By Peter and Sheila Forrest – Historians
Parap Primary School celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2018 – a proud moment for the school, for Darwin and the whole Northern Territory. The opening of the school in 1958 was a symbol of Darwin’s post-war renewal, a milestone along the road to a modern city. Before the war, the Parap district had been a civil aerodrome which then became a wartime fighter strip.
In the 1950s, the area became a modern suburb that badly needed a school. That school declined in the 1920s and 1930s, but as the war loomed it regenerated and it had 77 pupils in February 1941.
There were serious proposals for a new and bigger school but bombs blew away that idea. In 1944, town planning schemes for post-war Darwin included a new residential suburb at Parap but nothing was done until 1950 when housing blocks were made available around the old airstrip.
The fast growing local population took seriously its obligation to populate or perish. By 1954 even the government acknowledged that the need for a school at Parap was urgent. On 20 July 1955, ₤150,000 was allocated for a new Parap school. Designers immediately began planning for a school suitable for the tropics.
On 10 September 1956 the construction contract was awarded to local builder Angelo Maddalozzo; on 25 November 1957 Angelo handed over the finished buildings and was congratulated for the excellence of workmanship which has culminated in the completion of this splendid building.
Within a short time of the school opening its doors on 12 February 1958, 361 children were enrolled. On 16 August 1958, more than 1000 people watched Administrator Clarrie Archer perform the official opening. If they looked around, people would have seen a new shopping centre emerging nearby and houses multiplying in a place that was no longer at Darwin’s edge of the outback – instead, it was becoming an inner suburb.
The Infant school was built in Stokes Street and opened in July 1959. It functioned as an independent school until official amalgamation with the primary school took place at the beginning of 1974. The Parap Pre-School, an integral part of the school, opened in 1960 on its present site on Ross Smith Avenue.
Both Infant and Primary Schools were severely damaged during Cyclone Tracy (December 1974). In 1979, additions to the school included a new library, a four-roomed open style classroom and a reconstructed administration block. During 1982, all classrooms were renovated and all rooms were completely air-conditioned by the end of 1985. Since 2003, the school has undergone major facilities upgrading, with most of the Primary school facilities replaced or significantly renovated.
History isn’t only about the past – its highest purpose is to help us to achieve better futures. Parap Primary has always tried to give its students the best possible foundation for life. Thus the school makes better futures and a better history, for us all. A school community history, Working Together, The Story of Parap and its two Government Primary Schools, by Peter and Sheila Forrest, was published in 2011 and provides further information on Parap Primary School’s history.