Category Archives: Hurlstone

Hurlstone Agricultural High School, Glenfield, NSW – I was in the Class of 1988

How You Can Help Save The Memorial Forest

My inbox runneth over with inquiries and suggestions from people – Hurlstonians and others – who share my concerns about the future of the Hurlstone Memorial Forest. There have been groups and pages and articles and comments popping up around the interwebs, which is good, but what is the best way for you to actually DO something about it?

  1. Make your concerns known. (If there isn’t a petition box showing below, sign it here (LINK REMOVED: SEE BELOW). It will establish to the government, and all of us, that the issue is worth shouting about. Each signature is public and verified by email. For those reasons, it should be taken seriously by The Powers That Be, so your signature will be worth something.
  2. Share this petition by clicking on the button in the petition below, and/or forward this link to the petition to other people: (LINK REMOVED: SEE BELOW)
    • ‘Other People’ includes current and former staff and students (esp. the cadets), current and former servicemen (and their families) and RSL members without Hurlstone attachments: anyone attached to Hurlstone or Australia’s military.
  3. Advocate, by writing to your local government member or RSL to alert them to this potential tragedy. Please join the FaceBook group devoted to this issue, or join the HAHS Alumni Forums. You’ll learn where and when your support will have the most effect.
  4. If you’re in a position to clarify or alter this decision, please do it soon. There is plenty of media discussion about whether Hurlstone is entitled to retain its large farmland allocation. The Memorial Forest deserves special attention, over and above the separate issue of the Selling Of The Farm.

UPDATE: On Nov 19, Premier Nathan Rees told Alan Jones that ‘the memorial forest will be staying with the school’ – based on that statement, there is no longer the need for a petition on the topic. Thanks to all who signed.

Hurlstone’s Memorial Forest Chopped

How truly ironic that the NSW DET chose November 11 as the day to effectively announce the selling off of Hurlstone’s beloved Memorial Forest.

Hurlstone Agricultural High School will be, literally, in the shadow of its former self within the next few years. It has been confirmed to staff that Hurlstone’s ‘parcel’ is the ‘surplus land’ referenced in media reports of the last few days. According to an email from Director General Coutts-Trotter to DET principals dated Nov 11:

  • ‘Up to 140’ hectares of land at Hurlstone is considered surplus and will be sold in 2011. The School will retain 20 hectares.
  • A policy change – made as a result of this decision – will not allow Hurlstone to keep the ‘lion’s share’ of the money. It will be reinvested in schools, police and nursing.

A 20ha land allocation is too small to allow the Memorial Forest to remain part of Hurlstone.

This last point is probably the most galling, and the reason why this decision will become a prominent and contentious issue beyond the school’s (current) boundaries.

As part of the centenary celebrations last year, Old Boy and former Deputy Peter Marsh spearheaded an effort to replant and restore the Memorial Forest – now recognised as Australia’s first ‘living’ war memorial. It was established in 1950 as a memorial of 600 Hurlstonians who served in both World Wars.

(More information about the Memorial Forest, and its place in the life and history of Hurlstone is at the Alumni site.)

The exclusion of the Memorial Forest from Hurlstone’s new land allocation has been described as a ‘slight on not only the school but all Hurlstonians/Servicemen whom the forest represents’.

The Government hopes that by selling HAHS land and the old Seaforth TAFE they will raise just under $240M: half will go to local school capital works and half to ‘front line services’ like policing and nursing. (see the budget papers here, refer page A-5).

The DET points out that the new Hurlstone allocation will be twice the size of James Ruse (10ha) and more than three times the standard school size of 6ha.

Money and real estate speculation aside, the Memorial Forest must be saved. If it goes, so does a good, rich chunk of Hurlstone’s history and Australia’s wartime legacy. It is a longstanding memorial for a school with such pride in its contribution to Australia’s wartime history that it’s school motto is Pro Patria.

It would, figuratively, tear Hurlstone’s heart out.

If the local RSL isn’t up in arms about this, then it should be. If ex-Hurlstonians aren’t outraged, then they need an email. Hey, maybe the HAHS Old Boy in charge of DET’s ‘asset management’ might have something to say.

Is the decision young enough to be influenced? Is the forest worth saving?

We’ve observed a minute’s silence. Now, let’s make some noise.


* UPDATE: Here is a graphic that shows where the Memorial Forest sits in relation to what I have guessed is the 20ha 2011 allocation (revised 14 Nov based on new information). By my quick-hack calculations, it would require as little as a 2ha extension to save the memorial.

** UPDATE 2: In response to some questions: no official boundary for the 2011 allocation is yet public, making it all the more important to act now, before DET releases a map that will require a revision. The Memorial Forest has not been mentioned (or considered?) by the DET at this time. There is still time for the DET to include the forest and say it was never intended for it to be sold off.

However, any 20ha versions of HAHS that include all the playing fields must exclude the Memorial forest. Try it yourself.

The best indicator of current thinking is the security fence that was erected about a decade ago, which extends along Roy Watts Road to just past the old principal’s residence and down Dairy Lane.

** UPDATE 3: The Daily Telegraph’s Maralyn Parker has joined the fray, following up her prior article about the land sale with news of our own ‘Save the Memorial Forest’ campaign.

*** UPDATE 4: You can now join a FaceBook group to show your support.

The New Adventures of Old David

After months of dithering, weeks of planning, a few weeks of not planning, then a couple of weeks of mad panic, the Hurlstone Agricultural High School Class of 1988 20 Year Reunion finally happened in Sydney last week.

And they’re still talking about it.

I’ve not attended reunions like this before – I missed the 10 year celebration – but I’m led to believe everyone approaches school reunions in the same way – fear, loathing and confusion. Why the heck would we all want to meet again after all this time – what’s the point? What if my life doesn’t shape up? What if (person x) is there? What do I say? Does this dress make me look fat? Should I wear a school tie?

(The answer to the last question is no.)

What is the attraction to organising and attending events like these? It’s probably 40% ‘teenage nostalgia’, 30% ’80s nostalgia’,  20% curiosity, and 10% ‘lets see how many other ways my own life could have turned out’.

It’s fascinating that as I write this, a week later, there are still FaceBook postings and comments about the event, and the minor controversies it stirred up. Who partied the hardest after we were kicked out of the venue? Who looked the worst in the party photographic record? Who was Mr X talking about when confessing he wished he’d asked them out all those years ago? (We’ll never know, but fairly sure his wife will get it out of him eventually)

Personally, I spent the week leading up to it immersed in a period of my life I’m pleased to say I ‘lived properly’. That’s not to say I lived it well (I have regrets and rejected FaceBook friend requests to prove it) but it was a farmyard of fun that I can remember savouring at the time. I can remember looking around the class, or the school, or certain musical performances or personal circumstances, and saying "you’re going to need to remember this well – slow down". I consider it one of my super powers, even now. And one of the reasons I’m going to get run over crossing the road one of these days.

"Life moves pretty fast" – as Ferris Bueller said.

So, in 2008, I cranked up the 80s music and put together a souvenir record based on the recollection of many of the witnesses and perpetrators of crimes and good deeds over the few years we spent together at Dear Old Hurlstone.

The reunion event melted away the intervening years. It’s not fair to pass any sort of judgement on people who are in ‘Reunion Mode’ – we’re all just remembering what things were like the last time we met, and falling back into the old patterns, except now we had beer. I don’t think I learned a lot about the human condition that night (like I don’t believe you learn a lot from the ‘7-Up’ programs) but I did figure out that, hey, people are more than what they did then and what they do now.

And, for me as a Dad, it really reinforced for me the belief that a lot of who you are, and who you become, is defined by who you choose to hang out with at that formative part of your life. For some, this was the first time we’d spoken in 20 years, but for others, the friendships that were made in school are still alive today – some guys are still best mates and the sort of people who can call each other for help at 2:20 in the morning.

If you’re in school at the moment, be sure you take the time to drink in the experiences you’re having. It may seem like a blur, or a prison sentence, but your decisions now about what (and in some cases who) you do will determine who you become. It’s worthwhile living your life deliberately, and keeping hold of friends who do the same. It’s about living a life worth remembering.

If you’re heading off for a reunion of your own – be prepared for anything. Maybe an offhand comment about a situation you’d wanted to forget forever. Maybe an old flame turning out to be so much more – or less – than you’d pictured them to become. Maybe a chance to make amends. Or maybe a chance to settle right back into the same witty banter and sparkling repartee that you’ve not shared with anyone for two decades. Be open to new experiences of an older you.

And if you were at the HAHS reunion – or wish you were – hats off to Mel and her hired goons for setting up a great environment for all this to happen. Look us up on FaceBook if you want to keep in touch.

Anyone else been at a reunion lately?

The Hurlstone 20 Year Reunion

Yep – it’s happening!
We’re working on the invitations and plans at the moment. If you’d like an invite, head over to facebook and get yourself onto the ‘Hurlstone Agricultural High School Class of 1988‘ Group.
If you’re an anti-Facebook bigot, send me an email and I’ll make sure you’re on the list.
Keep October 4 free. And head to Canterbury.
It should be a good night. I’m traveling from the other side of the country. If you’re from the ‘Class of 88’, you should too.
Oh, and if you’re a Sydneysider, check out the ‘Circle of ’88’ dinners in the leadup to the big event.

Hurlstone Film

I can’t believe it’sa taken me a while to look this up, but there are a few Hurlstone videos doing the rounds on YouTube. (These search results will show what we have learned at dear old Hurlstone. Hurrah! Hurrah!)
When I find the many videos I have lying around here I might put some up from the 1980s :-)
Great memories for past students, terrifying blackmail for current ones, and excellent orientation for future Hurlstonians.

Hurlstone’s 100 Years

Although it was difficult to hear the speeches at times, the 80s contingent ‘up the back’ at Saturday’s Hurlstone Centenary Dinner was in fine form. As I twittered from Table 41, it’s amazing how quickly a group of school friends can regress 20 years. Boy – now that I think about it – that’s half a lifetime.
Okay – big news first – there’s definitely a ‘Class of 88’ 20 year reunion planned for next year. Catering whizzkid David Allison and Construction magnate Lee Fahey have taken it upon themselves – so stay tuned. It’ll be twice the 10 year reunion.
On the night, everyone settled back into the old roles, the in-jokes remained, and the memories of the controversies and punishments were still wet to the touch. It seems that what lasts 20 years is not the grades or the awards, but the relationships and the extra-curricular.

Continue reading Hurlstone’s 100 Years

In My Day, The Students Got The Cane For This Sort Of Thing

My, how things have changed after 100 years.  Hurlstone is once again in the news for its starring role as one of the nation’s leading exporters of psychological torment. Oops – Sorry. Allegedly.

With more Centenary celebrations only a few days away, it seems there’s still more growing up to do. If the reports are to be believed, staff have been taking bullying lessons from the kids. Things have been getting a bit Agricultural, shall we say?

Yet, only a few minutes down the railway, the kids are getting it right. Has the world gone topsy turvy?

Seriously – what’s going on over there? Hurlstone’s always prided itself on doing things a little differently – staff have never been shy about engaging in militant behaviour – heck, we produced Mark Latham –  but surely there comes a time to stop asking questions about the situation and start answering them?

HAHS: A Hundred Years To The Day

I’m a little sad I didn’t get to the Centenary Service for Hurlstone today – a family celebration for Charlotte and a dodgy shoulder conspired to keep me away. I’m reliably informed there’s a brick with my name on it on the new Centenary Pathway which I’ll have to get to see at the next open day.

I’m interested to hear from folk who attended the service today – it looks like the weather was sensational, and I would have liked to catch up with other ‘Old Boys’ of both genders.

What happened? Anyone?