History of St Joseph’s School Coraki

As early as 1880 Father Doyle had set up a temporary school in the church. In the absence of any documentation it is believed that lessons were given by some of the mothers. By the mid 1890’s the Catholic Community sent a deputation to the superior of the Presentation Sisters, who had come from Ireland and established a community in Lismore in 1886, requesting they establish a convent in Coraki. Mother Stanislaus, the superior, agreed to the request and a home was purchased in Richmond Terrace to accommodate the Sisters. By January 1896 the necessary adjustments to the church to make it workable as a school were completed. From its inception the school’s aim was not only to educate children in academic sense but also to instill in them the Catholic faith and its high Christian ideals.

On the 10th January, 1896 Coraki’s first Catholic School commenced. Pupils came from Coraki Township and the surrounding districts of Swan Bay, Codrington, Ruthven and Tuckurimba. The school operated in the church building with classrooms being packed up on Friday and re-organised again on Monday.Throughout the years St. Joseph’s has been renowned for excellence in teaching. The Presentation Sisters set the standards with students achieving remarkable success in music, elocution, sport, needlework and painting in addition to their excellent academic record. Before long they were holding regular concerts, entering Music Festivals and presenting students for music examinations. The school has a great history of religious vocations. Many of the sisters who served at Coraki during the ninety years attended St. Joseph’s as students themselves. Other ex-students also entered the priesthood, De La Salle Brothers, St. Joseph’s Sisters and the Carmelites.

St Joseph’s Church/School, at the corner of Richmond Terrace and Grenfell Street was destroyed by fire on the 5th July, 1904. The Sisters continued teaching in temporary classrooms that were set up in the Odd Fellows Hall. Later that year, land was purchased in Adam Street and a new church/school was blessed and opened in 1905.
A new brick church was built next to the convent in Adam Street in 1923 thus designating the existing building as the school.
A school uniform was introduced into St. Joseph’s in 1927. The original style for girls, which was worn all year round, was a navy blue serge tunic, white long sleeve blouse, navy tie, black stockings and black shoes. The uniform for the boys was navy serge trousers and a blue shirt. The first sports uniform was introduced in the 1960’s.
In the 1930’s the school was severely damaged by a violent storm. The force of the wind partly shifted the structure off the foundation blocks at the far end of the building. A huge stay had to be placed on the eastern side of the school to stabilise it. An enclosed veranda was added to the eastern side of the building at this time.

A meeting of parents on the 30th April, 1952 resulted in the formation of the first Parents & Friends organisation at St. Joseph’s. A membership fee of two shillings per year was set.
St. Joseph’s continued as both a primary and secondary school until the Wyndham Report in the 1960’s resulted in compulsory introduction of science into the syllabus and the extension of secondary schooling to six years. In 1965 the Secondary Section of St. Joseph’s closed.
Fire again struck the school in 1991. The back wall of the original weatherboard building and the old toilet block which was being used as a store room were extensively damaged by the fire and the water used to extinguish it. The kindergarten and year one rooms were refurbished and a new storage area built to replace the old toilet block.

The Presentation Sisters served the parents and students of St Joseph’s from it’s foundation in 1896 till their departure in 1986 when the first lay principal was employed. The decision to withdraw the Sisters from Coraki was a painful one made only because of the declining numbers in the Congregation. The school will always be indebted to the Sisters for their work and the gift of themselves. The spirit they first brought to St. Joseph’s is still the guiding force today.

St Joseph’s School is situated in the township of Coraki, on the Far North Coast of N.S.W., approximately 26 km. south of Lismore. The school has a current enrolment of 90 students. It is located 1 km. from the main shopping and commercial centre but central to it. The school is situated on the main road into and out of the town. It is adjacent to the former convent, the church and presbytery. It is situated on a site of approximately one hectare, including playing fields. The school consists of the original 1904 weatherboard building comprising three classrooms, a connecting enclosed verandah and the Library. A Special Education room, teacher’s resource storage area and general storeroom are also included in this building.
One feature of the Library is a stained glass window, one of three given to the church/school as a gift from Bishop Doyle.

A demountable building consisting of two classrooms was placed on site in 1980 as well as a new toilet block being constructed. The Administration Building, housing the Principal’s Office, Secretary’s Office, Staffroom and Printing Room was built in 1987 and Officially Opened and Blessed by the Most Reverend John Satterthwaite D.D. in 1988. Also constructed at the same time were the Canteen, storage room and cement play area.