Baralaba Provisional School began in a tent, opening in 1918.
Baralaba Provisional School began in a tent, opening in 1918. Contributed

LOOKING BACK: Baralaba school celebrates 100 years

BARALABA is believed to have derived from the Aboriginal expression describing a high mountain. Another local known meaning is "land of blue mountains”.

The township is located less than a kilometre east of the Dawson River.

It is believed four aboriginal tribes were the first in the area, hunting and living nearby.

The Gangulu and Wadja people still had camps based along the Dawson river until the late 1920's.

Remains of their stencil art works can still be found in caves on the western bank of the river.

The town's development began with the Dawson River Anthracite Prospecting Company taking up coal prospecting areas in 1901.

Serious mining later began in about 1916 with a State coal mine and up the road, the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company opened a mine in 1921.

The key to the mining development was the railway line from Rannes to Baralaba, constructed in 1917.

The Baralaaba railway station was later closed in 1987, after years of "uneconomic performance”.

The Mount Morgan mine was transferred to the Dawson Valley Coal Co which together with the State coal mine brought certainty to the township.

Along with the school (see related story) the next building to be built in the town were the Anglican and Catholic churches which opened in 1924.

A cottage hospital was built in 1926.

Surprisingly, this was all built prior to the Town's Hotel, which open in 1928.

The April 1928, the town experienced major flooding, which caused the collapse and closure of the State coal mine.

Farm settlement in the district was delayed by prickly pear infestation, but by the early 1930s eradication was under way.

Blocks were taken up in the mid-1930s.

Expired leaseholds were subdivided in the early postwar years, adding to the interest in the local agricultural and pastoral society formed in 1940.

Coal mining ended in 1969, and immediately afterwards the population declined.

Farming had grown steadily, with the main crops including sorghum, wheat and cotton.

The town secured a reticulated water supply when a weir on the Dawson River was completed in 1976.

The Neville Hewitt Weir is a population recreation area and boasts excellent fishing, boating and skiing.

The town was not large, but it had two banks, two general stores, two bakers and three drapers.

A new multipurpose health service was built in 2011 to replace the hospital.

In December 2010 Baralaba was flooded and cut off when heavy rains caused the Dawson River to overflow.

Mining of coal at Baralaba had restarted in 2005, and operations were not disrupted until February 2011 when water entered the main pit.

By the time dewatering began, the water level of the Dawson River had fallen from a peak of 15.6 metres to six metres.

BARLABA CENSUS DATA:

1921: 240 population

1954: 433 population

1961: 503 population

1981: 367 population

2001: 260 population

2006: 290 population

2011: 479 population

SCHOOL BEGINNINGS IN A TENT

IN 1917, the nearest school maintained by the State government was 23 miles away by the nearest road.

Because of the unsettled state of the coal mines at that time, the Department of Public Instruction (the state Education Department of the time) could not grant approval for the establishment of a state school.

The Department of Public Instruction was willing to open a Provisional School so long as parents could provide a room or a tent in which to hold classes.

On September 25, 1917 a public meeting was held at the home of Michael Scully to form a School Committee. Michael Scully, Frederick O. Holm, Jack Warry, Sydney Walter and George Jackson were elected to promote the establishment of a Provisional School at Baralaba.

The number of children aged between five and 15 likely to attend this proposed school was 18.

A tent was erected and Baralaba Provisional School (the tent school) officially opened on August 19, 1918.

Eleven students were enrolled for the September quarter of 1918 and Mr Edward C. Asmus was appointed the first headteacher.

From these humble beginnings, Baralaba Provisional School became Baralaba State School in 1922 and a Secondary Department was officially opened in 1965.

Baralaba State School has experienced many significant events over the past 100 years including the flood of 1928 and the addition and removal of buildings as student numbers fluctuated.

Today, Baralaba State School (P-10) is a well- resourced school with well-maintained facilities with 99 students and a team of a principal, a guidance officer, a head of curriculum, 11 teachers, seven teacher- aides and six auxiliary staff.

To celebrate and commemorate 100 years of this fine school, a range of memorabilia is being made in collaboration with the Baralaba History Group and the Baralaba Art Group.

Many historical artefacts will also be on display in the school on the Centenary Celebration weekend as part of the Doors Through the Decades display.


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