The Early Days

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Mrs Bev Starrenburg reflects on her 35 years at the College.

There has been involvement in education since Northside Christian Family Church was first built in 1976. The initial ministry was a kindergarten/pre-school which operated until it closed at the end of 1984 to make way for the school. 

Northside Christian Family Kindergarten was very popular; with 75 students daily; in three groups of 25. The founding director, Mrs Bev Starrenburg, was appointed by Pastor John Lewis and the church board to establish and run the Kindy which operated downstairs.

When the Kindy began, the top floor of the building was still unfinished. The lower space also was used for the Sunday services at that time; meaning there was regular packing and unpacking of equipment and furniture. In the spirit of church planting, people gave of their time and talents to make it happen.

During this time, there was already an interest in establishing a Christian school as a ministry of the church. Mr Graham Corney envisioned a school to support Christian parents who desired an education for their children that was based within a Christian worldview and upheld the same beliefs and values that they were taught at home. It was a long and complicated process to ensure that the school would be built on the best educational, spiritual and philosophical foundation - and that journey needs a more detailed explanation than is possible in this story.

This dream grew to fruition at the beginning of 1985, when Mrs Shirley Mead began teaching the first group of students in the downstairs space which had been occupied by the Kindy. The initial class had 13 students in Years One to Three. Later that year, a pre-school group began with Mrs Tricia Crimmins as teacher. In the second year, Mrs Bev Starrenburg returned to teach and Mrs Denise Plumb began the year after that. Mrs Betty Liyanage was the very talented Teacher Aide. From that small beginning, the number of staff and students has grown dramatically. That, too, needs more explanation than is possible here.

The early days of the school were very much a pioneering venture. The school was built by faith; having limited physical resources but much dedication. Northside Christian Community School was an independent venture. It was begun as a ministry of Northside Christian Family Church and affiliated with Christian Community Schools of Australia.

Everyone involved in the beginnings of the school was committed to play their part. Volunteers sewed the uniforms, paper was donated, working bees were enthusiastically attended. Teachers worked for wages much lower than those of their state colleagues. For many years, each teacher had to attend a private meeting with a magistrate to confirm that the financial arrangement was agreed to by choice, without any coercion. We had to state that our decision to teach at the school was a result of a religious conviction. We attended these appointments during holiday periods so that we did not have to take time off class.

So it was that the school was birthed with everyone doing “what it took”. To teach in the school was very much a calling, not a job. For a parent to trust the child’s education to a pioneer school was a step of faith. For the elders of the church to undertake the responsibility of the governance of the school was a step of faith. People were in partnership.

The initial purpose was to provide an education with a Christian worldview so that the children would understand that God is sovereign in all parts of their lives, not just at church. Church, home and school presented the same views and this allowed a holistic development for the children. The alternative was to expose them to a confusing dichotomy in a school where God was either ignored or dismissed.

Simply having a teacher who is a Christian is not necessarily enough. To ensure the teachers were suitably equipped to teach within a consistently Christian worldview, there was weekly teaching by Pastor Charles Newington, and state and national conferences run by Christian Community Schools. Later, the establishment of Christian Heritage College provided more study opportunities for Christian teachers to deepen their knowledge.

There have been many different types of challenges through the years. One has been to meet the criteria to receive funding. At one point, the church building had been doubled in size and the school was using some parts of the area under the church. When applying for the next stage of funding, we had to maintain usage at a particular number of square feet and be able to show that we were complying.

This created a somewhat comical situation in which we had to tape off walkways around the edges of the large open area to show the children that they could not simply walk across the ‘no-go’ areas of the room. We had to keep a straight face as we directed them ‘in the way they should go’.

From the start, staff have been flexible to meet needs. When Mrs Crimmins began, she would teach the pre-school class in the morning, then they would go home and she would relieve Mrs Mead to allow her to do necessary administration. This pattern of staff movement continued through the years as roles were adjusted to ensure different types of lessons were taught as needed. Usually, the changes happened after lunchtime.

In 1993, another great step of faith was taken to begin secondary education. Until then, the students completed Year Seven and then moved on to other schools; often travelling across town to attend Christian Outreach College (now Citipointe).

Without any guarantee of funding, a Year Eight class was formed and Mr Murray Averill was appointed as Principal of Northside Christian College. Staffing was made possible by once again adopting a creative approach. To support Murray’s teaching role, Patricia Hodgson and Bev Starrenburg added secondary classes to their roles and were joined by new staff members, Megan Kuchel and Vicky McKinnon.

The obvious changes are the number of buildings, the number of students and the number of staff. The College is so much larger and growth of this scale always presents challenges and blessings.

The blessings abound. It is obvious that the College now has much more land. We started with one block that grew to four adjoining blocks on Flockton Street and, more recently, the two adjoining blocks on Keona Road were acquired. From the original classroom under the church, successive rooms and then buildings were added; the newest of which is the Centre for Innovation and Creativity – the CINC Building. 

Specialist teachers broadened the opportunities for students and there was a steady growth of support staff to create the college we know today. There have been three different uniforms, a change of motto and the addition of a Mission Statement.

The original school motto was Committed to Excellence. This established the vision which is still now central in the Five Northside Values: Faith, Excellence, Learning, Community and Character.

Primary and Secondary Schools became Junior, Middle and Senior Schools. Part-time Pre-school evolved into full-time Prep. A new Kindy has been established. Ironically, the foundation of this new Kindy was established by Ps Ruth Limkin. Ruth was a very young attendee of the original Kindy as the daughter of the founding director, Bev Starrenburg.

Volunteers still are an extremely important part of the college and Mrs Ann-Margaret Rose ably leads and coordinates them.

As this is written at the beginning of 2020, Mrs Patricia Crimmins and Mrs Bev Starrenburg are still full-time staff members of the college. 

One of the strengths of the college is the number of long-term staff members who have a cultural memory and are able to maintain the vision. However, in this, there is also a danger that complacency can lead to a loss of the original vision if the call becomes merely a job. To leave a legacy for future generations, it is imperative that both staff and parents are committed to the original vision of the founders.

We must ensure that our values remain strong, that we maintain our spiritual and cultural ‘stakes in the ground’ and that each member of the College community has a healthy relationship with the Lord.  It is all too easy to follow the cultural drifts which take us away from God’s direction and we need to actively guard against this threat.

Each staff member needs to regularly reflect on their calling and vocation to teach/work at Northside Christian College. Do they really believe God wants them at the college, is it just a good place to teach, or are they comfortable? Each parent needs to be sure of their reason for enrolling their child at the college; whether it be to be part of a community of faith or simply because it is a ‘good school’.

It is vitally important that each member of the community is able to consciously differentiate between a call to the community and secular consumerism as their motive for being at NCC. All members of the community need to strive to build and maintain a unity in Christ which will, in turn, command a blessing from the Lord.