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Molonglo School [1922 - 1942]

The Molonglo Settlement began to develop in 1921. It was made up of about 120 timber tenements and a single men's mess - buildings that were previously part of the Molonglo Internment Camp.

Ann Gugler records that in April 1921 seven families - the Wrights, Boyds, Millans, Haslems, Byfields, Conleys and O'Malleys - wrote to the Surveyor-General requesting a school for the settlement. The reason given for the request was that the schools at Narrabundah and Duntroon were too far away for young children to travel. The Molonglo School opened in January 1922 and continued until September 1942. Cecil Ivey was the first teacher in charge, succeeded by Jonathon Longworth and Ted Bryan. The school was housed in what was the Hospital and Dispensary in 1918.

In early 1925 the Canberra Community News reported that: 'Cecil Ivey was a strong disciplinarian who expected his students to behave well. Mr Ivey also worked for the community. He was Secretary of the Progress Association and wrote in the Queanbeyan Age under the nom de plume, Molonglo Correspondent'.

By mid-1926 the Molonglo Public School had three teachers and an enrolment of 150 students - 74 boys and 76 girls. It was the second largest school in the Territory after Telopea Park, which had opened in 1923. A few children from the nearby Riverbourne Camp attended the Molonglo School.

Lilian Webb (Mundy) who grew up at Molonglo, had this to say: "Once a year the school inspector paid us a visit. I can also remember a visit from the travelling school dentist who set up his dental chair and equipment by the open fire in the infants classroom where the water for sterilisation was boiled on the open fire. I have clear recollections of buckets with blood and teeth in them and I know I was minus a few teeth after his visit".

Primary pupils were allowed to cultivate a small garden patch - the girls flowers and the boys vegetables. One young gardener, Mervyn Cope, regularly dug up his seeds to see why they weren't growing!

In 1927 the Federal Capital Commission promoted a 'Presentation Avenue' of trees opposite the school. The school students helped to plant the trees as part of Arbor Day celebrations. Many of those tress, lining Tennant Street in Fyshwick, remain today.

The school buildings were also used for church and Sunday school. Mr S O Taylor - a businessman from Kingston - commenced the Sunday school classes with the help of his daughters Iris (Mrs George Barlin); Mena (Mrs Alan Stewart; and Muriel (Mrs P Kelly).

When the school closed in 1942, teacher Ted Bryan moved to Ulmarra School on the NSW far north coast. During World War II the school buildings became a Naval Wirereless Station, working closely with the Harman and Belconnen Units. After being empty 1946 - 1960, the ACT Companion Dog Club took them over as their headquarters until 1983. They were demolished shortly after this.

[adapted from Foskett 2009]

"The primary school at Molonglo Camp openened at the beginning of the school year 1922. Cecil Ivey, the teacher, was newly certificated to teach but had, apparently, no training. There were 32 children enrolled in the first quarter.

In addition to the usual subjects, Mr Ivey instructed five pupils in wirework and his wife taught needlework. Local clergymen also took the Church of England and Presbyterian Pupils for religious instruction.

The school site of 5 acres, 6 roods was bare of trees. The schoolroom measured 30 feet, by 14 feet 6 inches, by 10 feet and was a single room constructed of white pine with a beaver ceiling".

[Return of the Public School at Molonglo Camp for quarter ending 31 March 1922.
The Return gives details of attendance numbers at the school as well as information about the buildings and extra classes taught. ACT Heritage Library Manuscript Collection]

The Molonglo School site is now close to 7 Tennant Street Fyshwick, behind the Bunnings store.


Alan Foskett, The workers schools - Russell Hill and Molonglo. Canberra Historical Journal Oct 2009, 36-39.

Alan Foskett, The Molonglo Mystery. Canberra 2006

Archives ACT, Find of the Month April 2015, The Molonglo Internment Camp

Location Map


NSW Government schools from 1848

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