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The story behind the sign

1 November 2019 |Community news
Hurstbridge Primary School flourishes

Written by Campbell Elmer

They say the heart of a community is its school, and nowhere is that truer than in Hurstbridge, a quiet, leafy suburb on the fringes of Melbourne’s North-East.

Along the main road sits Hurstbridge Primary School, a small institution, more than a hundred years old, with less than three hundred pupils.

On New Year’s Day 2003 locals woke to the news that the school had burnt down overnight. While firefighters were quick to respond, it was obvious that so much had been destroyed in the blaze the school would be unusable.

This was just a month out from the beginning of the school year.

Eva Orvand, a teacher at Hurstbridge Primary School, says she remembers the day vividly.

“A sense of community started that day,” she says. “So many people gathered, wanting to help wherever they could. At the time, I was the library teacher and I remember standing on the hill looking at the fire with people crying and showing such devastation at our loss. We all rallied to rebuild on the Old High School site and the local community came together to help clean and set up borrowed, donated and purchased furniture, books, and supplies.”

Out of this tragedy, blossomed a new partnership. Valley Community Financial Services (VCFS) and Community Bank Hurstbridge donated $10,000 to help the school rebuild.

This was a huge milestone for VCFS and the Community Bank. It was the first time we did what we promised to do when the branch first opened its doors; funnel local money back into the community.

Our donation to the rebuild of Hurstbridge Primary School was our first contribution to improving the lives of local people.

It was the beginning of a new era of community support that has since seen over $6.8 million injected into schools, sporting clubs, charity groups, and countless other local organisations around the area.

Because when you invest in the Community Bank, you invest in your community.

The school was rebuilt in 2005, and the relationship between the school and VCFS continued to grow. Another $10,000 went towards the Performance Courtyard, a tranquil space where children are able to gather during breaks. It has a native garden and hosts school performances and special assemblies.

In 2007 $43,902 was granted to the school to upgrade their existing playgrounds to make them safer and more secure. The funding agreement ensured that the playground would be made available to the community outside of the school, so local families can also enjoy it.

In the wake of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which came perilously close to Hurstbridge, the school council requested funding for a large water tank to be installed and connected to the storm water supply.

Chris Tatnall, the principal of Hurstbridge Primary School, says that the project was only possible with the assistance of VCFS.

“The majority of the funds came from the state government, however the project cost more than anticipated. Bendigo Bank helped out so the project could be completed,” he says.

The tanks are mainly used to water the school’s gardens and oval, but they’re also prepared to fight any future bushfires. Part of the $5000 grant went towards installing appropriate hose couplings and an electric pumping station so the CFA can access the water with their own lines and protect not just the school but the surrounding areas.

Chris also praises the success of the Walking Bus program, which is sponsored by the Community Bank.

“We have a number of students walking most days. Community Bank Hurstbridge staff even walk as leaders on the bus routes – which is appreciated by everyone. The branch also kindly offers small incentive prizes for our students who reach certain number of walks, and presents ‘Walker of the Year’ awards each year.”

“The school banks with Community Bank Hurstbridge, and has a great relationship with the staff in the local branch,” says Chris. “They are always willing to help us out and provide assistance at any time. Being a community-minded school, we like to work with and support our local community. It’s great to see a bank that believes in this too.”

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