a gathering at the Nambucca Heads Bowls Club for a proper catch-up.

Finger food and a supervised jumping castle and games room will be provided. Adults are $25 per head and children’s meals can be purchased for $6 on the night.

Bookings should be made and paid for in advance by October 20 and can be done online at www.nambuccahd-h.schools.nsw.gov.au. Just click on the ‘Make a payment’ tab at the top and use the word ‘anniversary’ as a reference.

More information can be found on the Nambucca High Reunion Facebook page, and enquiries can be made by emailing nambuccahighreunion@gmail.com