Celebrating 100 years 1917-2017

CAIRNS State High School has celebrated 100 years in style.

Throughout 2017, a diverse array of wonderful events and activities showcasing the school and its century have been enjoyed by students, staff and the community past and present.

Centenary celebrations included the Centenary Book Launch, on February 5 (the school’s official birthday), held at the location of the first school building, Novotel Oasis Resort Cairns.

Other major events were spread over the September 15-16 Reunion Weekend. The Back to Cairns High Open Day and Back to 1917: Jazz Supper Club were both epic occasions for all ages.

The school also celebrated its official birthday by cutting a huge cake and launching a history book.

Cairns High The First Hundred Years 1917 – 2017 is the story of a school which has faced more than its fair share of challenges from its formative years to the present. Bubonic plague, Spanish flu, two world wars, the bus crash and an arson attack on the original school building are only some of those challenges addressed in the first part of the book, which is a year-by-year account of the school’s first century. The author, Peter Stanton, has personally experienced 27 of those years as a teacher at Cairns State High School since 1990.

The second part of the book investigates in more detail some of the main traditions and innovations of Cairns State High. This section begins by exploring institutions which no longer exist, such as the technical college, the use of corporal punishment at the school, the rail motor and the cadets. Subsequent themes include the origins of school symbols and the sports houses, the main sports played at the school in the past one hundred years, the successful orchestra and other aspects of the arts, the contributions of indigenous students and Cairns High’s emergence in recent years as an internationally recognised school. The book concludes with a series of lists noting past house winners, school captains, duxes, school staff and students who passed junior and senior exams.

“This book is not just a history of Cairns High but also of the people and events of Cairns itself,” says Peter.

“There are two parts: the first being a year-by-year account of the major happenings connected with the school, and second part encompassing themes such as sport, the arts, the cadets and the school’s progress to becoming an international school.”

With over 1500 images accompanying the informative and anecdotal text, Cairns High The First Hundred Years 1917 -2017 recreates an educational era in Cairns which transformed significantly between 1917 and 2017.

On September 15, the school was open to the wider school community and tours were conducted for nearly 500 people aged from nine right up to 100.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also attended and assisted with unveiling a plaque on the junior secondary building, the centenary plaque at the main entrance to the school and also the opening of MacKenzie Walk.

MacKenzie Walk is located in the section of outdoor space previously known as the Rainforest Area, extending between G Block (Science), L Block (Maths) and the Canteen, within close vicinity of Crosswell Hall.

The area continues to host the now very large old mango and fig trees, raised garden beds, a pergola, lighting and electrics, with Trex® decking throughout.

“This space has provided a beautiful environment for our school community to enjoy,” explains Katrina Clarke, Business Manager Facilities, who drove planning and organisation of the works.

Bernie MacKenzie was principal at Cairns High throughout a long and dynamic period – 1979 to 1999. Bernie’s goal for his 20 years of principalship was the achievement of excellence in performance of students in all aspects of endeavour. He established the Senior Leader system and in 1988, was deservingly rewarded for his efforts associated with the Gillies Highway bus accident with a Cairns Citizen of the Year Award. Bernie also saw the redevelopment of many of the facilities at the school.

Post tour, past students enjoyed morning or afternoon tea at either of the school landmarks dedicated to two of our exceptional past principals – MacKenzie Walk or back inside Crosswell Hall.

“The Centenary celebrations went off with a real bang. The Back to School day was a fabulous opportunity for our old scholars. They were able to see and experience how much has changed at this great school,” said executive principal Chris Zilm.

“A highlight for me was chatting with the two most senior past teacher, Mr Leahy and Mrs Seary, who were in some of these very classrooms in the 1940s.”

On the night of September 16, the Jazz Supper Club was another special opportunity for past students to come together and celebrate the 100-year milestone. Nearly 1000 lucky guests were literally whisked away upon entering the Cairns High’s swanky club, thanks to the creative assistance and support of Staging Connections. Flappers and dappers, adorned with their long strings of pearls, fedoras, smashing dresses and dashing suits stepped into an electric arena of nostalgia and good old fashioned fun times.

The atmosphere buzzing, with the top class roaring entertainment whistling away as soon as you stepped out of the elegant and iconic A Block entrance into the magical wonderland of the Quadrangle. The 100-piece orchestra (made up of about 70 current and 30 past students) was absolutely awe inspiring. The dancers sparkled like diamonds, and all of the performances were just spectacular. We had fantastic MCs in Kevin Shorey and David Hudson who were both funny and informative.

Singing and dancing continued until the huge finale of fireworks.

“The Saturday night Jazz Supper Club was incredible,” recalls Chris.

“The school was genuinely transformed into a wondrous venue for what ended up being the party of the century with great food and entertainment and one of the best fireworks I have ever seen.”
The school also appreciates their community who assisted in making this happen. Through donations from the school community and generous sponsorship, the school has been able to undertake some mammoth restoration projects and events this year.

Contributions from local families and businesses this year have been much appreciated and the students and teachers are genuinely grateful. Our Centenary Partners for 2017 are Cairns Regional Council, CQUniversity and Tong Sing Pty Ltd.

Event Partners were Cairns Post, Destination Cairns Marketing, Pacific Music and Staging Connections and our Platinum Partners; The CaPTA Group and James Cook University.

Over the past 100 years, Cairns High has evolved and transformed into a highly sought after, internationally accredited, independent public school with a strong reputation for its excellence programs and opportunities for youth in the Cairns region. Since 1917, this great school has seen much change and has had many inspirational teachers and talented students walk through its hallways and classrooms.

Cairns State High is proud of its staff and students and especially this year, where everyone has contributed a tremendous amount of effort and support. We look forward to the next century with excitement and zest, and will continue to be the best we can be.