Palmers Island


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


Palmers Island is situated in the Clarence River, five miles from the river mouth at Yamba. It is approximately eight miles long and varies in width from half to two miles. It is connected to the southern bank by two bridges, and at Palmers Channel and the other at Romaika. The main road from Grafton to Yamba passes through the island. Palmer's Island was one of the early settlements on the Clarence, cedar-getting being the most important activity. However, as the cedar supply diminished the inhabitants turned their activities to sugar cane farming. Before the turn of the century the island supported a population in excess of seven hundred.

An application for a public school at Palmer's Island was made to the board of National Education as early as 1865 and a school appears to have been opened in 1866. At this time the school was apparently carried on at a privately owned premises in the settlement on the western side of the island and there was no teacher's residence.


In November, 1870, two acres of land on the western shore of the island were dedicated for public school purposes. Despite the acquisition of a site in was not until the year 1873 that a school house was built on it. The time lapse between the provision of the site and the construction of the vested school was probably due to the necessity of obtaining funds, because in those days the local residents were expected to find one-third of the costs of school buildings.

The new school, with a teacher's residence, was completed in the latter part of 1873. At the end of 1876 the school enrolment had been 42 with an average attendance of 26. Numbers stayed about this figure for several years, although the proportion of attendance to enrolment improved somewhat. By 1885 the school's enrolment had reached 86 and by 1890 it totalled 97. In 1904, the last year in which the enrolment figures were published in the departmental annual report, the school's enrolment totalled 101. It was not until a Secondary School was opened in Maclean that there was any noticeable decline in enrolment.


Sometime before 1900, another school was opened at Lower Palmer's Island on the property of J O'Keeffe. This school functioned for several years, but was dismantled around 1900, the pupils then attending Palmer's Island School. This lower school came again into existence just prior to the First World War. After 5 or 6 years it was again closed.

In 1917, the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Ronald Mungo-Ferguson, visited the school while on an inspection tour of the North Coast area.

In 1918 a new school was built on the same site by the Department, it being officially stated that the school constructed in 1873 was badly ventilated and that the lighting was poor. In 1940 the enrolment dropped to the extent that the school had only a Teacher-in-Charge. Previous to this there had always been a headmaster with at least one assistant.

As a result of the severe flooding of the Clarence in 1950, when portion of the school playground fell away into the river, application was granted for the school to be moved to its present site, facing the Yamba-Grafton road. In 1952 enrolment once again increased and an assistant was appointed. However, by the end of 1957, because of the drop in enrolment, the school once again reverted to a one-teacher school.

The following are the headmasters or teachers-in-charge since 1884 and the year of their appointment:

John Hazelwood 1884; Henry Dennis 1887; Frederick Bates 1890; George Moore 1898; Edward Hayes 1902; Henry Fraser 1905; Samuel Bidwell 1909; William McLaren 1911; William Oldham 1914; Ernest brown 1916; E J Rose 1926; Stewart Grainger 1933; Glenleigh Hall 1940; Frank Willis 1940; Patrick Nugent 1956; G Wilson 1958.

The Parents and Citizens' Association has always been a most interested and active body. As a result of this the school is extremely well equipped, possessing sewing machines, a piano, wireless, numerous pictures by Australian artists, a gramophone, two lunch tables, 16mm sound film projector with microphone, an electric water supply pump, a bicycle shed, a Victa automatic lawn mower, an electric clock and a Banda duplicator. Various library and graded reading books have also been purchased by the P & C.

The school is laid out in attractive lawns and gardens, this work being done by the P & C and the headmaster, Mr Willis, when the school was moved to its present site after the 1950 flood.


The school plays a major part in the activities of the community, providing monthly film evenings arranged by the P & C. The Empire Day sports picnic and the Christmas Tree and concert are features of the year's activities. Much interest is shown during Education Week, and many adults attend the open day. The children show particular interest in folk dancing and their recorder band. They are also active members of the Junior Red Cross and the Gould League. There is at present an enrolment of 30 children. The school serves an area where the main activities are cane growing and dairying. It is also well known as an exceptionally good fishing area.

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.