... from bush school to state school

Home schooling was usually the only local alternative on offer for children living in outback Queensland in the 1870s. In a bid to begin to turn this situation around, Queensland brought in an Education Act in 1875 that provided for a series of state schools to be established.

This initiative also required that any child aged between 6–12 and living within a two mile radius of the school had to attend class for at least 120 days a year.

State education first commenced in Cunnamulla with the opening of a provisional school in 1877 at Francis Street. Mr John William Bragg was the first teacher. The local community however was keen to upgrade this to a state school and in December 1879, a building committee was formed at the same time as £35 (equivalent to 9 ounces of gold) was promised to start the building fund. When a further £500 (around 110 ounces of gold) was raised over the next few years, local carpenter George Emery got to work. This building was part of the original school and was moved to its present site in 1995.

When the local MP Mr Donaldson visited Cunnamulla in June 1885 he was reportedly:

... glad to see Cunnamulla prospering - the hospital building was a credit to the town as was also the school accommodation, teaching and attendance.

Cunnamulla politics

An interesting aspect of reading the local MP's comments about Cunnamulla in the mid 1880s is how it reminds us of the political forces that led to the town's creation in the first place in the late 1860s.

The early 1860s flow of investment and settlement into the Warrego coincided with the region being established in October 1864 as one of six new Queensland electorates.

This however seems to have done little to assure the local squatters that they would get the public services they were sadly lacking.

In April 1865, a petition was submitted requesting to secede from the then newly established state of Queensland.

It noted that:

“That the district of Warrego, Barcoo, Paroo and other rivers farther out, being supplied from Adelaide, Victoria and New South Wales, the policy of the Government towards it hitherto has been totally antagonistic and unsuited to its requirements, and has greatly retarded the opening up and settlement of the district, while it has ruined numbers of its pioneers and squatters.”


As part of its response to this demand to do more for the outback districts, the Government announced soon after the 1867 election its plans to create the township of Cunnamulla and to establish it as a transport hub with mail runs from there out west beyond the Paroo.

At this time in the spring of 1867, Cobb and Co were already well established on site via their operation of the Cunnamulla Station - one of several properties they owned in the district. Given their need for horse feed, they were the first to plant a:

“remarkably fine crop of hay showing an example in this matter which it is hoped many others will not be slow to follow.”

When survey work to create a road between Cunnamalla and St George commenced in 1870, the town’s position as a crossroads hub was assured.

left arrow

14. Old Punt


2. Post Office

left arrow