South Sassafras School opens

Kallista State School opened on 10th March, 1919 as South Sassafras State School which is what Kallista was called at that time. The school of 30 children commenced in the Mechanics Institute Hall which is opposite the current school.

Mrs Maude Weavers (nee Gleghorn) tells of her time as a 13 year old student starting at the school in 1919. Subjects taught were English, History, Geography, Arithmetic. The children worked on slates to save paper. The iron roof of the school would drip onto the pupils books on frosty mornings. The teacher, Mrs Evelyn Nicholls, requested a “press” (cupboard) for the books as the mice were eating them.

The new school building

In 1921, the Forestry Commission of Victoria granted “permissive occupancy” of three acres (and later and extra acre) at South Sassafras which is the location of the current school. Many working bees were held to clear the land and raise money for a building.  Finally, in 1924, the building of a one room school was completed and officially opened.

South Sassafras becomes Kallista

As the communities grew, the names of Sassafras, Sassafras Gully and South Sassafras caused confusion and a prize was offered to choose a suitable name for South Sassafras. Kallista was chosen. It is from the Greek, “Kallistos” meaning “most beautiful”. The school became Kallista State School on 1st April 1925.

The school grows

The school attendance doubled and in 1932 a school building was moved, piece by piece, from Tarrawarra (Gruyere area) to make another classroom. The land was transformed from a clearing in the forest to a well ordered school ground with gardens, a basketball court, a cricket pitch and plenty of space for future development.

In 1937, Kallista State School ceased to have children beyond Grade 6 as the Upwey Higher Elementary School opened. This resulted in students leaving, but it also changed the character of the school.

In the late 1940’s and 50’s, a number of Dutch settlers moved into the area and enrolled in the school resulting in increased enrolments. Additional classrooms were added in 1954, 1955 and 1966. These rooms are all part of the current 2009 school.  In 1943 a School Residence was built in the school grounds for the head teacher.

School in 1950’s

Mrs Wilma Everingham nee Willy Van Dyke wrote of her recollections at the school the 1950’s.

The setting was superb. In the midst of the Sherbrooke Forest we had nature’s playground. Our nature walks always took us to creeks, finding lyrebird mounds and listening to bird calls etc.

All those interests vested by our school principal, Mr Hodge, gave, I’m sure, all of us the best values of life. Well renowned for his beautiful handwriting, Mt Hodge was a very fair man. Detention was milk monitoring or helping load burnable debris on the bonfire which we had annually for Guy Fawkes Night attended by the whole district. “

School in the 1970’s and 80’s

The school grew rapidly in the 70’s and 80’s with relocatable classrooms being brought in. A new school at The Patch opened in 1982 relieving the pressure of overcrowding at Kallista. In 1984 the school residence was removed and the area was developed into an adventure playground.

The Fire Refuge is built – opened in 1991

Relocatable classrooms were temporarily moved to the oval in December 1989 to allow for excavation and construction of the Fire Refuge throughout 1990. The Fire Refuge was built for a cost of $520,000 and it was the only one built in this style in Victoria. The building is constructed of solid brick and concrete with heavy shutters. It can be completely cut off in event of a fire and has its own generator, water storage system, toilets, and air unit.

Time capsule

On 14th June, 1985 the school celebrated “Future day” and buried a time capsule in concrete beside the canteen. Children’s work, photos and newspapers were included. The capsule is to be opened in 2034. (50 years)

Centenary of Kallista Township

In 1993, Kallista township celebrated its centenary with celebrations in the town and at the school. A book about the school was published : “Kallista – A school in the Forest – 1919 to 1993.” Much of the information above has been taken from this book.

Permaculture Garden – Kitchen Garden program

In August 1999, a permaculture garden was built by parents and children at the school. A couple of parents with Permaculture training guided teachers and children as vegetable plants were grown then harvested  produce was used in class cooking activities.

In January 2007, Kallista Primary School was accepted into the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. With children in grades 3-6 having regular timetabled garden sessions under instruction of a part time garden specialist, the garden has grown and flourished. Harvested produce is turned into tasty meals by the children. Read more about our Kitchen Garden program in its own section of this blog.

Head Teachers/Principals – Kallista SS

 Evelyn Nicholls                                                1919-1919

Robina Leckie                                                    1919-1919

Alice Meagher                                                    1919-1919

Louisa A. Merriton (Taylor)                           1919-1920

Ellen M. Fitzpatrick (Mc Donald)                1921- 1924

Robert S. Peel                                                     1924-1926

Sydney H. Crawford                                        1926-1926

Bertrand J. Robert                                            1927-1927

Harrie B.R. Winton-Smith                             1927-1934

Herbert J. Cheong                                             1934-1942

Arnold E. Brisbane                                            1942-1943

Alfred M. Hollow                                               1943-1949

Herbert L. Hodge                                              1950-1961

Russell J. Evans                                                 1962-1962

Keith Herten                                                      1963-1965

Cedric C.C. Breen                                              1966-1969

Donald Bull                                                         1970-1970

Donald E. Matthews                                        1971-1975

George E. Clancy                                               1975-1977

Alexander S. McLean                                      1977-1978

Ian Lobbe                                                            1978-1979

Russell Brown                                                   1980-1980

Dennis Tonks                                                    1981-1983

Brian Smith                                                       1984 – 1992

Sue White                                                           19??-2000

Terry O’Bree                                                     2000-2003

Barbara Rose                                                    2004 – 2014

Christine Finighan                                         2014-Present


Please contact me on 9755 2633 for a chat or a tour of our school.

Christine Finighan


5 thoughts on “History

  1. Hello Barbara,
    On your history page, comments by my Mum, Maud Weavers are published. Mum’s comnnection with the school commenced in 1919 as a student, continued as a teacher in needlework and sewing, progressed in the Mothers Club with my two half siblings through the late thirties and forties and then with my enrolement in 1957 until my move to the new Monbulk High in 1963. Her 40 plus years of contribution to 3993 was recognised in an invitation to participate as an honoured guest at the centenery celebrations. The reason for my note is that I have Mum’s book dating from 1936 to 1944 covering her period as a teacher. It outlines the names of her students and the Christmas presents she bought for her them. Should you have an a museum for such items, I think 3993 is the most appropriate repository for the book. Should there be any interest please let me know and on behalf of my sister Mary Coggins,my deceased brother Henry Coggins and the Engelke children (cousins)all named in the book, we will pass the book onto you.
    Mum moved to Boorowa in 1996 to be near Mary but on her return for the centenary she said ” You can take the girl out of The Hills but you can never take The Hills out of the girl”. Sick for months prior to the event, she kept her cancer secret and died shortly after the centenary, fulfilled.

    Warm regards,
    Len Weavers

  2. Appreciating the commitment you put into your site and in depth information you offer. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  3. Loved your website & history. I attended in 1950’s & don’t remember Bert Hodge being particularly ‘fair’, as I was regularly ‘clipped around the ears’ for being late! But he was a funny man.

  4. I remember Bert Hodge as a funny man. When you fell over he painted a flower or an animal on your sore. My brother Leigh Duncan started at Kallista in 1949 or 1950 and I (Heather) started in 1955. I remember having to go to the pine plantation that school had and having to clean up around the trees. School fate that ment, fancy dress, floral saucers decorated bikes, decorated cakes and many more fun things. Guy Fox night was the high light of the year with the bonfire and fire works.I remember when the dutch children came to school too. The school picnic was at Frankston and we would get into the back of Bill Hermon’s removal vans with our Mums and off we would go. The were the good old days. My children Dean and Katrina Murdock went there in 1984 and 1985. Katrina put something in the time capsule to be opened in 2034.

  5. Love reading history of Kallista school. Does anyone know if there are photos of classes in 1950’s? I would love to see one. Also, does anyone else remember Mrs. Crerar, who taught in the little building up near the dairy? She was very adept at pulling out wobbly teeth with her hanky! Rosie Stuart (nee Henry)

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