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19 November, 2021

Babinda SS - A triumph for education in regional areas

YOUNG FAMILIES in the cane growing districts of Cairns often struggled to have their children educated as the Government failed to keep up with the demand for new schools.

Image: Pupils and teacher at Babinda State School, 1916, courtesy Cairns Libraries

For many years the only school in Babinda was a makeshift classroom in the mill yard and many parents found the location far from ideal with scruffy, sweaty cane workers around. 

It was reported in The Northern Herald on August 27, 1915 that a temporary solution to the district’s “school problem” had been found: “Permission has been given to move the temporary building from the mill yard to the township site which will meet the case until the new school can be built.” 

On October 28, 1915 the tender submitted by T. W. Winkworth was accepted to build a new State School and teacher’s residence at Babinda for £1,593. 

Families living at Bartle Frere would have to wait until 1921 for their school to be built. 

In March it was announced that funding for the new school had been allocated: “Expenditure has been approved for the erection of a new State School at Bartle Frere, £978.” 

By September the building work was almost completed and furniture for the school was on order. The Northern Herald’s correspondent on 28 September wrote: “With the appointment of a teacher that spot will be enlivened by the ‘music of the kiddies,’ a fact which should be appreciated by the surrounding residents and cause the hearts of bachelors to thaw considerably. I understand that twenty odd children will commence studies with the opening of the new building. 

The school is beautifully situated on high ground, with ideal drainage, and overlooks the Russell River. It has a glorious natural background of rugged hills, clothed with rich verdure, and culminating in that well-known peak, Bartle Frere, which is the highest peak in Queensland, and which rising majestically in its solitary splendour, seems to reiterate the words of the poet, ‘I am a monarch of all I survey!’” 

Sources: TROVE Newspapers, Babinda State School, Bartle Frere State School.

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