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Remembering Culgoa Primary School

By ACMI , 2008 10:21 minutes

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After over a century of service, Culgoa Primary School was closed. In this mini-documentary members of the school community reminisce as they come together to celebrate their community and history. The story provides insights into life over the last century, the changing demographics of small rural communities and notions of belonging, place and 'home'.

Collection Remembering Culgoa Primary School


What makes a healthy community?

About Culgoa
Population: 101

A one-pub whistlestop at the junction of the Calder Highway and the road to Swan Hill, Culgoa is at the centre of sheep and wheat country in Victoria’s north-western Buloke Shire. Culgoa is about half an hour’s drive north of Wycheproof – a town set in the shadow of Mt Wycheproof, which rises to 43 metres and lays claim to being the smallest mountain in the world. To the north is Swan Hill. A 35-kilometre drive north-west takes you to Sea Lake and, just beyond, to Lake Tyrrell. In a good year this ancient saltwater lake extends over 20,860 hectares and its islands are breeding grounds for huge colonies of seagulls. Constant evaporation means the lake is often dry, and when the saline crusts form, the salt miners move in.

Agriculture is the primary source of both income and employment in the area, with grain production the major industry. Other forms of agriculture, small industry, and retail and community sectors provide other employment and income.

Members of the Culgoa community reminisce about their days at Culgoa Primary School. Some refer to a ‘sense of community’ and ‘spirit of place’.

  • What do these terms mean? If you were a translator and needed to reword these expressions, how could you rephrase them?
  • Why did Culgoa Primary School close?
  • How has Culgoa changed over time?
  • Why did so many people attend the celebration?
  • How do celebrations like this reinforce the notion of ‘community’?
  • What role does a school play in the identity of a community?

One of the residents said: “I feel very valued in this community.”

  •  Speculate on why she might feel this.
  •  How does a community make its members feel valued? How do they express this?
  •  List the various communities that you belong to – for example, your family, your extended family, your school, clubs and so on.

Recently some sports players have been criticised for bringing their sporting code into disrepute. Different communities often have different values, behaviours and norms.

  • What different behaviours are expected from the participants of each of your communities?
  • Draw a diagram with you in the centre. Surrounding you, write down the various communities that you belong to. Extending outwards, write the different values, behaviours and norms expected for each group. For example, as well as behaving reputably and conducting yourself well to reflect the values of the club, your local football club may expect you to be disciplined with training, active in fundraising and supportive towards other players.

Whether teachers or students, and despite their different ages and genders, all of the interviewees in Culgoa Primary School expressed pride and appreciation for the Culgoa community.

  • In summary, identify the key factors that contribute to a strong sense of community.