In this article, Flinders’ Registrar Debbie Southern captures some of the conversation enjoyed on the day of our Legend’s Lunch.
In November 2019, Principal Stuart Meade and Head of Secondary Gerry Price hosted a Legend’s Lunch event to celebrate some of Flinders’ key founders and early supporters.
Guests included past principals, board members, heads of school, teachers and parents. The event was an opportunity to enjoy a conversation over lunch, sharing memories of the early days of Flinders.
It was a happy and memorable event, with each guest reflecting on heart-warming, funny or challenging moments experienced during the early years of Flinders.
As the College explores its history and collates stories from people in our community, it is important to acknowledge the contribution of every person who has contributed to Flinders’ growth and development over its 30 years.
Rod Forrester, Founding Chairman (1988-1995)
Local developer Rod Forrester was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Matthew Flinders Anglican College.
After a feasibility study in 1988, Mr Forrester recalled at the Legends Lunch that they received “wishy washy approval” to establish a school. Mr Forrester said the committee employed the first principal, Stephen Matthew, in April 1989. Mr Matthew moved from South Australia and set up his office in Mr Forrester’s board room in Mooloolaba.
“We didn’t have approval to build a school, and didn’t own the land,” Mr Forrester said. “We went about buying the orchard. We thought this was a growth corridor and a Buderim school would have a good name.”
After further studies, council approval was gained, and a meeting was set up with the Westpac bank.
Westpac provided a five-year negative cash flow loan, including all interest and all operating costs. The school needed to enrol more than 160 students and even more challenging, needed to find backers to underwrite the loan for half a million dollars. Mr Forrester said about 20 individuals went guarantors to secure loans totalling about $11 million. On the first day, 161 students were enrolled, and within five years, all the guarantors were released.
Forrester Fields are named in honour of Rod Forrester’s contributions towards the establishment of the College.
“We got the approvals, then had to borrow money.”Rod Forrester
Stephen Matthew, Founding Principal (1989-1999)
First principal Stephen Matthew was at Scotch College, Adelaide, contemplating a move to Queensland when he saw an advertisement in The Australian newspaper for a Foundation Principal on the Sunshine Coast.
Speaking at a ‘Legend’s Lunch’, held in 2019 with some of the College’s key supporters and initiators, Stephen said, “I thought, ‘where’s Buderim’, and got the map out. ‘Oh, that’s where the ginger comes from,’ he recalls.
Mr Matthew said he worked with a “terrific team” in the six months before the school’s opening in January 1990.
“It was an exciting time to have buildings ready for the kids for the first day.”Stephen Matthew
Mr Matthew said the spirit of the parent body in the early days needed to be acknowledged. He recalled two, of countless, examples of generosity in these years. People came to me and said we would like to organise a flagpole – the official opening by the Governor is coming up and we need to have a flag pole. A couple of years later they organised lights for the oval. I salute the movers and shakers of these early years.”
Shelly Travers, Founding Teacher
Shelley Travers joined Matthew Flinders Anglican College in 1991 as the school’s first Year 1 teacher. “In the first five years, the changes were astronomical,” Shelley reminisced at the Legends Lunch. “I grew up at Flinders,” said Ms Travers. “I loved every day.”
Ms Travers and one of her young students, Luke Van Roy, were snapped by the Sunshine Coast Daily photographer, perfectly capturing the first-day excitement at Flinders. For the 20-year anniversary in 2010, the two caught up for another photograph together to commemorate the school’s achievements.
“I had the first Year 1 class – my students thought our principal, Stephen Matthew, was Matthew Flinders!”Shelly Travers
Nev Rowley, Teacher and Co-ordinator
of Senior Studies and Careers Adviser
Foundation science and maths teacher Nev Rowley taught students in the specialist laboratory, which was part of the College’s first buildings in 1990. Mr Rowley, who retired at the end of 2019 after 30 years at Flinders, recalled at the Legends Lunch that he was given $400 to set up the Science lab for the school’s commencement. The lab was fitted out with Bunsen burners, test tubes, thermometers and a microscope sponsored by the P&F.
“I knew a few other teachers around the Sunshine Coast, so I was able to get a few chemicals together and started the Science lab,” he said. In the first year, the Year 8 science course covered areas such as astronomy, plants and geology. The investigations were a highlight for students, including Bunsen burner races, eye dissections, magnetic levitation and various microscope studies.
About 25 budding scientists joined the CSIRO-sponsored Double Helix Science Club and met at lunchtimes with Mr Rowley. Activities included “dry ice cocktails”, “paper clip racers” and hydrogen popping. The club also helped run a paper plane contest and unsuccessfully launched a large hot-air balloon.
Mr Rowley said back in the early 1990s, no other Coast school was offering its Years 8 students elective subjects. “I’m proud of what we have achieved in the curriculum space,” he said. “At the end of the first year I helped the principal, Stephen Matthew, with curriculum and timetables and moved across into that area. It was an amazing journey, setting up the curriculum.
Mr Rowley, who retired as Flinders’ respected Co-ordinator of Senior Studies and Careers Adviser, as well as senior Chemistry teacher, said he would always cherish his three decades spent at Flinders. “It’s been a huge part of my life and will stay that way.”
“We created the culture of the school – we had very high expectations. The vision was that there wasn’t another school on the Sunshine Coast like it.”Nev Rowley
Kim and Berys Evans, Parents
Kim and Berys Evans had three children join Matthew Flinders Anglican College in 1989.
“We heard on the grapevine that Flinders was opening,” Mr Evans said at the Legend’s Lunch. “They had a community meeting at the soccer fields and everyone was very, very positive about the idea and they were looking for people to support them.”
Mr Evans took on the role of Parents and Friends vice-president, and Mrs Evans ran the school’s uniform shop for many years. The couple recalls the laying of the foundation stone in the bush in amongst the trees, and the official opening of the school by Sir Walter Campbell.
Mr Evans said to raise money for facilities such as the 25-metre pool, parents contributed $500 or $1000 in an interest-free debenture scheme and each week someone’s name was pulled out of the hat and repaid. About 120 families contributed with more than $100,000 raised. These funds helped build the pool in 1992, and put in lights around the oval.
“We had very primitive buildings and not much grass, but we started off and away we went.”Kim Evans
Bruce Winther, Head of Primary School (1999-2017)
Bruce Winther retired as Head of the Primary School in 2017 after 19 years at the College. During his tenure, the Primary Pavilion was built, and Mr Winther takes great pride in the fact that the primary school students cut the ribbons to officially open the “wonderful facility”. In his parting words in The Investigator magazine, Mr Winther wrote: “I have seen the Primary School and, indeed, the College grow from an infant to a grown-up educational institution that can rival any in Australia.”
He summed up the College’s ethos:
“Flinders has never stood still and it never will as there is always a drive for continual improvement.” – Bruce Winther
Anthony Vincent, Deputy Principal (1999); Principal (1999-2013)
When Anthony Vincent came to Matthew Flinders Anglican College in 1999, Flinders was about to head into its second decade with enrolments of just over 1,100.
During a tenure which spanned 15 years, Flinders’ second principal saw the College reach full enrolments of more than 1,300, oversaw more than $30 million worth of development and established Flinders as one of the top schools in Queensland, with an outstanding academic and co-curricular record.
In May 2013, Anthony Vincent announced he was stepping down from the helm at Flinders due to ill health. Chairman of the Board of Directors at the time, Mrs Carolyn Bradbury, said the College was indebted to Mr Vincent for his “inspirational leadership” over the past 15 years.
At his farewell, Carolyn said: “We have the greatest admiration for Anthony Vincent – he has left an indelible mark on our College. We can stand tall upon his shoulders in taking Flinders into the future, which is a future filled with enthusiasm and great promise.”
Mr Vincent’s final slogan for his final year at Flinders seemed extremely fitting: ‘Inspiration is all around you.’ With the tenure of Anthony Vincent coming to an end, inspiration had truly been all around Flinders, from 1999 to 2013.
“We have the greatest admiration for Anthony Vincent – he has left an indelible mark on our College. We can stand tall upon his shoulders in taking Flinders into the future, which is a future filled with enthusiasm and great promise.”Carolyn Bradbury
Carolyn Bradbury, College Board Member 2009 – 2013; Chair of the Board 2013 – 2016
Carolyn Bradbury recalls key people who shaped her time while a member of the Matthew Flinders Anglican College Board.
“I’d like to recognise the College’s previous Principal, Anthony Vincent for his significant contribution to the College’s growth and reputation during the years I was a member of the College Board from 2009 to 2016. I can recall that the Board, as part of a particular accreditation process, was provided with the result of a survey undertaken with the whole of the staff reviewing their opinion of their Principal, Anthony. There was overwhelming support for Anthony and the people conducting the survey informed us that never in all their years of conducting such surveys had they seen a result where a Principal was so overwhelmingly supported.
“While Stephen Matthew, prior to my time, took great steps in establishing the College, there is no doubt that the 15 years Anthony led the College truly took it to the next level. Anthony established a remarkable rapport and respect with all stakeholders: students, parents, staff, the board and importantly the wider field of other educational institutions not only on the Sunshine Coast but throughout Brisbane and Queensland. The College established a reputation as an equal with other very well-established leading Brisbane private educational institutions in his time as Principal. That was truly a remarkable feat, particularly given the young age of the College, and Anthony deserves great recognition for that.
“The other person that also deserves recognition, for her remarkable business acumen, is Sharon Verrinder, Director of Business and Operations. As the school matured it required a person with significant business acumen and vision; strong knowledge of the College’s corporate history; strategic thinking; and business operation and leadership skills, to manage what had become a very large and profitable business. Those of us on the College Board were indebted to her and appreciated the wisdom and skills she brought to her role that were crucial to the Board’s effective management of the organisation.
“In Sharon’s time, she has significantly solidified and enhanced the College’s financial position and general business operations. Our Board could not have functioned as it did without her.
“They were great years as a Board member. We worked hard and we had a lot of fun!”