She praised the “small community with a big heart” for supporting education through times of hardship and change.
She said the establishment of the school was “an act of courage and vision by a community that understood what schooling would mean for its children”.
“These years have not been without hardship,” she wrote.
“Only a few months ago, Towamba was experiencing its worst flood in 50 years.
“But you pulled together and, today, the school remains as testament to what can be achieved by a small community with a very big heart.”
Her heartfelt words were loudly applauded by the more than 500 visitors attending the celebrations.
Whilst the PM’s words were treasured by many, there was also no doubt that the living treasure receiving most attention on the day was former
student, 101-year-old Una Halliday, who together with the school’s youngest current student Hayden Walker, cut the cake to mark 150 years of education in Towamba on Saturday.
Established 23 years before Eden was officially declared a township, Towamba School’s milestone was recognised by many community leaders including member for Eden Monaro Dr Mike Kelly, member for Bega Andrew Constance, Bega Valley Shire mayor Tony Allen, councillor Russell Fitzpatrick and many past and present students, teachers and principals from Towamba and other local schools.
Visitors came from Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney and other areas in the region, as well as from Bega Valley and Bombala shires.
Many hours of preparation by the small riverside school and its community, including mowing lawns and preparing entertainment to creating an impressive interactive display of the school’s long history using Google Earth, had everything looking picturesque.
Towamba School principal and Year 3 to 6 teacher Kathryn Davis said the event was celebrated in fine spirit and beautifully organised by a dedicated team.
“I’ve got so many talented teachers, community members and committee members,” she said on Tuesday.
“It was the culmination of a whole lot of hard work by a whole lot of people and I was so glad it went beautifully for them.”
For her the highlight was the launch of the Google Earth project, an interactive map of Towamba which includes multimedia such as stories and photographs.
It was shown on a smart board in Ms Davis’ room and the school is preparing to make it available to the public online.
“My amazing Nancy (Blindell, school administration) and Kate Clery a local historian and former teacher were working on it tirelessly and it’s the star of the show,” she said.
Other highlights included the work of a blacksmith to complete a post and rail sign on the school grounds, under which a time capsule was buried.
“In the capsule we put a digital slideshow of photographs of children standing in front of a new commemorative mural by art teacher Lucy Macey.
“With each photograph was included pod casts done by Maureen Volantras with the children talking about their life, dreams and what they think the future will look like.”
The celebrations also included demonstrations of time honoured country chores such as shearing and spinning as well as celebratory, dance, song, poetry and a morning tea along with digital and interactive multimedia.