18 June 2014
I rise to pay tribute to a school in my electorate which is visiting us here in Parliament House today: Newcastle East Public School. This school is Australia's oldest school, celebrating 198 years of continuous service to the children of inner-city Newcastle.
Housed in heritage-listed Gothic buildings, the school fosters an awareness of its central role in the history of public education in Australia, and operates on the ethos: 'We are a country school in the heart of the city.' When the school opened its doors in 1816, Newcastle was home to just 400 people, with seventeen convict children, aged 3 to 13 years, the school’s first students. The schoolteacher at the time, Henry Wrensford, was himself a convict on a conditional pardon.
Newcastle East has come a long way over the years, and is now ably led by Principal John Beach and his team of dedicated educators - providing high-quality, universally-accessible education for all children. Earlier this year I was honoured to attend the launch of the Newcastle East Public School's bicentenary project, a series of celebratory events to be held over the next two years, culminating in 2016 when the school will reach the momentous occasion of 200 years of quality public education. Newcastle East Public School will be Australia's first school to celebrate its bicentenary: congratulations on your 198 years of education so far and I can’t wait to celebrate your bicentenary with you in 2016!