A History in Eras
1930s – 1940s
In 1933 the property on which Oakhill College now stands was purchased by the De La Salle Brothers as a Training College for the Brothers.
On 20th October 1935 construction of the Training College began.
On Sunday 17th May 1936, the new building was blessed and opened. Refurbished nearly 70 years later, it now is a heritage-listed building and is called the De La Salle Building but which was then known as The Brothers’ Training College.
A noticeboard at the entrance of the property on Old Northern Rd advertises the opening of a new ‘Select Boarding College’. Oakhill College unofficially opened for one term in August 1936 with one teaching Brother (Br Stephen) and four boarders (George & Alex O’Hare, sons of a Leichardt Funeral Director; Pat Leahy, a country boy from Bathurst; and Gordon O’Grady from Cronulla).
On 1st February 1937 Oakhill College formally opened. Brother Julian Lennon and Brothers Kevin Price and Amedy Molloy formed the first community of Brothers at Oakhill. Br Julian was the first Director of the Brothers’ Community and first Principal of the College.
Three rooms, described by Br Amedy as “three old fibro rooms”, served as classroom spaces for the 20 boarders and 10 day students at the College in 1937.
In November 1937, a new dormitory was built under the supervision of Br Adrian Fitzgerald (after whom the current Adrian building is named) to double the boarding capacity of the school. The dormitory was officially opened by Sydney Archbishop Michael Kelly on 26th June 1938.
During the war from 1941-1945 part of the College was requisitioned as a temporary hospital by the NSW National Emergency Services, a wartime Civil Defence agency formed to protect civilians against possible attacks from the air. Senior students were transferred to St Bernard’s College, Katoomba, while the rest of the school continued to function as a Junior Boarding College.
In 1945, after the war, enrolments increased to 45 boarders and 29 day students. The majority of the boarding students came from country NSW or from interstate.
Principals: Br Julian Lennon (1937-1938), Br Virgil Hamilton (1939), Br Donatus Slattery (1940, 1948-1950), Br Brendan Carroll (1941-1942), Br Edmund Shanahan (1943-1947)
1950s – 1960s
In 1953 enrolments reached 100 (62 boarders and 38 day students).
On ANZAC day 1954, two thousand students from De La Salle Schools across Sydney attended the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for the Adrian Building, a gathering which probably marks the start of what later becomes known as ‘Oakhill Day’, a day of friendly sporting competition among Sydney’s De La Salle schools which is hosted by Oakhill College.
In February 1956, the Adrian Building was completed and occupied. It had three storeys with a dormitory on the top floor, a chapel on the ground floor, and classrooms on the middle and ground floors. A stained-glass window from the Adrian Building now graces one of the walls in the College’s new boardroom in the De La Salle Building.
In 1958 Brother Damien Harvey was appointed Director and Principal of Oakhill College and led the College for the next nine years. His vision and eventual accomplishment was to make the school “a first-class school”. Under Br Damien’s stewardship, Oakhill College flourished and transformed “from a comparatively small demonstration school into a thriving College of considerable prestige in the community” (anon).
In 1959 what is now the Mutien Building was built as a new kitchen and dining room for boarders.
In 1959 and 1960 respectively the Fathers’ Association and Mothers Club were formed.
In 1960 Dr. Peter Day and Francis Sainty become the first lay teachers at the College.
On 28th June 1960, the original Brother’s residence was demolished and a new residence was built on the site of the now renovated Wagan Building. The Brothers moved into their new house on 9th July 1961. Until its renaming in 2011, the Wagan Building was affectionately known as ‘The Brothers’ House’. Even today, it is still often referred to as ‘The Old Brothers House’.
The Fathers’ Association began construction of the once renowned and now re-purposed, 25-metre swimming pool. The pool now serves as an underground water tank.
In 1962 the first College Yearbook was published and the Cadet Unit was formed.
In 1963 enrolments passed the 400 mark.
Between 1963 and 1964 the Liesse and Miguel buildings were constructed. The buildings (regarded then as a single L-shaped building) added much-needed facilities including an ‘ultra-modern’ dormitory in the Liesse Building for Fourth and Fifth Year (senior) students; a big administration block (with secretary’s office, Principal’s office, interview room and vestibule); a library, ten classrooms, a linen room, a stationery room and a covered basement area with locker rooms and shower amenities.
Mrs Gloria Flynn joins the teaching staff and becomes the first female teacher at Oakhill College.
Principals: Br Benildus de Moulin (1956-1958), Br Damien Harvey (1959-1967), Br Walter Farrell (1968-1973)
1970s – 1980s
In September 1969 construction started on Benildus Hall which was opened on 21st June 1970, and became the venue for the first ever Hills Art Show.
In 1974, because of declining numbers of boarders and rising demand for places from day students, the College ceased to operate as a boarding school. At the time the decision was made to phase out the boarding school, day students outnumber boarders by about 6 to 1.
In 1975 a new library was completed. Refurbished in 2015 it is now called the ‘Learning Resources Centre’.
By the mid-70s, there were over 800 students at the College and this number was to rise to 1240 by 1979.
In 1976 the College became co-educational in Years 11 and 12 and welcomed its first intake of 19 female students into Year 11 and 3 into Year 12. In 1977, Judy Sparke had the honour of becoming Oakhill College’s first Girls’ Captain.
In 1976 the Pony Club was formed and over time attracted over 100 members.
In 1977 Oakhill College entered the Ku-ring-gai Zone Sports Association and its Rugby Teams won the first, second, and third grade cups but missed a clean sweep by just a one point loss in the fourth grade.
The Library is expanded and the area underneath it was converted to Senior classrooms.
On 11th July 1980 eleven debutantes were presented to Bishop Bede Heather in the College’s first-ever Debutante Ball.
In 1982 Brother Conrad Callinan succeeded Br Peter Macintosh as Principal and in 1984 he was responsible for overseeing an extensive expansion of the College. The Turon Building was built to provide extra laboratories and classrooms for science classes. The Harvey Building was built and equipped with hand, power and machine tools for Industrial Arts, and the Miguel Lecture Theatre was built as a flexible space for 240 for general teaching, assembly, and audio-visual presentations.
In 1986 Oakhill College celebrated its Golden Jubilee.
On 9th March 1989, the Brother Quentin Building was opened. The building was named in honour of former Principal, Br Quentin O’Halloran, whose vision and initiative were prime drivers for its construction.
Principals: Br Walter Farrell (1968-1973), Br Martin Blattman (1974-1975), Br Peter McIntosh (1976-1981), Br Conrad Callinan (1982-1984), Br Quentin O’Halloran (1985-1990).
1990s – 2010s
On 3rd March 1992, the Library reopened after significant renovations and was renamed the P.J. Walsh Library in honour of the College’s long-serving bursar, Mr John Walsh.
In 1994 the First XV, coached by Br Ambrose Payne, defeated the formidable Marist College Canberra and won the Waratah Shield, the Holy Grail of NSW schoolboy rugby. It was sweet revenge for the team’s defeat at the hands of the same opponents in the 1993 Grand Final.
On 23rd July 1995, the two-storey Solomon Building was opened, more formally known as the Information Technology Building, housing the fast-growing computer studies courses. It contained six state-of-the-art computer rooms on the top level and several curriculum offices in the bottom level. It also accommodated the network data centre and offices for the IT staff.
In 1996 the College celebrated its diamond jubilee.
In 1996, Principal, Br Ambrose Payne, established the House-based structure. The House system, as well as encouraging sporting and academic competitiveness, was implemented as a way of strengthening a “sense of belonging and of being known” (Br Ambrose Payne, 1997 College Yearbook).
In 1997 new cooking and kitchen facilities were built for Hospitality – a school-based vocational course.
In 2000 twenty-six networked computers were installed in a dedicated technology classroom in the Library.
The Brother Ambrose Stand was erected on Damien Oval.
A new industrial kitchen was built in the basement of the McIntosh Building in preparation for new NSW Board of Studies courses in Food Technology and Hospitality and to accommodate the increasing popularity of these courses.
On 2nd April 2004 renovations were completed on the iconic De La Salle Building and it was handed over to Oakhill College by the Trustees of the De La Salle Brothers. The De La Salle Building commenced as the Brothers’ Training College in 1936 and later became part of the Australian Catholic University was painstakingly refurbished with particular attention paid to protecting and preserving the building’s cultural significance and heritage.
In 2005 four new tennis courts were built at the northern end of BC Oval and the College farm was completely redeveloped (a large barn for the storage of hay and farm equipment; a bigger plot for plants and vegetables; brand new sheep and cattle yards and security fencing). Also, work on Hermann Oval (named after Mr Hermann Fischer who for many years worked at the school as a volunteer farmhand) was completed.
2006 marked two important anniversaries: the 70th anniversary of Oakhill College and the centenary of the De La Salle Brothers in Australia whose first school was opened in Armidale in 1906.
On 27th October 2006, the Centenary Sports Centre was officially opened by former Principal, Br Ambrose Payne. Its two basketball courts, with electronic scoreboards, also provided a very comfortable space for school functions and whole-of-school assemblies. A fully-equipped kitchen, gymnasium, heated swimming pool, offices, audio-visual equipment and foyer replete with Oakhill memorabilia are other features of a modern, versatile building which then Principal, Br Chris Gorringe, described as “a testament to the vision and hard work of all those involved in its planning and construction” and says of it that “its name acts as a tribute to the contributions of all staff, parents, students, past students and, of course Brothers who have been involved in Lasallian education in Australia, and especially at Oakhill, during the past 100 years.” (College Yearbook 2006).
In 2007 Brother Ken Ormerod was appointed Oakhill College’s 18th Principal.
In 2007 the campus was extensively wired, paradoxically, for ‘wireless’ network connectivity, and Interactive Whiteboards were installed in a few of the classrooms; the first of several roll-outs and upgrades to wireless infrastructure and IWB technology on the campus over the next few years.
The old 25-metre swimming pool constructed by the Fathers Association in the early 1960’s was covered and, with attendant drainage works, converted to an underground water tank capable of storing up to 700,000 litres of water.
On 1st January 2008 Oakhill College incorporates and becomes Oakhill College Ltd. The new nine-member Board was chaired by Br John Pill and replaced the former Advisory Board which was formed in 1977. The new Board was vested with the responsibility of governing the College and supporting and promoting it as a Catholic school in the tradition of St John Baptist de La Salle.
Between 15-20 July 2008 the College hosted hundreds of pilgrims mainly from the Pacific Islands during the celebration of the 23rd World Youth Day.
In 2009 for the sixth time in its history the Oakhill College crest was re-designed. Features of the traditional Oakhill College crest were re-worked into a vibrant, modern look.
In September 2010, the Oakhill Cup was inaugurated. This inter-House competition is a pastoral care initiative aimed at recognizing student participation and accomplishment across the spectrum of College life and runs over four school terms beginning in Term 4 of one year and ending in Term 3 of the next year.
Principals: Br Ambrose Payne (1991 – 1998), Br Chris Gorringe (1999-2006), Br Ken Ormerod (2007-2012)
2010 – 2020
In 2011 Oakhill College celebrated its 75th anniversary. The Founders’ Day mass in the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera was a highlight and offered the College community the perfect setting to thank the Brothers for three-quarters of a century of service and commitment to the Lasallian mission at Oakhill College.
A new Honour Board for Alumni of Distinction was inaugurated as part of Oakhill College’s 75th anniversary celebrations. The Honour Roll acknowledges past and present students who make a significant contribution to the community in areas such as the Arts, Religion, Education, Sport, and Health.
Miguel House won the inaugural Oakhill Cup.
In 2012 Android tablets were pioneered at Oakhill College as 21st Century teaching and learning tools.
In January 2014, the College’s wireless infrastructure was completely overhauled to meet coverage and density requirements of the now thousands of wireless-connected devices on the campus each day.
In Dec 2013-Jan 2014 five new classrooms were built in the under croft of the Solomon Building.
In December 2013-March 2014 the two bottom floors of the Liesse Building were stripped out and fully renovated. New offices were built for Administration and Accounting staff and a new Sick Bay and Nurse’s station were added to the complex. The Wagan Building was also renovated and Learning Support, Counselling, and Careers staff were moved into the new offices.
Mrs Pauline Hunt was appointed as the school’s first onsite registered nurse.
School enrolments were now above 1650, an increase of over 40,000% on the original enrolment of George & Alex O’Hare, Pat Leahy and Gordon O’Grady.
In 2016 Mr Johnathan Byrne was appointed as Acting Principal for 2016.
In January 2017 Br Steve Hogan was appointed Principal of Oakhill College having completed six years as Principal at the prestigious La Salle College, Hong Kong, and prior to that as Principal of De La Salle College, Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand.
Principals: Br Ken Ormerod (2007-2012), Br Peter Ryan (2013-2015), Mr Jonathan Byrne (Acting 2016), Br Steve Hogan (2017- Present)