In grade two Mum and I moved, reluctantly in my case (as a little girl I was not a big fan of change) to Nedlands from Safety Bay. It is a fairly wealthy area of Perth, with a student slum area near the uni. We lived in the latter area. We were poor. Which was an interesting situation since my school was one of the wealthiest public schools in the state. Mostly due to the P&C. The people on the P&C were, I think it is fair to say, loaded. Local member, Richard Court used to come to all our school assemblies, despite not having a child there. He later became the state premier. Other primary schools used to organise trips to our school for their PE classes because we had a pool. The music program was excellent. The school choir was (usually) the best in the state. Because of the choir, I have performed at the Perth concert hall many more times than I have sat in the audience. We were even in some really corny Christmas ads on Channel 7, which were played every year until when I graduated from uni. I learnt the flute there to.
I was reluctant to go to Nedlands Primary when I was six, but this summer when I went home and went for a wander around the school, it brought back many very happy memories. So, I guess it was a good move, for all that it gave me phantom tummy aches and leg pains at the time.
This area was where the bars were near the music room. The bars are gone now. Australia’s become a bit of a nanny state in some ways and the bars were probably considered too dangerous. I can remember a couple of people breaking their arms there, I guess. We used to get up to all kinds of stuff on them. One stunt required, standing up with your legs apart, then holding onto the bars with your hands in the middle of your feet and swinging backwards. Another was to sit on the bars with your arms folded, legs bent and fall backwards, hooking onto the bar with your legs and then doing a somersault before landing (hopefully on your feet) on the ground below. We swung about repeatedly on one leg or two, but the stunt considered the nuttiest was the death drop, where the girl in question (boys didn’t tend to go in for the bars) would sit on the bar, straighten out her body, put her wrists on the bar then fall backwards, and flip around before landing (again, hopefully on her feet). We also used to do handstands on the grass nearby. I guess this is probably not allowed now either. What with all the paranoia about pedaphiles, a whole bunch of kiddy undy action right near the road would probably not be encouraged.
Just behind here is where I sprained my ankle playing elastics. And some steps where we used to sit around talking next to a rose garden.
This is at the back of the school, where we used to play teeball and have school carnarvals. The pool is over to the right. There used to be more bars in a huge playground straight ahead, as well as a big fort and a tree house. The tree house is gone. Probably too dangerous. Speaking of which, I used to climb the tree on the left. I think our teachers were cool with us climbing trees. Oh how times have changed. A girl called Nicole, who I sat next to in grade two, moved to Wembley Primary shortly after I arrived at Nedlands. She invited me around to her house one afternoon (probably to run under the sprinkler in the back yard, as kids are want to do) after school and she’s been my best friend ever since.
The first classroom on the right was my grade 5 classroom. I remember that year, one girl was absent from school for a long time. Her older sister was raped and murdered by the Birnies. The day she came back to class, one of the boys in the class told her her sister had asked for it. She ran out of the classroom crying. The girls in the class ran after her to comfort her down to the tree we used to climb in the previous photo. David Birnie is dead now. Catherine Birnie is still in prison. She was supposed to come up for parole this year, but I think the new attorney-general has had it revoked or something. I can’t pretend I’m not glad. I’m pretty sure anybody else who knew Sue Candy’s family at the time would feel the same way. Sometimes it is hard to forgive. Somebody said something to me today about people being more inclined towards moral relativism as they grow older. Perhaps about some things, but I still see other issues very much in black and white. There are some things that are just plain evil.
There was a huge marble craze that year too. We used to line the marbles up in the cracks between each slab of concrete. If you could hit them with your own, they were yours. If you couldn’t, the owner of the marbles in the crack got to keep your marble.
It was an odd experience walking around the school as an adult. I left Nedlands Primary School at the end of 1988, more than 20 years ago now and yet with each corner I turned, faces and names of classmates and teachers, most of whom I haven’t seen for years, appeared in my head. My present is so very, very different and far away from the little girl I used to be and yet the roots I have to this place and the experiences I had there are still very strong. Stronger than I thought.