Evacuation to Marysville

The major sponsor of this website is Deaf Children Australia (Victoria) who have had a long association with Marysville. The story of their time in Marysville during the war years is below.


In the year 1942 the reality of war had set in and with the entrance of Japan into the conflict, school headmasters around Australia began to feel uneasy for their little charges. Realizing the possible consequences of losing the war, many schools agreed to lend their buildings for the use of the army. In March of 1942 the “Victorian School for Deaf Children” located at St. Kilda Road in Melbourne received notice that the RAAF had need of their buildings. Without further ado the management set about finding a wartime home for the school. After unsuccessfully inspecting various buildings, a suitable dwelling was found in Marysville. “Mary-Lyn guesthouse”, and later on “Green Lanes” and “Kooringa” as well, were temporarily adopted as home for approximately 88 deaf students. The army assisted with the move to Marysville, and within a surprisingly short amount of time, the school was settled in Marysville and the RAAF settled at St. Kilda Road. This amazingly smooth transition can be attributed to, assistant superintendant at the time, Mr. Tonkin and his previous army experience.

The conditions at Marysville, though comfortable enough, were sometimes difficult for the city born students. Some of the classes held in Melbourne could not be continued due to lack of buildings, such as carpentry, cabinet making, and cooking classes. Also the higher rainfall in Marysville left students often cooped up indoors with no electricity. Overcrowding became a problem and some classes were forced to be held in the one or another of the students’ bedrooms. The greatest loss for the school was the loss of students because parents were unwilling to send them so far away. There were around 96 students enrolled before the move, which dropped to 88 at the first term at Marysville. This number would not grow by any significance until the school was settled back at St. Kilda Road.

Though the loss of students was a disappointment, there were many benefits about the school’s stay at “Mary-Lyn”. The city-bred youngsters had the great opportunity to experience a country lifestyle. Walks in the forest, first snowfall and watching sawmills and loggers at work were just some of the new experiences for the students. Once the community had accepted the school they were extremely welcoming and helpful, creating a wonderful atmosphere for the school. The “Melbourne Church of England Grammar School” (another school temporarily using the guesthouses) was especially nice, going out of its way to include the deaf students in their activities. On one occasion the school invited the deaf students to take part in a nativity play, which was a wonderful success for all involved.

The proprietor of the guesthouses, Mr. Dowdle was extremely generous in handing over his livelihood for approximately the ground rent to the school. He was also kind enough to offer the staff free use of his beautiful nine-hole golf course, situated between the Stevenson River and Buxton Road. This was appreciatively made use of in the weekends that followed.  Also the excellent concrete swimming pool at “Mary-Lyn” was a huge asset to the students.

By the second year of the school’s stay at Marysville things began to improve. A more reliable electric supply was installed and a three room schoolhouse was built. This enabled some of the boy’s workshop classes to resume again. Also the enforced intermingling of school and house staff (due to lack of space from the previous year) brought about an amazing atmosphere of co-operation. Even the older students helped out where they could with the younger students.

At the end of the second year the school was promised that they could move back to St. Kilda Road by February 1944. The school prepared to begin school again in Melbourne for the first term of 1944. When the time came to move back to St. Kilda Road they found the RAAF slow to move out. When they finally were able to move in the school was in desperate need of repair. The “Victorian School for Deaf Children” was forced to start as a day school and it wasn’t until the third term of that year that they were able to take boarders again. Fortunately parents of deaf students in the city helped the students who were unable to travel between home and school each day by boarding them in the city.

In conclusion, the forced move to Marysville turned out to be a great opportunity for learning and co-operation. The many new experiences were good for both teacher and student alike. The hardships forced the school to show what it could do under pressure. The school came through the discomforts by relying on each other and all benefited from the lessons learnt at Marysville.

By Alicia K. Otten




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