Our History

“So may it be, and he who sings
In accents hopeful clear and strong, 
The glories which that future brings
Shall sing indeed a wondrous song”
Song of the Future - A.B. Paterson  

From Vision to Reality

The Vision of A.B. Paterson College had its birth in 1989 over a shared meal with four close friends as they pondered the education of their children, that of their future grandchildren, and the future of young families on the Gold Coast for years to come. They saw a need for a school of substance, a school that celebrated our Australian heritage, a school with traditional values, and yet one with a progressive mindset to education within a caring and supportive environment. From this humble meal and initial discussion, the vision of A.B. Paterson College was born.

Choosing a site on which to build the new school was not an easy task. Development in the northern Gold Coast area led to a paucity of large lots available for building at affordable prices. Many sites were under consideration, including the Runaway Bay site, now the Sports Super Centre.  Other sites were closer to the coast, leading the group to consider Broadwater College as a name. The site at Arundel was more rural than the others, and this fitted with the vision of wishing to establish a distinctively Australian school that had relevance to the Queensland and Australian context. Ultimately, this site was selected as it was the only one immediately available, and delays would result in not being able to begin as planned in 1991. The site was adjacent to two hectares of council land. Negotiations commenced, and the contract for the four-hectare site was signed in May 1990, with the Council agreeing to make their land available for school use. Applications for rezoning followed.

In order to secure the required finances, a number of personal guarantees from Board Members and supporters were required. These courageous people believed so strongly in the College they were willing to mortgage their businesses and houses for ten years to ensure the College was established and succeeded.

Construction of Stage 1 started in September 1990 with tree clearing and basic earthworks that rendered the construction site by the end of the month. The first permanent building was the two-storey eight classroom block that became known as 'School House', now an integral part of Cunnington House.

A working bee in October 1990 saw 100 families arrive to pick up rocks, sticks and logs to make way for construction and landscaping. The infamous Round House, originally the Runaway Islands Development site office, was delivered on-site in late November. It was destined to become the Administration Building of the College. Seeding of ovals began in December, and furniture and equipment were ordered for delivery in January.

The Board wanted the school to carry the name of a well-respected and recognised Australian who would exemplify the Nation’s heritage and identity. They chose Banjo Paterson – poet, journalist, lawyer, scholar, soldier, sportsman and patriot. The concept of a school that celebrated the Australian identity and character was furthered by naming the College’s four Houses after Australian poets/writers: CJ Dennis, Henry Lawson, Dorothea Mackellar, and Judith Wright.

The Board appointed Mr Robert Nicholls as Principal, following his introduction to the Founding Chairman of the College, Mr Alan Rickard, then Alderman Rickard, by then Mayor Lex Bell, in 1989. 

A.B. Paterson College began in January 1991, with 262 students from Prep to Year 9. The College was the first school in Queensland to offer a full-time Prep class. Interest and demand for places were so high that the College commenced with two Prep classes. By the end of that year, enrolments had risen to 305.

The Growth and Development of A.B. Paterson College

Mrs. Dawn Lang became the second Principal of the College in 1994. In her 18 years at its helm, Dawn Lang saw the College grow from an enrolment of 670 students to a student population of 1600. The College Board was highly focused on exemplary teaching and learning, leading to genuine understanding, and so, after much research, Principal Dawn Lang was charged with the responsibility of introducing and developing the Teaching for Understanding framework (TfU) in 1998 to drive change in the way students learn, based on Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero. This curriculum framework has stood the test of time and is the foundation on which the College’s current teaching and learning programs are based.

Following Mrs Lang’s retirement in 2011, the Board appointed Mr Brian Grimes as the third Principal of the College.

In 2020, our current Principal, Ms. Joanne Sheehy, was commissioned as the fourth Principal of A.B. Paterson College.

Since 2012, the College has launched and developed a new learning management system, enabling unprecedented student access to learning tools from their teachers; introduced a ‘slate program’ that provides every student from Years 4 - 12 with a College-owned device for their use; developed the concept of 21st Century learning skills; and has achieved the greatest academic results in the College’s history.

The College’s footprint has further expanded with the purchase of the adjacent playing fields, previously owned by the Gold Coast Council; the development of a Collaborative Learning Centre; an additional Prep classroom and Prep to Year 3 Library, the Lilly Pilly Learning Centre and The Winton Centre.

Building Programs

As Foundation Chairman from the College’s inception until 2006, Cr. Alan Rickard oversaw much of the College’s Building Program which included:

1995:     Primary School, original Home Economics Building
1996:     New Senior  School Amenities
1997:     Information Resource Centre,  Senior School Classrooms (4), Science Labs (2)
1998:     Child Care Centre, College Foundation Launch, Administration Building - named initially after Alfred Deakin, known as the Father of Federation; later renamed the Alan Rickard Administration Building in honour of the Foundation Chairman’s dedication to the development of the College
2001:     Funds were raised for the Aquatic Centre through Foundation
2002:     Taylor-Dostal Oval
2005:     Aquatic Centre, Oliphant Science Block
2006:     Performing Arts Complex

Alan Rickard’s understanding of Board operations and responsibilities steered the College’s growth, not only in infrastructure, but also in pedagogy, building the College’s reputation at the forefront of independent schools in our local and national communities.

Following his appointment to the Board in 2000, Peter Sippel was elected as Chairman of the A.B. Paterson College Board in 2007. Under his leadership, the Building Program progressed with the construction of:

2008:     Mathematics, Learning & Research Centre & Food Technology facility
2010:     Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Multi Purpose Centre Stage 1
2011:     Uniform Shop, MPC classrooms & Gym – Stage 2
2013:     Refurbish Collaborative Learning Centre. 

In May 2013, David Tanner was elected Chairman of the College Board, following two years’ experience as a Board Member, an office he holds to date.

2014:     Purchase of the parcel of land owned by the Gold Coast City Council & classroom refurbishment
2014:     Prep Building (fourth Prep class) and Prep to Year 3 Library, the Lilly Pilly Learning Centre
2015:     Redesigned traffic management system of College's roadway entry, drop-off and pick-up zones and car   parking facilities
2015:     Commissioning of a bronze statue of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson as a unique entry statement 
2016:     Refurbishment and design of Year 1 classrooms 
2016:     Refurbishment and design of Swimming Pool and Change Rooms
2017:     Refurbishment and design of Year 2 and 3 classroom
2018:     Refurbishment and design of Year 4 and 5 classrooms
2018:     Opening of the Winton Playground for Years 1 - 3
2019:     Refurbishment and design of Year 6 classrooms
2019:     Opening of The Winton Centre 

The College has grown from strength to strength over the years. In the past three years, enrolment numbers have grown from 1380 to 1400, with a fourth Prep class introduced in 2015.

In its short history, A.B. Paterson College has developed magnificent facilities, core traditional values, a leading teaching and learning framework, and is now integrating numerous technologies to assist and help students learn and connect responsibly with their world and to provide the foundation for genuine leadership development in all young people.

The College has developed much since its Foundation in 1991, yet its history remains embodied in the lives and achievements of all who have learnt and taught here.

The College’s many graduates are now developing as leaders in their own fields and making strong contributions to the development of our Australian society and economy. The College is pleased to celebrate the achievements of our many Old Collegians graduates.

We acknowledge and celebrate our College’s wonderful history and those who had the Vision and courage to embark on the development of it so many years ago. We recognise the importance of our traditions while seeking to provide a progressive education to meet the needs of our current students as they grow, develop and learn, and we look to them to become the Old Collegians of tomorrow.