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Unley High School, located in Netherby, is one of the largest public high schools in South Australia. In recent years the number of students enrolled typically ranges from 1,100 to 1,300, but in the early 1960s the school had a peak enrolment of 2,000 students.[citation needed]

Unley High School

MottoThe Utmost For The Highest
PrincipalBrenda Harris
Enrolment1219 (2009)
Colour(s)the blue and the lighter blue

The school currently has 30 international students enrolled, and has a history of enrolling such students from the 1960s. Unley has a long history of teaching foreign languages; in the beginning Latin, then French, German and for a period Indonesian. Today, Chinese is strong; Unley has sister schools in China.[citation needed] The school has many multicultural students, the majority of whom come from China, Greece, Italy and Lebanon.[citation needed]



Unley High School was founded in 1910 as one of the first public high schools to be established following Adelaide High School in 1908. Initially it was under the control of the Headmaster of the Unley Primary School, and had its first home as part of that school in the suburb of Unley.

In 1915 the school was granted independence from Unley Primary and its first headmaster was appointed. This was Ben Gates who remained at the school until 1940. It was during his headmastership that the school became renowned for its discipline and high academic standards. An early link was forged with the Australian rules football club, Sturt. The colours of the school, light and dark blue, were also the colours of the football club.

During its first decade the school was shifted south to new buildings in Kyre Avenue, Mitcham. There were problems which developed quite rapidly with this site, especially in relation to adequate sports grounds. Complicated negotiations eventually saw control of a block of land and a cottage passed to a trust associated with the school. This remains an open space, now used by Mitcham Girls High School, on Belair Road. The "memorial gates" celebrating the acquisition of this land were opened in 1936.

Following the setbacks of the Great Depression, which included the introduction of fees for students to attend the high school, student numbers gradually rose to their early 1930s high point. (1931: 956 students, 1934: 638, 1939: 869) Unley High had been a coeducational school from the beginning, but in fact, most classes were taught in single sex groups. This pattern would only change in the late 60s and early 70s.

World War II saw continuing privations in the school. It had been a constant pattern from the beginning: class sizes that were too large, and inadequate and too few teaching spaces. During the war, as had occurred in World War I, students were engaged in fund raising, and girls especially, in knitting for the troops. In some of the darkest days of World War II the Parents and Citizens Association was founded and had its first meetings. There had been a School Council with community representatives appointed by the South Australian government since 1916, but now there was a chance for parents to have a much more active role in contributing to the school.

The baby boom of the 1950s saw an enrolment crisis for the school in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Over two thousand students by 1960 was too many. The South Australian government had begun began building new schools from the mid 1950s, including nearby Blackwood, Marion and Daws Road high schools. That helped relieve the pressure. Despite this the Kyre Avenue site was quite inadequate. Land at Netherby, part of the old Peter Waite bequest for agricultural education was finally made available for a new Unley High School. Temporary wooden buildings went up, to be occupied by girls from 1957. The move was largely carried out using their labour as desks chair and books were carried to the new campus. Then came the new permanent building in 1961. The school gradually shifted from Kyre Avenue, Mitcham to Netherby.

With another secondary school, Mitcham Girls Technical High, beginning to occupy the Kyre Avenue site, a decision was taken in 1965 to shift all students to the Netherby campus. One of Unley High's most significant teachers, Jim Giles, was temporarily in charge of the school. It was his decision. Though very large class sizes were endured for some time, the baby boom was passing through the school. By 1970 the school reached the size it roughly maintained thereafter, enrolling between 1,100 and 1,300 students.

There is a published history of the school by Craig Campbell, Unley High School: One hundred years of public education, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2010. (There is an earlier version published in 1985 which covers the early years of the school history in more detail.)


Unley High School operates an extensive sporting program, both for after-school sport and weekend sport. It participates in South Australian Secondary Schools' Sports Associations programs and also in the Independent Schools' Sporting Association for cricket, hockey and football. It is a member of the Heads of Rowing Schools and has a strong Rowing Club. In 2015 the school hosted the annual schools Head of the River regatta at West Lakes.


The Environment Group helps to increase the sustainability of the school, while decreasing the negative impact it has on the earth because of energy consumption, water usage and waste. Recent achievements include the purchase of a 24,000-litre rainwater tank to replace the water used in the hand basins and showers in the Life Be In It Gym, the purchase of solar panels on the roof of the school, a water grant to replace all the toilets in the school with dual-flush toilets, and an intensive recycling program.

Notable alumniEdit

Notable staffEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harcourt, Tim (25 June 2010). "MySchool's role in advancing Australia". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  2. ^ Fraser, Andrew (19 July 2011). "Rocky Road". The Australian. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  3. ^ Carmen, Leon (15 March 1997). "Leon and a ruse called Wanda". The Daily Telegraph. News Corporation. pp. 30–31.
  5. ^ "Gillard addresses students at former high school". ABC News. Australia. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  6. ^ Akerman, Pia (25 June 2010). "Come back to your old school, say staff and students". The Australian. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  7. ^ a b "The town she left behind embraces Gillard". The Australian. 15 December 2006.
  8. ^ Cross, Roger (2000). "Marston, Hedley Ralph (1900 - 1965)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  9. ^ Orr, Stephen (25 September 2010). "Great expectations" (PDF). SA Magazine. Adelaide. Retrieved 25 June 2013.

External linksEdit