By Jordan Fermanis
On Saturday 3 September, Erskineville Public School welcomed the public to celebrate one of its most notable teachers. Accompanied by the celebration of history, was a reminder of the adversity the school overcame almost ten years ago, when it was marked to close down by the then Carr government.
Saturday’s event was in honour of Lucy Woodcock, a ‘local heroine’ of Erskineville, champion of gender equality and a former teacher at the school.
UTS Emeritus Professor Heather Goodall addressed an audience in the hall named in Lucy’s honour. Professor Goodall spoke of Erskineville’s history as a working class suburb and Lucy Woodcock’s strong commitment to those forgotten children in poorer areas of Sydney.
“Lucy wanted to work in working class areas and improve housing and opportunities in Erskineville,” Professor Goodall said.
In a statement made by the City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone, she praised the collaboration between the council and the school in making the event happen.
“The City’s matching grant program allows community groups to partner with the City to deliver community-based projects and events that engage their local neighbourhood.
“We’re delighted to be collaborating with the Erskineville Public School to share their fascinating stories – from local heroes and Indigenous origins, to how the great depression and the natural landscape has shaped the area today,” Ms Barone said.
Erskineville Public School was constructed in 1883 but the heritage listed school almost met its end in 2001/2. In a 2001 report entitled ‘Building the Future’, a lack of students and supposedly ample surrounding schools meant the school was recommended to close, which would divert more revenue to other local high schools as part of a ‘selling-off’ of public assets.
Angel Nunley, from the Erskineville Public P&C Association said that more than decade on, the school is in a position to reflect on its tumultuous history.
“At the time the school was to close the government said no kids were going to school in the inner city.”
“The whole Erskineville community came together to save the school,” Ms Nunley said.
The day was also a chance to celebrate the indigenous history of Erskineville, a lesser-known facet of the suburb.
“One of the best things about today is the chance to hear about indigenous history. Aunty Norma Ingram is doing a talk about indigenous Erksinevillians,” Ms Nunley said.
At the time it was due to close, the school had an enrolment of only 40 students. However since 2002, enrolment numbers have swelled to over 300. In 2012, Fairfax reported that the school had ranked sixth overall in the state for NAPLAN literacy and numeracy tests.
A former student of the class of 1948-49 and current grandparent of a student said that the school has expanded since his time.
“Half the buildings weren’t here, the playground was just bitumen,” the former student said.
Saturday’s event was attended by about 300 people, where a permanent sign about Lucy Woodcock was unveiled as well as the screening of short film ‘Saving Erskineville School’.