Inspector Thomas Walker came to Wyndham in 1855
to look at the possibility of establishing a
national school. The innkeeper, Elliott Armstrong
offered a zinc house 10 x 14 feet which could be
erected in the grounds of his inn, until public
subscription and government grants provided
something better. Armstrong's daughter, Ellen was
willing to be the teacher. The Inspector returned
a few months later and found the school ready to
start with 19 pupils enrolled.
Inspector's report on "Miss Armstrong's
School" reported that there were 8 boys and
13 girls on the roll and that their average age
was 9 years. Miss Armstrong, who had been
educated in Sydney, had good discipline and the
general tone of the school was very satisfactory.
She was described as painstaking and persevering
and well liked by the parents. She was only 19
years old. The Inspector recommended that
government aid should be given towards the
teacher's salary. However, Archdeacon Stretch of
Geelong had already announced that the school
would receive aid as a Church of England
Mrs Margaret Beamish was in charge of the
school when the completion of the railway caused
an increase in population. Armstrong called a
meeting at his hotel in December 1858 calling for
a National School and again offered his building.
The subscription list towards a new building was
headed by Thomas Chirnside and totalled a £104.
Soon afterwards John Baker, a trained teacher,
was appointed and he had 20 children enrolled.
By 1861 there was a plain weatherboard
building, 30 x 15 feet with a slate roof, unlined
and unfenced, with no heating and only one long
desk serving as the school.
In the following year with a change in
legislation, Victoria's two separate school
systems (National and Denominational) were merged
and the school became the Wyndham Common School,
the forerunner of State School 649. Bluestone
classrooms were added as the number of pupils
grew. After 1872 when education became compulsory
numbers increased considerably, and by 1874 there
were over 100 pupils.
In 1862 the Board of Education offered to
provide a Sewing Mistress, but the local
Committee let it be known that it wanted children
"to be literary, not taught sewing and the
like". However, the parents had other ideas,
and after having made a strong protest at the
local Committee's decision, they appealed to the
Board for such an appointment. Miss Mary
Armstrong, sister of Ellen, was appointed in
The first paid Principal, Mr John Baker served
the community for 26 years. As with many early
school teachers, he was highly respected in the
community. In the early years he arranged Church
services in private houses on Sunday afternoons
and procured preachers for them, and in the
absence of a minister would conduct the services
himself. He was a good musician and a fine
singer, and arranged concerts for various
community causes. He was a Trustee of the
Cemetery and Treasurer of the Committee that
collected funds in 1882 for the erection of the
Mechanics Institute. He was responsible for
putting the resolution to a public meeting in
1883 that the Governor in Council be asked to
change the name of the township from Wyndham to
As Werribee grew the little school became
inadequate. The original timber building was
demolished in 1907 after the Health Officer had
condemned the school buildings. The two bluestone
classrooms were renovated and new brick rooms
In 1917 G.T. Chirnside donated five acres of
land for another school. In the same year,
Werribee's Schools board was unveiled and G.T.
Chirnside donated a £1000 for a memorial fund.
The new school opened in 1919 (being S.S.649) and
is still on the same site today.
The earliest known schools at Truganina were run
by women in private houses, who taught their
neighbour's children. Two of these women were Mrs
E. North and Mrs George Cropley.
The first two
organised schools in the district were John
Corr's school at Mt Cottrell and Samuel Hayes'
school established April 1856. It was built at
the sole expense of James Thomson, Samuel Evans
and Thomas Hillman on Thomson's land. These men
intended the school primarily for their own
children, but permitted district children to
attend. The building had rooms lined with canvas
and an earth floor and an earthen fireplace with
a wooden chimney for heating.
Hayes, the first teacher, was a devout man. He
conducted the first religious service in the
district. In 1857 Inspector Geary wrote:
"The parents gave emphatic orders that their
children were not to be taught Grammar and
Geography, but only Reading, Writing and
Arithmetic". Mr Hayes, however, with great
patience and diplomacy succeeded in introducing
Grammar and the Elements of Geography.
From 1866, school was held in the Wesleyan
Chapel at Skeleton Creek in order to accommodate
the increasing number of pupils. The number
enrolled at this time was 69.
With local help, the Common Schools Board
established a new school and residence, first
occupied in April 1869 by Andrew Hanna, former
Presbyterian Minister. The school has had several
names but from 1877 it became Truganina State
School No. 192.