In 1952, 32 acres of land which were to become the site of Dapto High School, were part of a farming property in the possession of the Amaral family. In our present period of vastly inflated land prices, it seems amazing that such a good site could have been acquired for the very small sum of $2,200.
Dapto High School began in 1958 at the Smith Street School in Wollongong, followed shortly thereafter at its current site with 189 students, separated into five 1st Year classes. Numbers increased up to 1536 students in 1973, and now have been fairly constant at between 900 and 1000 students for a number of years. Figtree and Kanahooka High Schools have also been housed at the current site, whilst those school premises were constructed in 1969 and 1974 respectively.
Numerous building ventures and renovations/upgrades have had to be endured by the School, starting with the “Maths Block” (1961), hall (1962/63), “Art Block” (1971), , grounds (1972 - 1974), Library (1975/76), agriculture sheds, tennis/basketball courts (1977), levee bank (1984), herringbone drainage to ovals (1992), Fitness Centre and paddle tennis courts (1994), main quad upgrade (1996), “Maths Block” fire (1999), lift (2004/05), asbestos cleanup (2007).
The School has a history of innovative and extra-curricular measures, including Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme including canoeing (1964), Agriculture (1968), Student Council (1969), Year 11 and Year 7 Personal Development Camps (1977), Transition Education (1980), Work Experience (1981), elective choices in Computer Education (1983), Breakfast Club and Conservation Club (1989), School Industry Link with Illawarra Electricity (1990), Sister School linked to Hakusan High, Kawasaki, Japan and Work Skills program (1991), Merit System (1992), Parent-Teacher Interviews last day Term 2 (1995), Computer “baby” Brearne for Early Childhood classes and Computerised reporting for years 7-10 (1999), Crossroads Welfare Program for Year 11, (2001), Homework Centre (2004), free Diaries and Able and Interested program (2005).
Dapto’s proud history of sporting excellence began in its early years with the introduction Royal Life Saving Awards (1961), when it came third in the state for numbers awarded. The first notable achievement was winning the State Hockey Championship (1963). Dapto reached the final of State Rugby Carnival (1964, 1965, 1972), with the 10st7 side winning the State Knockout in Rugby League (1967). Dapto also reached the Final of the University Shield (1976) and Buckley Shield (1996). In Touch Football, Dapto reached the final of the State Championship in 1988 and won it in 1989. The girls Softball Team reached the final of State Carnival (1981) and the boys Softball was placed third in 1992. Canoeing began in 1965, and produced numerous Australian Champions, some of whom represented the country at World championships and the Olympics (Peter Bodycott & Greg Hurst, Annette Hurst, Paul Foye, Craig Mackey, Sharyn Cahill and, most notably, Danielle Woodward, silver medallist at the 1992 Games). Dapto were State Squash Champions (1995) and runners up 1996. Many other sporting achievements have been made under the umbrella of Dapto High School – too many to mention individually, but more information can be obtained in the 50th Anniversary Phoenix, of which there are still a few available to purchase (contact the School). Some of these notable students were Kelly Press (Tennis), Judith Rowles and Kaine Love (Swimming), Dylan and Darren Longbottom (Surfing), Jenny Fox (Golf), Chris MacDonald (Cross Country), Sarah Gollop (Soccer).
As far as Academics goes, Dapto has had its fair share of “Masterminds”, starting with Martin Carr (1962) coming 150th in the Leaving Certificate. In 1973, Bruce McWilliam was the first student to achieve five 1st Level passes in the HSC, placing him in the top 2% of the State – that year, 60 of the 81 students of 6th Year matriculated! Risman Cornelius was ranked 55th in the HSC in 1989. Again, some other notable students include Ben Boardman, Megan Harris, Adele Crowley, Chad Simonovic, Kelly McCauley and Mathew Smith.
Numerous performances have been staged by the School over the years, beginning in 1969 of “Oklahoma”, “Castle Capers (1970), “Pygmalion” (1972), “Picnic” (1974), “Last Dragon in the World” (1985), “A Wind in Heaven” – the musical (1990), Poor Naked Wretches” (1991), “Sheik, Rattle and Roll” (1997), “The Tempest” (2001), and many smaller pieces including the current MADD nights!
Dapto High School has raised money for numerous Charities over the years, including “40 Hour Famine”, where in 1992 and 1993, the students raised over $4,500 – the best by any School in the Region.
The School has won numerous Awards for Excellence over the years as well, including Year 11 Textiles & Design students second in State-wide Quilt Competition (1992), Director General’s Award for Excellence for construction of the Fitness Centre (1994), Main Quad upgrade (1996) and Crossroads program (2003), and was named the “Most Improved School” in the Environmental Awards offered by BHP and Wollongong City Council (1995). More recently, other Environment initiatives have included the installation of Solar Panels (2005) and Rain Water tanks (2005 and 2009), Solar Hot Water systems (2008) and light switch Sensors to save on electricity costs and reduce Greenhouse Emissions (2010).
Fifty-two years after opening, the scene is a little different at Cleveland Road. Physically the buildings have long been completed. The grounds have all been laid out and a place of great beauty has happily been created where students can work and play, no longer only in the vague hope of accomplishing something worthwhile, but in the certain knowledge that they are surrounded by a solid tradition of academic, cultural and sporting success.