Eltham High School | The Seventies – New Directions

The Seventies - New Directions.


1971Accommodation problems with over 1000 students
1972Student protests to stop portable classrooms being removed from the school
1973The new library was built
1974Compulsory school uniforms disappear
1975The English Department wing burnt down
1976Middle School, Instrumental Music and Pre-driver Education introduced
1977New English/Drama/Music block opened
1978The Golden Jubilee celebration took place

The Seventies.

The seventies were years of great social and political change, and this was reflected in the importance of wider issues at school and the rapid changes within school life.

As the seventies began, Australian soldiers were in Vietnam. The major Moratorium in 1971 became an important issue, involving many EHS students. It also emerged in the creative work of the students; through their prose and painting. The school “adopted” a young Vietnamese child through one of the international aid programmes.

The school had over 1000 students in the early seventies and faced severe accommodation problems, despites the Science wing becoming available at the start of the decade. Portable classrooms were never loved, but when in 1972 the Education Department attempted to remove them despite the chronic shortage of classroom space facing the school, the students responded by welding the two halves together, stringing barbed wire and arranging seats around the classroom. After some heated confrontation, the classrooms stayed.

During the early seventies, compulsorys school uniforms disappeared, and long hair was tolerated after a considerable battle. The traditional school “social” also faded away. Changes in the curriculum also occurred; “Science” became “Environmental Science”, and “English” became “Communications”. This was followed by the introduction of “Middle School”, a vertical streaming of Years 9 and 10.

The mid-seventies was an era in which school fires were fashionable, and EHS suffered the devastating loss of the entire English Department wing in 1975. Many fundraising activities were organised to try to replace more than $20,000 worth of books and equipment. Work on a replacement English Department was commenced very rapidly, but it did not become available until 1977.

The School produces some memorable, and highly praised, theatre during the seventies. The plays included Richard III, Princess Ida, Romeo & Juliet, Orpheus in the Underworld, Under Milkwood, My Fair Lady, Wizard of Oz, and Sweeney Todd.

Regular school trips became established during these years, including Form IV skiing trips to Falls Creek, and the Form I orientation trip to Anglesea. First form Collingwood High School students visited EHS, and the interschool sports trips between Albury High and Eltham High continued until 1975.

Larry Fraim, a P.E. teacher from the U.S., not only contributed significantly to the average fitness of the school, but redefined certain mathematical concepts at the same time. Who can think back to those sit-ups and star jumps without remembering the alternative set of positive integers 1, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 4, 2 … bellowed in a loud American accent? The mental struggle required to follow this sequence of numbers was sufficient to mask the physical pain induced by the exercise.

Dr. Michael Biggar

Eltham High School | The Seventies – New Directions

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