Cabbage Tree Island


This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.


In picturesque surroundings, two miles south of the village of Wardell, is one of the more unusual of our district schools - the special school for aboriginal children at Cabbage Tree Island.

First established as a mission school about 1900, it has had many ups and downs, including long periods of closure, during which the children of the Islanders received little or no education at all. .

From the early thirties, the education of aboriginal children was the responsibility of the Aborigines' Protection Board. It was generally, but quite erroneously believed that aboriginal children were incapable of attaining a higher educational standard than the Fourth Grade. Curricula and programmes of work were designed accordingly. Buildings and equipment were for the most part wholly inadequate. Teaching duties were performed by station managers until 1948 when the first full time Departmental teacher was appointed.

The Department of Education assumed full responsibility for the education of aboriginal children only as recently as 1950. Since then, with adequate buildings, equipment and trained teachers, the "children of the Dark People" are beginning to emerge as the intellectual equals of their white brothers. An increasing number is passing on to the secondary educational level at Ballina High School, wherein a tolerant and encouraging atmosphere, they are already beginning to make their presence felt in the corporate life of the school.

In a special school of this nature, extra-curricula activities assume very great importance. The educational needs of its pupils must be viewed against the needs of the settlement and its people.

The ultimate need, expressed in the word "Integration" must be translated from theoretical vagueness into practical reality. "The Dignity of Man" grows from a catchphrase to a watchword. With this in mind, the school has figured prominently in pioneering the first aboriginal Rural Co-operative Society in N.S.W. This scheme recognises the difficulty of assimilating a people, whose traditional culture is communal, into a highly competitive, modern society, based on individualism. It seeks, by applying the co-operative technique to agriculture and other enterprises to obtain for them security, independence, self-respect and social parity.

Adult education programmes have been instituted and are expanding. The people are being trained to accept the responsibility of running their own commercial enterprise. Technical and business training will follow. Slow but very definite progress is being made. Eyes gleam with a new hope-an eagerness, almost an impatience to come to grips with the task ahead.

In such a climate, schooling takes on a new meaning and acquires a purpose it has lacked for three generations.


In the field of athletic achievement Cabbage Tree Islanders come into their own. The cheerful grins, sparkling dark eyes, rippling muscles, natural poise and grace are a familiar sight at all our sports carnivals. Few large schools and still fewer small schools can boast a longer list of representatives at the State Athletic Carnivals in Sydney. School football teams have delighted crowds, and made their mark at the Casino championships. The names Roberts, Anderson, Marlowe, Kapeen, Bolt, Ferguson, Kay, Kelly and Moran win be remembered whenever the district's "Sporting Greats" are discussed, not only for their prowess, but for their sportsmanship and demeanour in circumstances which were not always favourable.

Truly we can be proud of these "Sons of Bunjum".

North Coast School Histories

North Coast School Histories: as transcribed by Kathy Pearson and posted to NorCo List. STATUS QUO MCMLIX This publication presents the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate at this time - Education Week, 1959 - and their origins.