FROM THE NEWSPAPERS - 1954 - Yallourn High School Overcrowding


With the 2019 Reunion fast approaching, it is timely to post a story on the Virtual Yallourn website related to the history of the Yallourn High School.
It is hoped that former students will enjoy the trip down ‘Memory Lane’ (not to be confused with Meadow Lane, which ran off Latrobe Avenue).

By 1954, the population of Yallourn (excluding the hundreds of men residing in the various camps) had swollen to about 5580; and the Yallourn High School, which enrolled students from across the Latrobe Valley region, was virtually ‘bursting at the seams.’

Additionally, the overcrowding of the school was compounded by the fact that the Yallourn Primary School (4085), which was overflowing also, had annexed a number of classrooms in the grounds of the Yallourn High School to cope with an ‘abundance’ of young students.

Space was at a premium at YHS; and as revealed in the article below, the situation had reached ‘breaking point.’ This article was published in the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ in March 1954; and it explains the strong action taken by various members of the Yallourn Advisory Council to relieve the overcrowding at YHS at that time.

Note: The newspaper article may prove a little confusing to younger readers because, in Yallourn at that time, there existed: (i) a Town Advisory Council and also (ii) a High School Advisory Council. Both are mentioned in the newspaper report.

Hopefully, the footnotes attached with this article may clarify certain aspects of the issue.


OVERCROWDED conditions existing at the Yallourn High School were the subject of a letter which came before the recent meeting of the Yallourn Advisory Council. The writer, the secretary, Yallourn High School Advisory requested the assistance of the Council in alleviating the position. He also pointed out that the school was accommodating 550 High School and 150 State School pupils.
Cr. Wallace said he was familiar with the conditions which were accentuated by the need to provide for the State School scholars. He believed that the only solution the erection of a High School elsewhere.

The shortage of space was so acute that the R.S.L. Hall was being used.

Cr. Hebb recalled the conference held between the Council and the District Inspector, Mr. McIntyre, early last year when the latter had given an undertaking, that the position would be it improved by the time the 1954 school year opened. He pointed out that the District Inspector had then said that if the expected relief did not come from the Consolidated School at Moe, he would seek expansion in Hernes Oak.

Cr. Lynch reminded councillors that Mr McIntyre had also stated that the transfer of primary school pupils would relieve the State School but intensify the position at the primary school and such a situation had now arisen.

Cr. Fewster said that the District inspector had stated in effect that if he were in trouble he would come back to the Council for support. He had not done so. After Cr. Harries had suggested another urgent conference with the District Inspector, Cr. Wallace said he understood that district inspectors were meeting soon to discuss educational facilities.

Council agreed to seek a conference with the District Inspector as early as possible…”

1. The first meeting of Yallourn High School Advisory Council was held on June 21st 1945. The members at that inaugural meeting were:
Dr. J. C. Spencer (President), E.G Chisholm (Treasurer), J. W. Botteril; D. Ferguson, J. Lawson, O. Phillips, G. F. Rusden, F. L. Tremain and Cr. D. J. White.

2. The first meeting of the Yallourn Town Advisory Council was held on January 7th 1948. Mr T. Forristal was the Chairman. Mr Langhorne was the appointed secretary; and the other members were: Brigadier John Field, Mr. J, Collins, E. Chisholm, Mr A. Fewster, Mr. R. Edmondson and Mr R. Hamilton.

3. Yallourn (town) Advisory Councillors were either nominated by the SECV or elected by the residents of the town. Of the members listed in the above article, Mr W.L. Hebb and Mr A. Lynch were SECV nominees.

4. The years of service of the above-mentioned members of the Yallourn Advisory Council (ie town not school) were: Mr W.T. Wallace (1949-69), Mr Hebb W.L. (1951-56), Mr A. Lynch (1952-69), Mr A.E. Fewster (1948-58) and Mr F.H. Harries (1951-64).

5. As can be seen from the above, the nominated / elected councillors were long serving members of the YTAC and were respected and energetic members of the community. From reading the newspaper reports of the meetings, the debates covered a wide range of community issues and were often robust. The last meeting of the YTAC was held on the 29th November 1979.

6. The following table, regarding population of the township of Yallourn, will give readers some idea of the growth of the town and the steep incline in the number of residents after World War: II. Such an influx of families put pressure on the existing schools of the town; and all welcomed the Education Department’s decision to build new secondary schools at Moe (1953) and Morwell (1956).

1921 - 138
1933 - 2520
1947 - 4119
1954 - 5580
1961 - 5010

7. The Yallourn High School was opened on Tuesday, February 6th, 1945 with an enrolment of about 300 students. Approximately 140 (47%) students were conveyed by bus from Morwell, Moe, Trafalgar, Traralgon, Brown Coal Mine and Yinnar districts. Prior to 1945, secondary education was provided in Yallourn at the Higher Elementary School (which grew from humble beginnings and is another absorbing topic in the town’s history of schooling).

7. As written elsewhere on this website, the enrolment at the Yallourn High School between 1945 and 1953 doubled. In 1953, there were some 625 students attending YHS; and it is known that in 1953, there were 348 (56 %) students who travelled by bus to the Yallourn High School every day.

8. The Principal of the Yallourn High School in 1954 was Mr G.S. Ellis. Mr Ellis arrived in Yallourn in 1953 and was principal at YHS until 1960. He was an experienced educator who worked diligently to improve the conditions at the school for staff and students. The following tribute to Mr Ellis was originally published in the Yallourn Assoc Newsletter in 2016…

“George Ellis was born in Castlemaine in 1904. It is known that he served with the Army in New Guinea during World War:II where he rose to the rank of Major prior to being discharged in August 1944.
Following the war, George taught at Melbourne Boys High School, Essendon Technical School and he also gained promotion to Dandenong High School. George Ellis became the Headmaster of Yallourn High School in 1953; he succeeded Mr Champion who had been promoted to Wangaratta High School.
George was greatly respected and his philosophy and style of leadership was warmly embraced by students, teachers and parents.
A glowing example of George’s approach to life and education can be found in the pages of the ‘The Pylon.’ In the 1953 edition of the magazine, George wrote…
“The tradition of scholarship is an important feature in a school but perhaps the greatest importance is a record of character training. The school aims to train young men and women who will be able to fill with credit their places in the community and it therefore attempts of diligence, powers of self-discipline and judgement, honesty and sincerity of purpose and unselfish thought for others. Each pupil in the school whether his examination marks are high or low can help to develop the tradition of good citizenship within the school.”
George Ellis was Headmaster of Yallourn High School from 1953 until December 1960. When he left YHS, to take up the position of Principal at University High School in Melbourne, there were more than 700 students enrolled in the school. He was succeeded at YHS by Mr Coulson.
It is believed, but not verified, that George Stevens Ellis died in May 1984 and is buried at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery.” Source: Yallourn Association Newsletter 2016.

9. It wasn’t just the YHS that was experiencing accommodation problems in that period of the town’s history, as the Principal of the Yallourn Technical school, Mr Edgar Scott, expressed similar concerns about overcrowding in his 1952 Annual Report …
“PRINCIPAL’S ANNUAL REPORT-1952. The Principal, in presenting his annual report to the Council of Yallourn Technical School, emphasised that the 1952 school year had been, owing to insufficiency of accommodation and shortage of teaching staff, a very difficult one…” Source: ‘Morwell Advertiser’ January 29th 1953: Page: 5

10. As many readers will be aware, the Yallourn High School closed its doors in 1977. As so many of its past students will testify, YHS was a safe and caring place where lifelong friendships began and blossomed. Former student Jean Humphries wrote the following tribute to YHS in 1996…
“I have many very happy and lasting memories of my school day at Yallourn High school, my old school tie and prefect badge, five Pylon magazines and some school photographs taken with my old ‘Box Brownie’ camera. Hopefully, it is not too late to thank all the teachers who gave so much of themselves in making my High School days so happy and rewarding and who instilled in all of us the desire to go out into the world and continue our education in our chosen fields. Thanks also to fellow friends and classmates who all helped to contribute to the happy educational environment that we worked in.” Source: YOGA Publication: 1996.

Hundreds of other children, who had the good fortune to attend Yallourn High School, would echo Jean’s sentiments about her school years. As Jean has written, the school was so important in the lives of the young people of the district and it still has a special place in the hearts of so many.

While the situation regarding classroom overcrowding was problematic at Yallourn High School, in that era, it is also documented that 1072 students attended the Yallourn Technical School in 1953.

According to the figures published by the Principal, Mr Edgar Scott, in his report to the YTS Council in April that year: -
• There were 472 boys attending Day-time Junior Technical School.
• 40 students were enrolled in Full-time/Day Diploma Courses.
• There were also 560 apprentices and other part-time students.

In that post-war period, Yallourn was the educational centre of the Latrobe Valley but change was on the way as the population of the neighbouring towns increased.

The above story is part of an on-going project regarding the history of Yallourn. The story was researched and written by Roger Spaull and presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in February 2019.

The above article from the ‘Morwell Advertiser’ has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, to enhance the article for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.