skip to content

< Early Canberra Government Schools

Tharwa School [1899 - 2006]

Spurred along by the Kiandra gold rush (1859-60), Tharwa was proclaimed a village in 1863, and by the 1890's there was some two hundred and fifty people living in the general area. Although it was to outlast all the others, it is puzzling that Tharwa [1899-2006] was only the fifth 'west of the Murrumbidgee' schools to start when it opened in August 1899, Half Time with Church Rock Valley School. Later it was to have short periods partnering with Naas (Jan-May 1905) and Tuggranong (Feb 1907-April 1908), and was closed for three years (1923-26) before becoming a Public School for the rest of it's days and celebrating it's centenary in 1999. It was initially a small slab hut, built by local labour.

By 1908 the building had deteriorated, but nothing was done until 1911 when the new teacher, Fred Cleaver, convinced the NSW Education Department to build a new school.
In 1912 the new weatherboard, one-room school was now a Public School. Fred Cleaver boarded with the McGee family at Tuggeranong and married Kathleen McGee in 1915. The couple left the district in 1917.

There was difficulty holding teachers at Tharwa, particularly women, possibly because of a lack of accommodation. The school closed for two years in 1924, with students driven by car to Tuggeranong. It reopened as a Provisional School in 1926, thanks to the large Thomson family! Often linked with Naas, the school numbers increased in the 1940s, and improvements and extensions were necessary. Alec MacLaren, the school's longest serving teacher, managed in his time to get a school residence built. The school finally closed in 2006.

It was the last of the 'west of the Murrumbidgee' bush schools before it closed in 2006, along with Hall. A Preschool still operates, and the old school building is intact.

[Publication: 'A Century of Learning. Tharwa Primary School, 1899 - 1999' by Matthew Higgins, Tharwa Primary School, 1999]

Location Map


NSW Government schools from 1848

< Early Canberra Government Schools

If you are able to assist our work of identifying, documenting, and celebrating the early bush schools of the Canberra region, please contact us or .