Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley reflects on the 2011 floods.
Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley reflects on the 2011 floods.

Floods will always play a part in expanding school’s future

ON plans for any new project or new building at Ipswich State High School there are always two blue marks.

They represent where water would have reached in the 1974 and 2011 floods.

For principal Simon Riley, the disaster ten years ago is not so much always at the back of his mind but right at the front.

Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley surveys the damage caused by the 2011 flood.
Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley surveys the damage caused by the 2011 flood.

“Our masterplan has been configured because of it,” he said.

“Everything we want to do and need to have done must bear that in mind.”

The school’s manual arts building had to be gutted after the 2011 floods and its sports ovals and swimming pool were also badly damaged.

Tools, machinery, stock and even the Brassall school’s power transformer were lost in a metre of water.

Members from RAAF Base Amberley were on hand to clear the building out.

Mr Riley said staff chipped in with the clean-up effort as well and senior students provided strong leadership throughout the early stages of a difficult term.

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In the immediate wake of the floods, it took Mr Riley two hours to get to the school with a number of major roads closed.

“I remember sitting and watching it on the news,” he said.

“They were saying it was going to be higher than the 1974 floods.

“I thought we were in big trouble because in 1974 water came up to the top decks of the main buildings in the school; there were only about four of them back then.

“So the ground floors were all underwater.

“I thought I was going to get to the school and it would be completely submerged.

“It wasn’t quite like that because of the change of flows (between the two floods).

“We were probably the only high school in Ipswich that was really smashed.”

There were some silver linings for Ipswich High.

Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley after the 2011 floods.
Ipswich State High School principal Simon Riley after the 2011 floods.

It provided the chance to repurpose its manual arts building and while standing in knee-deep water, Mr Riley received the news his school would be getting a new trade training centre.

Although there was already a focus on providing more pathways into apprenticeships and traineeships, the $5 million facility would prove to be a game changer.

Whether that was convenient timing or as a result of the disaster, he couldn’t say.

The manual arts building now houses junior workshops.

They managed to begin the 2011 school year on the scheduled start date despite all the challenges they faced.

For Mr Riley, the work done in the aftermath of the floods was evidence of the strength and tenacity of the local community.

“We had no power, we had no water so that meant no aircon and no lights,” he said.

“The generator and the transformer didn’t arrive until the Sunday and school started on the Tuesday.”

READ MORE: Ipswich lockdown lifted but restrictions still in place

Brassall State School across the road was also heavily impacted by the disaster.

Dongas housed some of the primary school’s students at Ipswich High for a few weeks.

Mr Riley said it was the community spirit that allowed the school to get back on its feet, something which was again in full force last year during the height of COVID-19.

Ipswich High has grown significantly in the past decade with student numbers just about doubling.

About 2100 students are expected in 2021.

“Typical Ipswich to an outsider might be lower socio-economic and uncaring but really it’s not that at all,” he said.

“They came together and allowed us to go on with it.”

Read more stories by Lachlan McIvor here.



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