Over one hundred years ago, amid sandhills and virgin land, Port Augusta West Primary School first opened its portals to education in the September of 1881.
Mr Finch was the first Head Teacher. Robert Stuart was the first enrolled scholar out of the class of 1929.
From those humble beginnings the school has witnessed many changes to buildings, surroundings, society and education alike.
In the 1970’s the original building was demolished. On the same site grew a more modern “Samcon” type construction designed to accommodate around 250 pupils.
The days of sand and low lying scrub have long since gone. Trees, all but a century old, stand beside paved and grassed areas – living monuments of history, silent witnesses to the change and progress of people.
Schools are primarily concerned with people. People influence schools and schools influence people. One cannot quantitatively measure the influence yet it is interesting to contemplate how a school contributes to its charges.
- 1881 - Primary school opened
- 1951 - Port Augusta West School Welfare Club formed
- 1971 - New Samcon buildings erected
- 1981 - Welfare Club changes its name to Parent Club
Extracts from “The Transcontinental” – May 6th, 1965
At the time Port Augusta was nearing its goal of having a public school a meeting was held on Wednesday evening, May 1st, 1878, at the “Western Hotel”, at which Mr. T. Burgoyne was requested to preside, and introduce the subject of the necessity for erection of a school at Port Augusta West. The “Dispatch” of May 4th, 1878 states: - “Mr Renfrey moved and Mr. D. McSporran seconded that a Memorial be drawn up and signed by the inhabitants of the Port Augusta West asking the Board of Education to erect a school in that township, and supply a teacher, and the Member of Flinders to present same to the Board. Inconvenience and also costly boat hire were mentioned. They would all see how inconvenient it was for people of the West Side to send their children over to Port Augusta to school, and sometimes it has highly dangerous. Boat hire amounted to four or five times the amount of school fees…..”
It was mentioned that there were at least 25 children requiring education in the township, and that if a school was built the number would soon be doubled. It was resolved that a committee be appointed to carry out the resolutions, consisting of Messrs. Bryant, Jones, Sanderson, McSporran and Chapple. Those references, made in 1878, regarding transport by boat from West Side are of interest as it was nearly a half century later before a bridge was built in 1927.
Extracts from “The Transcontinental” – June 3rd, 1965
The Commissioner of Public Works, Mr. George C. Hawker, advertised on October 5th, 1880, calling for scaled tenders by November 1st, for the erection of Public School and Teacher’s Residence at Port Augusta West. At October 31st, 1880, Port Augusta West had a population of 210 persons, according to a census taken by Mr. J.W. Hullet, then Water Works Superintendent, and there were 36 houses at that date according to “Dispatch” of November 26th, 1880.
Eventually the Port Augusta West Public School was in course of erection, but at the end of July 1881 the members of the Local Board of Advice decided to enquire when the school would be opened. Although the actual date of the opening has not yet been traced, it must have been only a few weeks later, as the Local board meeting held in October 1881 recorded that no official returns of the numbers of scholars attending the West Side Public School during September 1881 had been received.
It appears that the school opened with 29 scholars, the first teacher being Mr. Finch. However, in August 1881, the “Port Augusta Dispatch” stated that “Mr Gee ably presides over the State School and has no assistants. The attendance average 31 daily, but there are 56 names on the roll. Mr. Gee is highly esteemed by the parents, and it is hoped he may remain permanently at Port Augusta West”. Those were the pioneer teachers at the West Side.