History of Yarra Primary

History of Yarra Primary

Victorian State School (No. 2798)

Originally known as Richmond North Primary School (No. 2798), Yarra Primary School (No. 5272) is an inner city school serving a changing and diverse community. The original 1888 building had a additions in 1911 and 1975, and a Building the Education Revolution (BER) project was completed in 2011, adding contemporary flexible learning spaces to the original buildings.

The main building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register - H1635.

Designed by the Department of Public Works, the layout and detailing is almost identical to the Toorak Central School. According to the Victorian Heritage Register, the design does not appear to have been repeated again. The design has been attributed to Brightwen Binyon, the architect of the Sandford St Boys School, Great Britain, the drawings of which were published in the Building News on 9 December 1881.

Stylistically, the building is derived from the Queen Anne style London Board schools of the 1870s and 80s.[1]

The school is of architectural significance as an unusual design for a Victorian Education Department school. A great deal has been written about it's architectural style and can be found on the website, 'On my doorstep'.

An overview ~ 1886-1970

State School 2798 Richmond North, was opened by HT John Burston on 8th November, 1886, at St Mathias Church in Church Street. Being unsuitable as a school, due to the ancient brick building having only stained glass windows it suffered poor ventilation, plans were underway to secure a new location.

In 1887, the present site, frontage in Davison St, 254ft x 132ft (77.4m x 40.2m) was purchased for £1,428. In 1888 a new school was erected and ready for use on 14th January, 1889. Soon some 600 children attended; attendance had risen from an initial 150 in 1886 to 595.

Four years later, the school became an adjunct of a nearby school, Richmond Central (No. 1567). However, it regained independent status in 1902. Three more rooms were added at the rear in 1911 and 1912 (West facing side of main building). During these renovations temporary classrooms were set up, first at the Congregational Hall (Cnr Kent and Burnley Streets), then at St Mathias Church.

Overcrowding during 1934-61 was a direct response from the transfer of Richmond Central's Grades 5 and 6 students. Respite from their return was temporary. Overcrowding again occurred in the late 1960's due to the influx of migrant children, of whom 70% were Greek.

The attendance for Richmond North Primary in 1969 was 400! [2]

1970~Present day

In the late 1970's, major building works were carried out. This included the library, the classrooms above the library (the Senior section of the school) and the walkway joining the old and new buildings. These additions were completed in 1981.

The school also had a caretaker who used to live with his family in the house on the South-West corner of the school grounds. This house still exists and is currently used by the local community and called, Finbar Neighbourhood House.

In the late 1980's, Betty Nicolaou was one of four LOTE teachers at the school. Three were Greek, and one Chinese teacher. Betty Nicolaou is still with the school today, continuing to teach Greek LOTE to our children.

In 1987-88, Richmond North Primary School was renamed Richmond Community School.

The renaming of the school to it's current name, Yarra Primary School, came about in 1996.[3]

During 2010-2011, the school underwent a refurbishment as a part of the Australian Government's "Building the Education Revolution" (BER) project for schools — Economic Stimulus Plan. Along with new carpet and paint throughout, the school acquired a sick bay opposite the Front Office, larger and more flexible learning spaces to the rooms that were added in 1911/12, and a new covered walkway from the rear of the building to the outside bathrooms.

Interesting facts

  • After World War I, Richmond was an industrial, working-class area nicknamed, "Struggletown".
  • The Richmond Football Club was Premiers at last when they defeated the detested Collingwood to win their first League Premiership in 1920. "Eat 'em alive Tigers".
  • Famous visiters: Prince Albert of Monaco in 1990. Olympic Gold Medallist, Cathy Freeman; Australian long distance runner, Steve Monaghetti; the then Prime Minister's wife, Hazel Hawke; and Elizabeth Honey who wrote the books, 'there's a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake'. The school is also often visited by well known Australian cook, restaurateur, food writer and gastronomist, Stephanie Alexander.


1. Architectural information obtained from the Victorian Heritage Database http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/#detail_places;103838

2. Document held in school archives, written by I. Manley Breen.

3. Information compiled by Sue O'Shea and Katerina Kapolitsas for the Yarra Primary School 125th celebration evening in 2011.


Images are courtesy of Pictures Collections State Library of Victoria and from the school archives © Yarra Primary School.

Bridge Road, Richmond in 1908

Bridge Road, Richmond in 1908