Bondi – the Early Days
The name Bondi is certainly an Aboriginal one with ascribed meanings ranging from "a place where a fight with nullas took place" to "the noise of water rolling in, or breaking over rocks" It has been spelt Boondi, Bundi, Bundye and Boondye, and perhaps other ways, over the years.
I am of the opinion that a Public School should be established at Bondi. I also beg to recommend the purchase of Pritchard's site (nearly an acre between Ocean and Wellington Streets) as available and reasonable at £500. It commands a very fine view of the harbour and ocean. It is level but rough and rocky. So wrote the District Inspector to the Department of Public Instruction 28 July, 1880 following the application for a school on 4th May 1880. On this site a stone building of one storey with accommodation for 180 children was erected. The new school and the teacher's residence were ready for occupation by March 1883.
Within a month of opening the enrolment had grown from 66 pupils to 89, and by 1892 to 276. The history of the school in its first fifty years featured a steady and at times, embarrassing growth in enrolments and archival files record letters and petitions from teachers, inspectors and members of parliament for more adequate accommodation.
The population of the Bondi area increased and events like the opening of Bondi Beach as a public reserve and the extension of the tramway from Redfern and Waverley encouraged settlement and business.
Reporting on the Arbor Day tree planting at Bondi Public School, 1892, a Sydney newspaper stated –
At the conclusion of the tree-planting, refreshments were served round to the scholars and visitors. The inadequacy of school accommodation was spoken of by members of the board during the afternoon. It was stated that the ordinary attendance numbered 230, and the whole school accommodation consisted of two rooms, one 48 x 24 feet, and the other 14 x 18 feet. Into this latter room had to be crowded 80 infants every day, and the result being that the little things often suffered much.
The original building was enlarged to take a further 150 pupils the next year.
In 1904 Bondi Public School was proclaimed a Superior Public School taking students to high school level.
There was a constant struggle to provide facilities for the growing numbers of children and the teaching programme.
Some enrolment figures at the time of Headmaster George Bolus (1902-25)
Local church halls were rented to house many of these students until new buildings were completed in 1912 and 1916.
Clifford Clayton (later an inspector of schools) who attended Bondi Superior School 1910-1916 recalls in his reminiscences the “excursions” to Bellevue Hill to study wild flowers, “which then grew there in profusion”; of the emphasis on formal teaching and copperplate writing; the observance of Empire Day (24 May) to instil a sense of patriotism “celebrated with Waverley School in Waverley Park, where both schools were made to listen to speeches and sing patriotic songs, after which, the spoils, having brought their own drinking mugs, were treated to a drink of lemon or syrup and two cakes each. Of the traumas of the Qualifying Certificate, - a public examination for sixth classes determining entrance to the few available high schools or continuing on to 7th and 8th classes at Bondi. Of George Bolus the headmaster of that time he wrote: “He was a very strong disciplinarian and insisted upon “Cleanliness being next to Godliness”. He regularly inspected finger nails, boots and behind the ears and administered appropriate punishment to those who failed to meet the standards… his cherished fife and drum school band marched us around the playground and into school, and at dismissal, headed a march from the school out of the gate and about half way to Bondi Road, where school was formerly dismissed.”
Expansion continued in the secondary departments. In October 1928 the three storeyed build containing manual training rooms, science rooms and classroom was opened. A residence (the cottage) was converted into a domestic science unit in 1931.
The 1930s saw the end of the period of increase in the school population at Bondi, although accommodation remained at a premium. The number of pupils in attendance continued a high level (average 1198 in 1940 which included the post primary girls and boys).
Then in 1944, high school girls were moved to the Dover Heights High School. Post primary boys continued on at Wellington St - to be known as Bondi Junior Technical School, 1942-63, and Bondi Junior High until 1967 when it was moved to a new building and became Dover Heights Boys' High School.
Thus the school returned to the original name of Bondi Public School, becoming once again a primary school only. As the secondary schooling moved out, new community roles developed. Since 1954 an evening Community college has flourished catering for some 1,000 adults each year.