St Joseph’s Yarra Junction – A school with a story to tell..
Year Opened: 1958
Parish Priest: Fr Charles Cerini
Principal: Sr Gertrude Mills
Year closed: 1994
Year Opened: 1987
Parish Priest: Fr John Hennessey
Principal: Sr Loreto Cuffe
St Joseph’s School in the Sacred Heart Parish, Upper Yarra Valley Parish (formerly Warburton Parish) had its beginning not at Milners Road, Yarra Junction but at Park Road, Warburton 50 years ago.
In 1952 Fr. Charles Cerini was appointed Parish Priest for the Catholic Parish of Warburton. A parish large in area with many small communities scattered throughout. As a man of vision and many talents, Fr. Cerini saw the need for the establishment of a parish school that would strengthen the faith community and help support parents in passing on the Catholic faith to their children. With the support and help of the local Warburton community and his building knowledge and skills, a school and convent were built on land purchased with a significant donation from Miss Leila Ward. Once the buildings were completed Fr. Cerini invited the Sisters of St Joseph to take up residence and to begin the education of Catholic students from within the parish. So in May 1958, Sister Gertrude Mills and Sr. Jerome opened the school with an enrolment of 90 students in years Prep to 6. When Fr. Heffey from Gladysdale, joined the teaching staff a few years later, classes were then available from Prep to Form 4 (Year 10).
With the relocation of the High School from Warburton to Yarra Junction transport for the St Joseph’s School students from Yarra Junction and beyond became a problem. Fr. Cerini took up the challenge and for two years drove a bus around the area to collect and return the students each school day. When unable to continue this service, due to ill health, Fr Cerini requested assistance from the government. This request for assistance was rejected. To highlight their plight and to bring to public notice the need for transport assistance, the students accompanied by adults, walked the six miles from Yarra Junction to Warburton and back again for ten days. At the end of this time a compromise was reached by the government for the conveyance of the students.
While the 1970s brought an increase in the local population, it also brought about an increase in the number of students and teaching staff. It was in these years that lay teachers were first employed in the school to cope with the ever-growing numbers of students and the lessening number of Josephite Sisters available for teaching roles.
Fr. Max Grabau was Parish Priest during some of these years and he recognised the need for the parish to purchase land that could accommodate a new Catholic school in the parish. This was the 23 acres of land situated at Milners Road, Yarra Junction.
Fr Jim Scannell succeeded Fr Grabau and set in motion the plans for a new school at Yarra Junction. Fr. John Hennessey became Parish priest in 1983 and by 1985 the building of a new school had begun.
Students at St. Joseph’s were always actively involved and successful at sport. During the 1980s with Sr. Loreto Cuffe’s interest and enthusiasm for table tennis, the students won many trophies at the Australian School Table Tennis Championships held in Melbourne.
1987 saw the opening of St Joseph’s at Yarra Junction with Sr. Loreto Cuffe as the Principal (the last of the Josephite Sisters to work in the school) and 69 students enrolled.
For the next eight years St Joseph’s continued to function as a two-campus school with Rod Barnard becoming the first lay Principal in 1988.
As the years passed, decreasing enrolments and concerns over the facilities at the Warburton campus were raised. Even so, Fr Hennessey was adamant that the campus at Warburton would continue as long as he was Parish Priest.
However in 1993 Fr Chris Walsh was appointed Parish Priest and his approach to the situation was to establish which areas of the parish had the greater need. With Yarra Junction and other towns to the west of Warburton providing the greater numbers of Catholic families, the decision to close the Warburton campus in December, 1994 was reached. In 1995, St Joseph’s became a one-campus school with an enrolment of 129 students.
The years since have seen St Joseph’s, Yarra Junction grow in enrollments and so, in buildings. With Fr Julian Langridge as Parish Priest from 1996, and Rod Barnard as Principal, a new library was built. Later with Carmel Purdey as Principal, four new classrooms were built to replace the re-locatables and an extension was made to the main building to provide a better administration area. A renowned school choir and choral group along with an innovative visual and performing arts program have become strengths in the curriculum during this era.
In 2008, the school celebrated 50 years since its formation and 21 years at Yarra Junction.
In late 2010, the school went through exciting changes. After many years of service, Peter Vanstan and Fr. Pat Purcell left the school and parish. Fr. Eugene Ashkar was appointed as Parish Priest. During 2011 John Faulkner became principal.
Further reading about St Joseph’s School can be found in Warburton Ways by Earle Parkinson, Signs Publishing, 1993, pp 142-144.
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