Matthew Flinders Anglican College welcomed its first students on January 29, 1990.
On January 29, 1990, the first students walked through the gates of Matthew Flinders Anglican College.
Once a thriving citrus orchard, the Buderim school has grown over the years to become one of the State’s premier educational institutions. From an enrolment of 161 in its foundation year, the college now caters for 1,300 students.
The school was two years in the planning and was the result of the efforts of a small group of concerned parishioners in the Maroochydore area, who saw the need for the establishment of an Anglican school in one of the fastest-growing areas of the State.
Students were expected to come from areas including Mudjimba, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Buderim, Nambour, Woombye, Palmwoods and Bli Bli.
The original committee was happy to gain the interest of two leading Coast professionals, builder Rod Forrester, who became the Foundation chairman, and architect Jim Birrell, who became the Foundation’s vice-chairman.
The school council purchased an orange orchard of 20 hectares just below the mountain of Buderim
It was a unique bush setting for a school and the school’s architect Mr Birrell designed low-set cottage style buildings with verandahs all round to suit the bush environment.
With the combined enthusiasm of the original committee and the business acumen of the professionals, the first buildings were constructed late in 1989 and were ready for the start of school in January 1990.
Chairman Rod Forrester recalls how the determination and commitment of the committee and parents who put in many voluntary hours, saw the school established and then thrive in the early years.
Mr Forrester said about 20 individuals backed the College’s establishment and went guarantors for half a million dollars, to secure loans totalling about $11 million. Within five years, all the guarantors were released.
“That was a lot of money in those days,” said Mr Forrester, who often joked that if the school did not succeed, they could always continue with the citrus orchards.
On September 30, 1989, the Archbishop of Brisbane and the primate of Australia, Sir John Grindrod, set in place a brick, symbolizing the “cornerstone elect” for the Matthew Flinders Anglican College. About 400 guests attended the service on the proposed site for the college chapel.
Two months earlier, Stephen Matthew had been appointed foundation principal. Mr Matthew interviewed some 200 students and parents, selected 12 teachers and appointed a secretary, bursar and property supervisor.
About 30 of those new students, including 12-year-old Bede Evans, joined the Flinders’ float in the Australia Day Parade at Buderim. Bede was dressed up as a young sailor boy and Mr Matthews was decked out as the Captain. They flew the flag: “Matthew Flinders Drops Anchor” and other students marched in their new nautical-themed uniforms to announce the arrival of the school to the area.
Named after the famous navigator who sailed the coastal waters, Matthew Flinders Anglican College welcomed 161 students across Years 5-8 in 1990. There were six main classrooms, a fully equipped laboratory and a multi-purpose room, which temporarily housed the library but was later used for music and languages. The following year, Years 1-4 students joined the College, and Secondary extended to Year 9.
In the first year, Flinders offered Japanese, agriculture, music (brass and strings) and geography as elective subjects in Year 8.
Sporting facilities included a full-size court for basketball and netball, and students could also use the nearly Ballinger Park Sporting Complex.
In a letter from the Principal to a foundation student, dated December 13, 1989, Mr Matthew writes: “I hope you are excited about coming to Matthew Flinders next year. The classrooms are now finished and all we have to do is wait for the grass to grow so that we have some lawn and a small oval on which we can play and have PE lessons. The school also has two ‘hard stand’ areas, one is small (for handball or hopscotch) and the other is the size of a basketball court.”
“We didn’t have an oval – we had this massive orange orchard.Bede Evans, Foundation Student
We were in the orchards eating oranges all the time.”
After the excitement of settling the new students, Matthew Flinders Anglican College was officially opened on Sunday, March 18, 1990 by the Governor, Sir Walter Campbell, who unveiled a plaque commemorating the event.
At the opening, Sir Walter congratulated the College’s advisory committee on their vision and foresight for turning a dream into a reality.
As reported in the Sunshine Coast Daily on March 19, 1990, Sir Walter said that over the past 15 years there had been an obvious and marked trend towards parents opting for education independent from the State system. He said private schools had long been strong forces in education in Australia.
Foundation student Bede Evans – one of two students to give the vote of thanks to Sir Walter at the official opening – fondly remembers his first days at Flinders as the college quickly transformed from a citrus grove into a growing, modern school. “I remember we had to pick rocks up off the oval in lessons and for detention – yes I was always there. “Over time they started building the oval and it just got better and better.
“I’m confident this new school will find its place in the tradition. I’ll look forward to hearing of this school’s sporting, cultural and academic achievements.”Governor Sir Walter Campbell
Written by Debbie Southern