Here is a great bit of history on the Goonengerry Public School. This comes from the schools of the Ballina Inspectorate Education Week, 1959 and their origins.
Goonengerry Public School was first opened in 1897. The original site chosen by the Government was approximately a mile from where the school now stands. This site was never used. Three bachelor pioneers of the district interviewed a departmental officer and a discussion took place between them as they sat on a log in the scrub. One of the men, Mr. William Sheaffe, offered the present site on the "Tabletop". Such was the strength of his argument that it was accepted. The area was roughly cleared and a school room erected amidst the surrounding scrub.
A flag pole was obtained and the first teacher, a young Scotsman named Tom Hamilton, hoisted the flag while Bill Sheaffe and Jack Bate fired the Royal salute with double barrelled shotguns. Three lusty cheers were given and thus an educational and cultural centre was begun at Goonengerry.
The original school consisted of 26 pupils – several coming from as far as Federal and Repentance Creek through rough scrub tracks. This was necessary to ensure that sufficient numbers would keep the school open. As can be imagined, weather hardships and frequent encounters with dingoes on the lonely tracks necessitated a brave attitude on behalf of the scholars.
Of these original pioneers and pupils there are many families still residing in the district and their descendants are still receiving education at the school. On the roll at the moment are three families of Sheaffes – grandchildren of the donor of the school site, the late William Sheaffe.
Mr. Tom Hamilton was a keen horseman and the older boys were rewarded for their industry by being allowed to ride his steed to Federal to be shod. A highlight of the lunch hour in the early days was the boiling of the master’s billy of tea. As tea was scarce the leaves were dried after each session and kept for a week.
Many esteemed masters have guided the destiny of the pupils, and during the time of Mr. Tyson the numbers rose to such an extent that Mr. William Haynes was appointed to the School in 1957 as an assistant and for nine months carried out his duties in charge of the lower division in the weather shed.
Parents’ agitation made the department realise the need for greater school facilities and in 1958 the school was reclassified and the present modern building erected.
Mr. Donald Wallace, Headmaster from Tottenham, was appointed as the first headmaster of Goonengerry in January, 1958, and Miss Catherine Grant was also appointed to his staff. Barbara Rice and Ronald Schweitzer became the first school captains. The present enrolment at the school now numbers 52 pupils.
During 1958 additions and renovations were completed and the parents and citizens set about an extensive campaign of beautification so that at the present day the school stands among lawns and gardens on a situation high on the hilltops overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Such is the beauty of the site that the staff, pupils and citizens justly claim it is the most picturesque country school in the State.
The loyalty and work of the Parents and Citizens’ Association is evidenced by the educational aids and equipment added. The school has benefited by having a piano, duplicator, projector, showcase, library, pictures, etc., and excellent sporting facilities provided by the association. The money raised for patriotic organisations and the honour roll in the school are evidence of the schools part in war as well as peace.
Close contact and community spirit is maintained through such organisations as the Junior Farmers’ Club, Junior Red Cross, Anzac Day ceremony and such annual events as British Commonwealth Day, picnic, speech nights, concert, open days and Education Week functions, etc.
Successful participation in the annual athletic carnival, as well as junior tennis and cricket teams have helped foster and promote goodwill in the district and coordinate the successful self-government of the school within the community.
Close contact with the church and regular visitations by the clergy have cemented the spiritual and moral tone of the school and united the work of learning and living.
As the community is essentially a dairying and tropical fruit area the school pupils are the sons and daughters of primary producers and thus have many pastoral and horticultural interests. Buses provide convenient travelling for the pupils in the area between Goonengerry and Mullumbimby, a distance of eight miles.
Easy access to Lismore on a fleet of buses provides a means for the scholars to continue their education through the high school and at present ex-pupils from Goonengerry are attending both Lismore and Richmond River High Schools.
The school joyfully looks to the future and on the foundations so far laid it can confidently expect to fulfil its place in the inspectorate and area with profit and pride.