Monday, 8 February 2016
Statements by Members
Newcastle East Public School
In 1816, 17 children gathered in a small slab building located on a hill in Newcastle. Children of convicts, settlers, government officials and soldiers, all under the tutelage of convict Henry Wrensford, sat together in the Public Charity School to commence their formal education. These humble beginnings saw the start of what is now known as Newcastle East Public Hospital, the oldest continuously running school in Australia. Last weekend we celebrated the bicentenary of the school, paying tribute to the vital role of public schools in Australia over the past 200 years, their educators and students past and present.
The celebrations commenced with the unveiling of 17 impressive bronze sculptures created by artist Heather B Swann, symbolising the first 17 students of the school, and continued with the launch of this terrific book, To climb the hill: a people's history of Newcastle East Public School. It is a testament to the importance of education that this impressive volume—designed and typeset by competition winners Amelia Ross, Bella Raschke and Laura Cook—was launched in the school by former Prime Minister the Hon. Julia Gillard; a well-known champion of education worldwide.
I was pleased to also attend Saturday night's bicentennial dinner address by former High Court Justice the Hon. Michael Kirby, introduced by Julia Gillard—both proud products of the Australian public education system. As Justice Kirby noted, 'It is from public education that we learn the great lessons of egalitarian democracy.'