, , , , , ,


By Algernon

After the Federal budget (where the government sees it fair to allow Universities to deregulate their charges as well as upping interest on loan schemes), I noticed the following article in the Sydney Morning Herald which talks about the lack of classroom space in the eastern suburbs and it would appear Paddington in particular. Apparently it will become critical by 2018 with space running out by 2026. Of course the real problem can be traced back to the Liberal Greiner Government where Terry Metherell, closed public schools down and merged others around the state for supposed low attendance rates. This left gaping holes in many school catchments.

(1)   Read the article here:


In my local area two High schools, Ryde High and Peter Board High were closed down with Malvina becoming part selective. The surrounding High schools had to take up the slack. An attempt was made to close down Hunters Hill High however a local campaign managed to keep the school open. Our local state member to his credit is looking at ways to have Ryde High reopened as the buildings are still used educationally.

Two sites were highlighted in the article; Victoria Barracks with buildings constructed between 1841 and 1847and the other was the National Art School (NAS) which started its life as Darlinghurst Gaol.  Building commenced there in 1820 with some of the cellblocks completed in 1840. The Goal was transferred to the department of Education and used as East Sydney Tech in 1923. The National Art School has been resident there since that time.

(2) Some history of Darlinghurst Goal:


(3) Some history of Victoria Barracks:


(4) Read about NAS history here:


(5) NAS Alumni here:


Some parents told the review that NAS was an ideal site as it’s large and has open spaces. It already has a hall, offices and classrooms. They claim it to be an orphan institution owned by the Department of Education. Also the art school could be moved to a government owned site in the western suburbs.

The hall was interesting, the cell block theatre is narrower than a railway tunnel, the open space, well, much of it is car park for the staff.  As for the classrooms, with desks they’d hold about a dozen students. The line that got me was to move it to the Western Suburbs, which for me was code for we don’t really want art schools in Paddington move it somewhere else.  Little Tarquin and Saarah need a place to go to school.

To the best of my knowledge there has never been a state High School in Paddington. Furthermore NAS has an annual intake of around 180 students into their undergraduate program. Allowing for honours and Masters Degrees perhaps 650 students overall. Most modern High Schools have around 1000 to 1300 students. Realistically this site with historical and cultural significance has no chance of holding that number.

I understand finding a greenfield site in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney would be difficult, yet a few kilometres south a brand new housing development is taking shape. Twelve storey unit complexes and no schools planned.

The National Art School I will admit holds a special place for us. Mrs Algernon was a student there in the late 1980’s. Algenonina the Younger undertook a course there as part of her HSC and at this stage hopes to be part of the intake of students in 2015. NAS has also been the Institution that has educated many of Australia’s significant Artists since its inception, including the producer of the Pig’s arms Coat of Arms.

It also saddens me that Fine Arts politically is not considered worthwhile and where the State Government chooses not to fund it at a Tertiary level, this robs many rural communities of the opportunity to study. Recent blow-ins to communities like Paddington and Darlinghurst can just thumb their noses at the area’s cultural and artistic heritage.

The conversation in the Letters has gone on for four days. As a regular reader of the Letters that is unusual.

(6) The Letters

Art of the community

Darlinghurst Gaol, and the National Arts School which now resides within it, are some of the last remnants of the artistic legacy Darlinghurst has given this city (‘‘City parents line up old jail in search for learning space’’, May 27). From Tim Storrier to Reg Mombassa to Max Dupain, those sufficiently talented came to the NAS and made this suburb more vibrant for their presence. Even Henry Lawson attended (albeit he predated the art school by many years and was incarcerated at the time).

Turning the NAS into a public school would strip away the dwindling vestiges of the creative spirit which animates this beautiful suburb.


New school of thought

Turning the National Art School into a public high school would hardly strip away the dwindling vestiges of creativity in Darlinghurst. CG (Letters, May 28) merely needs to walk 700 metres from the NAS and he will be at the College of Fine Arts. That’s right, two tertiary art institutions and no public high school in the area. Times change, so can Darlo Gaol.


Art of unsuitability

Perhaps JD (Letters, May 29) chooses to ignore the context of ”Darlo Jail”. The complex hasn’t been used as a jail for 100 years.

The National Art School, on the other hand, has occupied the site since 1923. The buildings themselves are of Georgian or Victorian construction. Is this really appropriate for a modern high school with its small rooms and narrow and steep staircases? How would access be available for the mobility challenged? Where will the children play? Surely the question should be asked why wasn’t a high school considered a priority in housing developments such as Victoria Park. A modern high school needs a modern construction, not an adaptation of a building for which it isn’t designed for.

Why should this Sydney institution have to move to the ”western suburbs” as some find the art school irrelevant? Maybe the College of Fine Arts COFA could move as well and then ”Paddo” could rid itself of its artistic heritage.


Look outside the frame 

Algernon (Letters, May 30) raises some valid points regarding locating a new high school on the site of the old “Darlo Jail”. I attended Sydney Technical High School in the 1950s, then located on what is now the COFA in Paddington. Briefly we walked to the old jail for some high school classes because the STHS site was overcrowded.

With some imagination a new multi-storey school building(s) could be built on the old “Darlo Jail” site and the existing National Art School maintained. The two uses would not be incompatible and the various nooks and crannies between the building would make ideal recreational spaces for all the students.



(1)   Sydney Morning Herald 27 May 2014

(2)   Darlinghurst Goal – Wikipedia

(3)   Victoria Barracks – Wikipedia

(4)   History of National Art School – NAS website

(5)   National Art School Alumni – NAS website

(6)   Sydney Morning Herald – Letters -28 to 31 May 2014