The old and the young alike found something to get excited about at Berinba’s 50th Anniversary Fun Day, which coincided with the opening of their new nature-themed playground. Former and current students, teachers, and principals reminisced on their school and teaching days while current-day students celebrated with jumping castles and turns on the long-awaited new equipment. 

New playground with natural materials, elements of risk and a waterway

“It was a huge amount of work from lovely volunteers. The highlight for the kids is definitely the inflatables and we’ve opened up our new playground and they’re all down there exploring it. It’s the first day they’ve been able to play on it,” said Berinba Principal Ms Malena Waibel. 

Former Principal Mr Ray Clayton said it felt wonderful to walk back into Berinba. 

“Coming in and seeing the changes that have occurred in the last couple of years with Malena, and having the finances to do it is just amazing, and I can also see the kids’ needs are better catered for,” he said. 

Current teacher of 37 years Louise Armour, current principal Malena Waibel, former principal Ray Claydon, and original 1972 teacher Marg Fisher

Mr Clayton oversaw several major infrastructure improvements to the school, including the COLA structure during the 2008 recession, the addition of the multi-categorical enriched learning area for high-needs students, and the joint Berinba and Mount Carmel schools sports oval project.

Max Mihaljevic in Grade 3 enjoying the inflatable activities

Fun Day- Former Berinba student Oran Bradley left for High School this year & returned for the celebration

Chris Taylor, who built the new Berinba playground, played with his son Jack who has not yet started primary school. 

“I moved down from Sydney about 14 months ago to start a division of business called Edible Kid’s Gardens, which has developed into a thing called ‘nature based play.’ The idea is to use nature to entice play rather than a lot of plastic and steel, and provide healthy risk,” said Mr Taylor.

Playground constructor Chris Taylor with son Jack

Mr Taylor explained the playground is designed to mimic nature and to just see how kids will interact and entertain themselves. 

“Sometimes it’s grabbing sand and bringing it up to the creek, creating dams, floating leaves down the creek and having boat races. All those things I remember as a kid.”

Other principals from around the area have visited the Berinba nature playground and have expressed interest in discussing a similar playground. Mr Taylor said a lot of the playground can be paid by grant funding and that the government is willing to help schools if they can write a good case.

While children played to their heart’s content, within the school’s library and the hall was an amazing display of memorabilia and artwork. 

Student and community artwork included some talented photography and paintings, many featuring plants and animals.

Classes worked together to create a bright collection of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with oil pastel on black card, a collection of Uluru with a sunset background, also in oil pastel, and a large paper collage of a wedge-tail eagle in the traditional Aboriginal dotted style. The Eagle’s colours alluded to the original school colours and uniform of green, brown, and white.

Berinba’s Community art show displayed many entries

“There’s lots of old school uniforms to look at, the old brown tartan dresses. Our lovely office assistant in the library Barb Rayner has been keeping history archives for the entire time the school has been alive. We have massive historical archives which is really great. Everything gets kept,” said Principal Ms Waibel. 

Flipping through an old album was Marilyn McColl, a former teacher at Berinba from 1989 to 1999. She took students who needed help with spelling and reading 

“This is just beautiful to see. Some of the photos here are of people who have since died,” she explained.

Former Teacher Marilyn McColl

Former teacher Mrs Isobel Wykes and her daughter and former student Carolyn Green (Photo at top) have strong ties to Berinba and remember well the old brown and green tartan Carolyn used to wear to school. Mrs Wykes is also the mother of Fiona Wykes, who was Berinba’s Captain in 1997 and is now Careers Advisor at Yass High School. Mrs Wykes’ son was also a Berinba Captain in 1980. 

Former Student Carolyn Green and her mother Former teacher Isobel Wykes

“I was a teacher from 1974 to 1991. I taught every class from kinder to six; I was probably on third and fourth grade more than any other,” she said. 

Stepping back into Berinba was a very emotional experience for Carolyn, who was a student from some of Berinba’s earliest days from 1975 to 1982.

“My memories of this school are that it was small, inclusive, with lots of wonderful playground area and a lot of parent involvement in the right way— Very social,” said Carolyn. 

“It’s such a cross section of the community in a small primary school in a regional area. You don’t get that mono; you get everything. That opens your eyes up, and it makes you see the good and the bad, and makes you appreciate what you have,” she reflected. 

Southerly Jones