Coraki Central


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


There is evidence that Coraki School had its inception over 100 years ago, when the employees of Mr. William Yabsley, senr., were tutored by him at night. The apprentices and labourers of the shipyards had organised school classes and sat on benches in Mr. Yabsley's residence to be tutored by him in the fundamentals. It appears that because there had been some attempt at teaching and learning, there was little done about forming a school.

The night of March 13, 1867, saw a meeting in the Presbyterian Church, the business being to set up a provisional school in Coraki. Mr. William Yabsley, junr., was elected to be chairman of the board, and he appears to have been the prime force which led to the opening of a school in the next year.

His diary states that he went on horseback on November 16, 1867, to select a site for a school. After some deliberation he selected a lot, in his own words, on "Bally Hill". His choice and wisdom in selection are well evident to those who know the school, because the present buildings are on the original site.


Further statements from his diary show that on the 24th January, 1868, sawing was commenced on the timber for the new school. In just 21 days from then the entire building was complete. It is deservedly acclaimed as a remarkable feat. The building had no claims to grandeur, with its hardwood shingles, cedar slabs and hardwood framework, but it filled an urgent need in the community. When one considers that Willam Yabsley erected it at his own expense, and the haste with which the building was erected, one can conceive the earnest desire of the people to have organised education.

There followed a nine month anti-climax, during which a great deal of difficulty was experienced in procuring the services of a teacher. However, on Monday, 19th October, 1868, the doors of the first school were opened for work by the first teacher, Mr. Arthur Small.

Some small and interesting things to notice, which would give us some indication of conditions, are worthy of mention. One of the Yabsley brothers, at the age of 4, had to attend in order that numbers would be sufficient to keep the school open. The teacher was paid the princely salary of £48 per annum. He was paid quarterly instalments of £12, and then only if he had furnished all the usual returns.

However, by the close of 1868, according to our research, things appear to have been function smoothly. The inspector, Mr. J. S. Jones, had reported that the building was of good slab structure, and of 22 enrolments there was an average attendance of 15.

The 21st April, 1870, saw the departure of Mr. Small from the small settlement and, according to written testimonials the people were sorry that he should go. With his departure returned the former difficulty of finding another teacher. For fourteen months the position was vacant and the school closed. It was not until 5th August 1871, that relief to the situation arrived in the form of Mr. Imlay McLaren, and the school reopened.

Extensive repairs to the school, and the completion of a residence marked the year 1871 as a year of progress.


As time passed, the settlement grew, as did the various troubles about the school. It became apparent that the status of Provisional School should be changed. So it was that on 30th November, 1871, that William Yabsley approached the Department to have the school declared a Public School, under provision of the Public School Act of 1866. This permission was formally granted on the 28th December, 1872, and the school was known as Coraki Public School.

Allied with an increase in enrolment came a need for a larger school. Adverse reports from the inspector in 1872 led to a rebuilding and repairing of the school building, which was done at a cost of £250 in 1873. Inspector Willis opened the new building in 1873, and this building was deemed very suitable.

The original area selected in the 1860’s has at times been added to, until now in 1959, the area is very spacious and suitable. The old residence which stood facing Adams Street, lasted for many years, but it was demolished at an obscure time, probably not long after the end of World War 1.

Prior to 1875, Coraki School was in the Armidale Inspectorate. In 1875, the Grafton Inspectorate was formed, and Coraki was included in its boundaries. Mr. James McCredie was the first inspector, and he reports the building of a weather shed in 1874 as well as an enrolment of 100 pupils. The ensuing year saw a further increase to 124 pupils, but in 1886, the enrolment had dropped to 73. It would appear that seasonal conditions, sickness and farm operations played havoc with enrolments.

In the 1890's the enrolments again increased steadily, but with small setbacks punctuating the progress. One interesting set of figures tells us that in 1893 the enrolment was 70 but average attendance a meagre 30. We are led to believe that this year saw the worst floods in the town's young history, and these undoubtedly affected attendance.Coupled with this was the construction of the North Coast rail, and attendances of schools in the district were affected.

Nevertheless, the wheels of progress were turning, and in 1898 a new brick school building was completed a little to the side of the original school buildings. The total cost of the two-roomed edifice was £620, and lessons were resumed in new surroundings under the same teacher, Mr. John Simes.

The structure of 1898 origin has been extensively altered in its 61 years. In 1923 and 1924 it was added to extensively, at a cost of £2,580. This included alterations, two additional classrooms, store rooms, staff room, hat room and a long wide corridor. The grounds were fenced in the same year at a cost of £99, and the conditions obtained then prevailed for the next thirty years. 1953 saw a home science and manual arts block completed. This block is of modern design, is spacious, with an abundance of material required for the teaching of the principles of these subjects.


At present, Coraki Central School status is that of third class. For many years it remained purely as a Public School, and it was not until 1944 that it was declared a Fifth Class Central School. Not long after, in 1946, the classification was again changed to that of a fourth class school. In 1952 it was again reclassified and declared a Third Class Central School. That classification is still held by the school.

In its 92 years of official existence, Coraki School has had 19 headmasters, at an average stay of almost five years per person. These men, in order of date of appointment, are: Arthur Small, Imlay McLaren, Thomas Dunlop, John Simes, John Bath, Isaac Easterbrook, Lionel Hayden, Henry Eagles, Benjamin Colding, Hector Lang, Dursley Woodward, Jack Sheridan, Cecil Foley, Henry Ford, Eric Lake, Leslie Joyce, Albert Weaver, Joseph Henderson and the present headmaster, Mr. Charles Russell.

Of Coraki Central School 1959, much can be said. In recent years the buildings have been painted, and they appear both clean and fresh. The rooms are airy, well lit and painted inside in stimulating colours. The grounds are picturesque, displaying several types of pine, camphor laurel, silky oak and peppercorn trees.

The Parents and Citizens’ Association is extremely active, with a solid core of very interested and keen people.

Class combinations leave the primary section with three teachers and the secondary with two. Two specialist teachers also spend two days per week in instruction in home economics, needlework, farm mechanics and technical drawing.

The superprimary boys do a non-language technical course with a bias towards fitting them for rural pursuits. With this in view they are taught farm mechanics and agriculture. The agriculture course is supplemented with farm work on a plot of land of size one-fifth of an acre. Equipment includes a small rotary hoe and a water supply. Equipment is of adequate supply and design for instruction of all boys in the principles of agriculture.

The girls follow a non-language commercial course which gives a good working understanding of commerce.

There is a deep sense of realisation in the school of the need to equip each child with a set of ideals to attain. Leadership is stressed, and educational agencies in the school do much to implement this. There is an active Junior Farmers' Club, Junior Red Cross and School Students' Council. Pupils play an important part in all these organisations and also help to determine school policy.

In concluding, it is felt reasonable to say that Coraki has a past and a present of which it can feel justifiably proud. May the next 92 years see progress on the same scale.

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.