History of Norris Bank Primary School

In 1839, Horatio Cooper purchased land west of Plenty Road and built a homestead called “Norris Bank”. This same homestead was used by the Education Department to start State School 3618.

In the early 1900s, the larger farming properties of the region were being subdivided into smaller farms in an effort to encourage settlement and it was argued that the establishment of a school would also enhance this goal. A group of original settlers met and appointed local Henry Hocking to correspond with the Education Department for the establishment of a school.

An application was sent in September 1908 accompanied by a list of 100 school age children from the surrounding district. Inspector Jackson visited the Small Holdings Settlement in October 1908 and was met by only 9 parents. He noted in his report that “some people think the holding too small to enable settlement to be permanent” but still, a recommendation was made.

The Director of Education, in response to that report, decided that a school be established by using an old homestead tidied up by the settlers. Victorian school number 3618 was officially established on May 25th 1909 and was called the “Thomastown Small Holding State School”. The first Head Teacher appointed was Wilhelmina P. Sleeman. In August 1909 the name of the school was changed to Darebin.

An official site was soon commissioned. It measured 1 acre 3 roods, 18 perches and adjoined the old homestead near the Maroondah Aqueduct. It was bought for fifty-nine pounds and twelve shillings by the Department of Lands and Survey. A four room 24ft. settlement house was purchased for eighty pounds and moved to the official site and school began in it on the 24th October 1910.

Generally, the settlement of the area was a failure with most settlers eventually leaving, so much so that by May 1913 only 15 children were left to attend the school. The District inspector remarked at that time the question of closing the school would have to be considered. Further pressure was endured by the community in April 1924 when the attendance dropped to 5 pupils.

In support of the school, the Inspector reported to the Department that the school site was a “valuable asset” and economized with voluntary works and maintenance on school by local settlers. Circumstances prevailed to stave off closure but the most significant factor seemed to be the employment of a female Head Teacher which, at the time, was a considerable cost saving for the Department.

The history of the school was also influenced by Melbourne’s extending suburban railway system. In 1923, the new Darebin railway station was established between Ivanhoe and Alphington. Confusion and complaints were to follow as mail and telegraph information was regularly misdirected between the school and the railway station. To solve the problem, the Education Department recommended that the Darebin State School change its name, and the school officially became Norris Bank State School on 23rd September 1925.

A new school building was provided in 1953 and the original, timber homestead was demolished. A pine plantation was created on the site of the historic cabin. The best of the materials from it were used to build a shelter pavilion and a store shed which was later converted into the school canteen that exists today. As the school enrolment increased over the years, additions were made to the school’s buildings to accommodate the extra students.

In 1998, The Ministry of Education sold the pine plantation to property developers. All the trees were felled and the site now is home to a sixteen unit block of flats. The school has retained the image of a pine tree in the school logo due to the significance of the pine plantation in the school’s history.

In 2009 the school celebrated its Centenary Year with the whole school community joining past and present students and teachers in celebrating 100 years of educating the children of Bundoora.

Memorabilia

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