“So may it be, and he who sings
In accents hopeful clear and strong,
The glories which that future brings
Shall sing indeed a wondrous song.”

Song of the Future
A.B. Paterson

From Vision to Reality

The Vision of A.B. Paterson College had its birth in 1990 over a shared meal with four close friends, as they pondered the education of their children, that of their future grandchildren, and the future for young families on the Gold Coast for years to come. They saw a need for a school of substance, a school that celebrated our Australian heritage, a school with traditional values, and yet one with a progressive mindset to education within a caring and supportive environment. From this humble meal and initial discussion, the Vision of A.B. Paterson College was born.

The Founding Chairman of the College, Mr Alan Rickard, then Alderman Rickard, and his Foundation Board members, David Kerr, Kelvin Hutchinson, Brian Stafford, Noel Boucher and Eric Filmer developed the plans for the College, and sought approval from the Gold Coast City Council and the Queensland Government to build the College on its current site. Neil Russell, Vince Thackeray and Kathy Sullivan M.P. were later co-opted onto the Board to add their expertise to the team and widen the range of qualifications held by Board Members.

The Foundation Board appointed the Foundation Principal, Mr Robert Nicholls, following his introduction to Alan Rickard by then Mayor, Lex Bell, in 1989. Mr Nicholls’s career had seen him hold positions at many levels of management in independent schools and, at that time, he was Head of the Senior School at John Paul College. Mr Nicholls had been examining the education needs of the region and determined that the northern Gold Coast held the optimum opportunity for the establishment of an independent school. The subsequent growth of the local area underpins the accuracy of his vision all those years ago. Robert Nicholls was Foundation Principal of A.B. Paterson College from 1991-1994. Committed to the values of independent education, following his departure from A.B. Paterson College in 1994, he then went on to establish Tamborine Mountain College, where he continued as Chairman of the Board.

Choosing a site on which to build the new school was not an easy task. Development in the northern Gold Coast area led to a paucity of large lots available for building at affordable prices. Many sites were under consideration, including the Runaway Bay site, now the Sports Super Centre.  Other sites were closer to the coast, leading the group to consider Broadwater College as a name. The site at Arundel was more rural than the others, and this fitted with the vision of wishing to establish a distinctively Australian school that had relevance to the Queensland and Australian context. Ultimately, this site was selected as it was the only one immediately available, and delays would result in not being able to begin as planned in 1991. The site was adjacent to two hectares of council land. Negotiations commenced, and the contract for the four hectare site was signed in May 1990, with the Council agreeing to make their land available for school use. Applications for rezoning followed.

In order to secure the required finances, a number of personal guarantees from Board Members and supporters were required. These courageous people believed so strongly in the College, they were willing to mortgage their businesses and houses for 10 years to ensure the College was established and succeeded.

Construction of Stage 1 started in September 1990 with tree clearing and basic earthworks that rendered the construction site by the end of the month. The first permanent building was the two storey eight classroom block that became known as “School House", now an integral part of Cunnington House.  A ‘working bee’ in October 1990 saw 100 families arrive to pick up rocks, sticks and logs to make way for construction and landscaping.

Marilyn Rickard and Maureen Nicholls researched materials and designs for the College uniforms that received a favourable reception when displayed at the working bee. The initial proposal was that Year 11 and 12 students would wear a burnt gold blazer, with white skirts for girls. Following much discussion and feedback, it was decided that a green blazer and olive skirt be worn

The infamous Round House, originally the site office of Runaway Islands Development, was delivered on site in late November. It was destined to become the Administration Building of the College. Seeding of ovals began in December, and furniture and equipment was ordered for delivery in January.

The Foundation Board wanted the school to carry the name of a well-respected and recognised Australian, who would exemplify the Nation’s heritage and identity. They chose Banjo Paterson – poet, journalist, lawyer, scholar, soldier, sportsman and patriot. The concept of a school that celebrated the Australian identity and character was furthered by naming the College’s four Houses after Australian poets/writers: CJ Dennis; Henry Lawson; Dorothea Mackellar and Judith Wright. Children were allocated to one of these four Houses.

And so, A.B. Paterson College began in January 1991, with 262 students from Prep to Year 9. The College was the first school in Queensland to offer a full time Prep class. Interest and demand for places was so high that the College commenced with two Prep classes. By the end of that year, enrolments had risen to 305.

One of the first traditional events held that year was Banjo’s Birthday celebrations on 17 February. To this day, this special anniversary is celebrated by the Junior School in the preparation and performance of Banjo’s poetry; and also in Banjo’s House Games after school, when the Year 12 students organise and run games such as egg’n’spoon, sack races, tug-of-war and such like for the Prep-Year 3 students. Plenty of fun is had by students and parents alike at this annual event, with a barbecue and dancing to finish a wonderful birthday celebration for the College’s namesake, Andrew Barton Paterson.

The Growth and Development of A.B. Paterson College

In 1994, Mrs Dawn Lang replaced Mr Nicholls as Principal of the College. In her 18 years at its helm, Dawn Lang saw the College grow from an enrolment of 670 students to a student population of 1380. The College Board was highly focused on exemplary teaching and learning, leading to genuine understanding and so, after much research, Principal, Dawn Lang, was charged with the responsibility of introducing and developing the Teaching for Understanding framework (TfU) in 1998, to drive change in the way students learn, based on Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero. This curriculum framework has stood the test of time and is the foundation upon which the College’s teaching and learning programmes are currently based.

Following Mrs Lang’s retirement in 2011, the current Principal, Mr Brian Grimes, was appointed as only the third Principal of the College. Formerly the Principal of Swan Valley Anglican Community School, Mr Grimes has nearly 20 years’ experience in independent education systems in Perth, Western Australia. Mr Grimes holds a Bachelor of Science Degree, Diploma of Education, and a Masters of Education from Western Australian universities.

Since 2012, the College has launched and developed a new learning management system, enabling unprecedented student access to learning tools from their teachers; introduced a ‘slate programme’ that provides every student from Years 4-12 with a College-owned device for their use; developed the concept of 21st Century learning skills; and has achieved the greatest academic results in the College’s history.

The College’s footprint has further expanded with the purchase of the adjacent playing fields, previously owned by the Gold Coast Council; the development of a Collaborative Learning Centre; and an additional Prep classroom and Prep-Year 3 Library, the Lilly Pilly Learning Centre.

Building Programmes

As Foundation Chairman from the College’s inception until 2006, Cr. Alan Rickard oversaw much of the College’s Building Programme which included:

  • 1995:     Primary School, original Home Economics Building
  • 1996:     New Senior  School Amenities
  • 1997:     Information Resource Centre,  Senior School Classrooms (4), Science Labs (2)
  • 1998:     Child Care Centre, College Foundation Launch, Administration Building - named initially after Alfred Deakin, known as the Father of Federation; later renamed the Alan Rickard Administration Building in honour of the Foundation Chairman’s dedication to the development of the College
  • 2001:     Funds were raised for the Aquatic Centre through Foundation
  • 2002:     Taylor-Dostal Oval
  • 2005:     Aquatic Centre, Oliphant Science Block
  • 2006:     Performing Arts Complex

Alan Rickard’s understanding of Board operations and responsibilities steered the College’s growth, not only in infrastructure, but also in pedagogy, building the College’s reputation at the forefront of independent schools in our local and national communities.

Following his appointment to the Board in 2000, Peter Sippel was elected as Chairman of the Board in 2007. Under his leadership, the Building Programme progressed with the construction of:

  • 2008:     Mathematics, Learning & Research Centre & Food Technology facility
  • 2010:     Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Multi Purpose Centre Stage 1
  • 2011:     Uniform Shop, MPC classrooms & Gym – Stage 2
  • 2013:     Refurbish Collaborative Learning Centre. 

In May 2013, David Tanner was elected Chairman of the College Board, following two years’ experience as a Board member, an office he holds to date.

  • 2014:     Purchase of the parcel of land owned by the Gold Coast City Council & classroom refurbishment
  • 2014:     Prep Building (fourth Prep class) and Prep-Year 3 Library, the Lilly Pilly Learning Centre
  • 2015:     Redesigned traffic management system of College's roadway entry, drop-off and pick-up zones and car parking facilities
  • 2015:     Commissioning of a bronze statue of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson as a unique entry statement 
  • 2016:     Refurbishment and design of Year 1 classrooms 
  • 2016:     Refurbishment and design of Swimming Pool and Change Rooms
  • 2017:     Refurbishment and design of Year 2 and 3 classrooms

The College has grown from strength to strength over the years. In the past three years, enrolment numbers have grown from 1380 to 1400, with a fourth Prep class introduced in 2015.

In its short history, A.B. Paterson College has developed magnificent facilities, core traditional values, a leading teaching and learning framework, and is now integrating numerous technologies to greater assist and help students learn and connect responsibly with their world, and to provide the foundation for genuine leadership development in all young people.

The College has developed much since its Foundation in 1991, and yet its history remains embodied in the lives and achievements of all who have learnt and taught here.

The College’s many graduates are now developing as leaders in their own fields and making strong contributions to the development of our Australian society and economy. The College is pleased to celebrate the achievements of our many graduates and offers a number of biographies of our Old Collegians in the following pages.

“We acknowledge and celebrate our College’s wonderful history and those who had the Vision and courage to embark on the development of it so many years ago. We recognise the importance of our traditions, while seeking to provide a progressive education to meet the needs of our current students as they grow, develop and learn, and we look to them to become the ‘Old Collegians’ of tomorrow.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Brian Grimes, Principal.