The Aboriginals that inhabited the area of western and northern Melbourne before European settlement were originally various clans of the Wurungeri tribe and they used the river valleys to access needed resources. The lifestyle that was enjoyed by the Wurundjeri, in the Maribyrnong Valley area, and the City of Whittlesea area gave them a varied and healthy diet; animals skins for their winter cloaks; bark for canoes, containers and shields; and stone for tools. They lived on the offshoots of the Yarra River – along the Merri, Edgars and Darebin Creeks – the Plenty River and the Maribyrnong River.
White settlement and following
As far as European history is concerned the area surrounding Gilson College has progressed through five stages:
- Exploration – 1800s – 1830
- Agricultural expansion -1835 – 1850,
- Gold Rush Period – 1850s,
- Market Garden Developments – 1860s – 1950s and then
- Suburbanisation from the 1950s onwards.
Early explorers in the western region of Melbourne included Charles Grimes (1803) who was the Surveyor General of New South Wales, conducted land surveys. Later Hume and Hovell whose feats are recognized by a number of cairns* traveled through the grass plains of the district. They camped somewhere near the Taylors Road and Sydenham Road intersection. * Corner of Taylors Road and East Esplanade, and corner of Station Road and Western (Ballarat) Highway.
In the northern region of Melbourne, Hume and Hovell documented the Whittlesea area in December 1824. One of the first settlers in this area was the squatter George Sherwin (1837) and a year or two later surveyor Mason set out the lines for three north-south transport routes: Plenty Road, Epping Road and Sydney Road.
A number of families moved into the western region establishing agriculture as the main activity in the area, including the Taylors and Yuilles The main agricultural activities involved wheat and sheep farming. This activity was still taking place in the late 1990s and early students of Gilson College – Taylors Hill will have fond memories of feeding both sheep and cattle while at school.
The northern district quickly became a vital part of Melbourne’s life, supplying food from its farms and water from Melbourne’s first large water storage, Yan Yean Reservoir.
The area around Gilson College – Taylors Hill in addition to its agricultural activity was a gateway through to the gold fields of Bendigo and Ballarat. In 1850 nearby Keilor was the first transition point for the famous Cobb and Co coaches and many diggers camped in the area on the way to make their fortune.
Market Gardens and Farms
Even today there is located on the banks of the Maribyrnong River significant areas of land devoted to market gardening.
The land surrounding Gilson College – Mernda was in the early 1900s the location of many dairy farms that supplied milk to Melbourne. The area once had crops of oats: a Chinese market garden: sheep, beef and poultry farms, together with vineyards and orchards. Some of these have now been replaced with alpacas and emus.
Although the suburb of St Albans was architecturally designed and first laid out during Melbourne’s 1880s land boom with the intention of encouraging professional people to settle in the area, and despite the healthy climate and easy access to the city by train, this was unsuccessful. The economic crash of the 1890s caused development to grind to a halt. Finally the post world war residential development saw the arrival of many migrants establishing themselves in ‘the Lucky Country.’ Today the major cultural groups are Vietnamese, Maltese, Italian, Croatian, Macedonian, Filipino, Greek and Polish.
Purchase of the Taylors Hill property by the Adventist Church with a view to establish an educational institution providing quality Christian education to western Melbourne took place in 1987. Classes began on the Taylors Hill site in 1988.
The township of Mernda in the early 1900s consisted of a school, a Methodist church, a bakery / store, a railway station, a mechanics institute as well as the Bridge Inn Hotel. Since World War II, the Whittlesea area has enjoyed steady growth, adding new suburbs throughout the latter part of the 20th century. In the 21st century Mernda has now been acknowledged as one of the fastest growing areas in Victoria.
Purchase of the Mernda property by Adventist Schools Victoria took place in 2012 and classes began seven weeks later in 2013.
(Acknowledgement: Information regarding the history of the regions has been sourced from the Cities of Brimbank, Melton and Whittlesea websites.)
|Year||Levels of Educ.||Developmental Details of the College Infrastructure||Prim.||Sec.||Total||Principal||College Council Chair|
|1988||P-6||3 classroom block opened with one room administration and reception.||50||—||50||Lyndon Chapman||Alan Campbell|
|1989||P-10||4 portable buildings brought on site for secondary students.||57||30||87||Ron Hiscox||Alan Campbell|
|1990||P-10||1/2 size basketball court built to the north of the secondary portable classrooms.||62||36||98||Ron Hiscox||Geoff White|
|1991||P-10||51||34||85||Ron Hiscox||Geoff White|
|1992||P-10||61||28||89||Peter Baskin||Geoff White|
|1993||P-10||62||33||95||Peter Baskin||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1994||P-10||68||49||117||Peter Baskin||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1995||P-10||83||43||126||Chris Cowled||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1996||P-10||73||43||116||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1997||P-10||1 portable added to the primary school. (Later moved to the secondary)||77||47||124||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1998||P-10||2 Primary classrooms with offices added north of the original Primary building||83||59||142||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|1999||P-10||87||67||154||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|2000||P-11||Library, student amenities, science lab and offices built. Carpark in front of primary school extended.
Sealed road is completed past the front of the College.
|120||90||210||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|P-12||4 classrooms added to the secondary eastern wing||141||131||272||Mark Vodéll||Blazenka Borkovic|
|2002||P-12||A primary art room and two primary classrooms are added to the north of the original building. Three tennis courts / basketball courts added to the senior secondary school.||180||155||335||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2003||P-12||Stage 1 of the administration and two information computer labs, also 2 extra classrooms and an amenities block opened in the secondary school.
3 extra classrooms opened in the primary school
Front oval developed for AFL and general purpose sports
|183||182||370||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2004||P-12||Second new science lab added to the secondary facilities. Parents assist with stage 1 of the middle school playground.
College back oval developed which includes full Olympic style athletics running track, synthetic cricket wicket and AFL goals
2 extra primary classrooms added next to original primary building
|247||198||450||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2005||P-12||Stage 2 of the administration, library additions to include separate primary wing.||299||237||536||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2006||P-12||Two extra secondary classrooms are added to the west wing. Also a 2D and a 3D Art complex is completed to enhance the fine arts department. The final stage of development in the primary school is brought on line with two classrooms for the Grade 6 level.||330||290||620||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2007||P-12||Three additional secondary classrooms and a third Science Laboratory are added to the east wing.||340||293||633||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|P-12||352||332||684||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2009||P-12||Construction of a new technical wing incorporating a woodwork, metalwork, home economics and textiles classrooms.
The staff car park (primary) is also properly developed.
|354||372||727||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2010||P-12||A new multi-purpose sports centre is opened. It has 3 basketball / netball courts, 5 volleyball courts 12 badminton courts as well as storage, offices, and the facility to develop 6 classrooms.
A new eco-science centre housing the Year 9 Learning 4 Life experiential education program is opened. Also additional parent and staff car parking is developed on the western boundary of the College. The uniform shop is moved to the gymnasium to allow for the extension of the secondary library.
|353||402||755||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2011||P-12||Relocated the portable buildings from the front of the College to near the back oval. Refurbished the older Home Economics classroom and established a Year 12 common room with study carrel desks and kitchen facilities for the senior VCE students.||351||412||763||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|P-12||354||421||775||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|2013||TH: P-12||Addition of a third stream in the primary, and a fourth stream in the secondary introduced.||401||446||847||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|MD: P-6||Acquisition of the former Acacia College site in Mernda. Beginning with a primary only cohort and extending each year through to Year 12.||52||—||52|
|2014||TH: P-12||Additional six-classroom block added into the middle school precinct at the Taylor’s Hill campus. This classroom complex is for Years 5 and 6 and is located to the north of the middle-school basketball courts.||TH: 448||TH: 481||TH:929||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|MD: P-7||The introduction of a canteen to the Mernda campus. Connection of College to Melbourne’s waste treatment system.||MD: 71||MD: 14||MD: 85|
|Construction of additional four classrooms for Year 7s adjacent to the Secondary East wing.||TH: 468||TH: 468||TH: 936||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|MD: 24||MD: 124|
|TH: 500||TH: 490||TH: 990||Mark Vodéll||Stephan Herzog|
|MD: 30||MD: 140|
|Years 3 / 4 complex expanded with two extra classrooms, office and large indoor learning spaces.||TH: 520||TH: 524||TH: 1048||Mark Vodéll||Mgcini Dube|
|MD: P-10||Completion of the ground floor of the middle school building containing a new library, offices, science lab, two art rooms and two classrooms.||
|MD: 49||MD: 166|
|TH: 503||TH: 531||TH: 1033||Mark Vodéll||Mgcini Dube|
|MD: P-11|| Major drainage works being placed underground. Grafton Road works.
|MD: 60||MD: 192|