Past Principals



Mrs Angela Toppin

Angela ToppinIt is almost two years since I retired from Cairns State High School, and I still miss the ‘adrenalin rush’ of being part of a dynamic and vibrant school, like Cairns State High School. 

Following my retirement, I was elected as a Councillor on the Mareeba Shire Council.   As part of this role, I am often invited, to local schools for presentations.  I eagerly accept these invitations as I always feel very ‘at home’ in the school environment.  After 40 years in education, I cherish the opportunity to be an observer – to see so many talented young people excelling in all areas of education – academic, cultural, sport, leadership and community service.  They are undoubtedly our future leaders and decision makers, and, as educators, we must cherish this. 

What also continues to impress, and amaze, me is the outstanding commitment and dedication that teachers show towards their students and their learning. This investment in student learning and outcomes is inspirational.  I was indeed fortunate to have witnessed a high level of commitment and professionalism at Cairns State High School.  Giving extra time and effort to improve outcomes for all students can be challenging, but every lesson counts, and when you go the ‘extra mile’ the benefit to students is amazing. Teachers at Cairns High certainly do. 

I was extremely fortunate to witness the Cairns State High School’s focus on ‘striving for excellence’ and the school is well positioned to be a leader in Far North Queensland with its very exciting Programs of Excellence, International Baccalaureate Program, International Student Program and Council of International Schools Accreditation.  The school will continue to build on its successes, develop its strengths and seek opportunities to innovate in the spirit of Valued Traditions and Latest Innovations.   

Thank you for the opportunity to write this reflection and I wish all past, current and future students success in their endeavours.  I would encourage all students, whether they be at Cairns State High School or in the Mareeba Shire, to embrace the amazing opportunities which education provides. It was indeed a privilege and a genuine honour to be part of this dynamic school called Cairns State High School.​ 

1999 - 2010​

Mr Trevor Gordon

Trevor Gordon

It is more than 2 years since I left Cairns High [now over 7 years] so I was surprised but very pleased, when I was asked to write a ‘reflection’ on my time at Cairns High. 

Since leaving Cairns High I have continued to work in education and I have had the opportunity to visit schools in all parts of the country. I am currently on a flight from Melbourne to Cairns after visiting a very large and impressive private school. I enjoy my new life in education but I do miss the achievements and challenges that occupied every day at Cairns High. I spend my life now, giving ‘advice’, but I hope that I never forget that the real work of educating young people occurs on a daily basis in schools and most importantly in classrooms. The ‘heroes’ of education are the school leaders and teachers who, on a daily basis work with young people, encouraging them and challenging them, and experience the joys and disappointments, that are inevitable.

Cairns High is a great school because the ‘heroes’ of Cairns High are from the ‘super hero’ classification. They are an extraordinarily talented and dedicated group.

As I write this ‘reflection’, Ministers of Education are meeting to make decisions about funding for education. Their decisions will greatly influence not just the model for schools but also the future of Australian society. The link between the experiences that students have at school and the future attitudes and structures of society is a very strong, and we need to think long and hard about what sort of society we want in our great country, before we decide how to organise our schools.

If I could advise our Education Ministers I would ask them to look at Cairns High as a model for schools. In my travels around Australia I have visited schools where the wealth of our country is on display. Students are pleasant and focused and enjoy excellent facilities and a wide range of high quality learning experiences. However, they have little understanding of the challenges faced by students in other parts of the country. I have visited schools where the students are clearly not from affluent backgrounds and the facilities and tone of the school reflects this poverty. The students are pleasant and good humoured, but many appear not to see the sort of future for themselves, that is in the minds of the students from more affluent school communities. Many of these students are not focused on learning and as a consequence their opportunities for the future are restricted.

What I was most proud of at Cairns High was that the students at Cairns High are from a wide range of socio economic and cultural backgrounds. I have been told that I never write an article or make a speech without using the word ‘data’, so let me assure you that there is very strong data to confirm that the students at Cairns High are indeed a diverse group. The school offers a rich curriculum to meet the needs of this very diverse group and just as importantly they learn from each other. I am convinced that students leave Cairns High with a set of curriculum based skills that will allow them to find a pathway to happiness and fulfilment. Equally importantly, I am convinced that  their interactions with students from diverse backgrounds will give them the tolerance and flexibility so necessary to build a cohesive and happy society.

I doubt that our policy makers are deliberately creating schools which separate students, largely on socio economic grounds, but the data leaves no doubt that this is occurring. It is hard to imagine how we can create a cohesive and tolerant society if this trend continues.

I say, use Cairns High, as the model!!

My very best wishes to all members, past and present, of the Cairns High community.

Trevor Gordon

1979 - 1998

Mr Bernie MackenzieBernie Mackenzie

Extract from Euroka 1990

I am extremely and justifiably proud of the achievements of our students and teachers at Cairns High.

Developments which have been occurring for some time now are starting to bring forth some good fruit.  Our goal is the achievement of excellence in performance of our students in all aspects of endeavour associated with their life at school, and it is this school life we want to make as rich and potentially fulfilling as we possibly can.

The concept of excellence permeates the school into every corner of student and teacher endeavour; the achievement of excellence is related to students’ various abilities, talents and skills.  What we are doing at Cairns High is attempting to create an environment which stimulates the usage of these qualities proposed by our students towards the highest levels of performance possible within the bounds of our resources without any imposition of perceived upper limits.

Extract from Euroka. 1998

As I sit back quietly and reflect on my twenty years as Principal at Cairns State High School, a whole string of emotions affect me…and I feel very proud.

I feel enormous pride that so many people have achieved so much during those twenty years, to make Cairns High what it is today…. A school that is capable of providing for the needs of everyone who enters through its doors in an atmosphere of care and support, challenge and achievement.

I feel proud that the young people who have walked the hallways of our school over the years, have successfully established themselves, many achieving extraordinary things, influenced I hope by the broad philosophy that whatever their talents, this school was able to play a major role in their development and helped to launch them well into a successful and happy future. 

I feel proud when I think about our community spirit, which has helped us cope so well with adversity, trauma and grief.

I feel proud that through conflict and criticism, our integrity and good name has prevailed.  I feel proud of our history and traditions.

I am able to look back on the entirety of volumes of Euroka from 1979 to 1998 and reminisce about the wonderful years I have spent here.

1974 - 1978

C. Whiteoak C Whiteoak

Extract from Euroka 1977 

‘If you want something done, ask a busy person.’ 

The older I grow, the more convinced do I become of the truth of that statement.
I look back at 1977 as a year of activity and achievement at Cairns High; our concert and musical were outstanding successes; ‘Millimag’ our school newspaper, and ‘a Midsummer Night’s Dream’, our school play, were innovations that also proved very successful; the Fashion Parade was a student production; our athletes and swimmers recorded their best performances for many years.  

How often do you find students involved in a number of these activities but at the same time achieving sound academic results? Is it not these same people who respond to your appeals for assistance with a project? What is the secret of their success? 

Basically, it is the way they manage their time. Time, one of the few things in life that is shared equally among all people.  

Only the person himself can decide how to use his time; each day, each week, each year.

Do you manage your time to achieve goals that you set for yourself? Are you, or will you become, a busy person who still has time to spear? 

Only you can decide this, but it is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your life.

1973 - 1973

C. Spearitt C Spearitt

Extract from Euroka 1973

Early this year, meetings of teaching staff and of Senior students discussed the question of continuation of the Prefect system. It was finally decided to break with tradition and replace the Prefect system with a Student Council consisting of representatives from all grades. In conjunction with the Student Council, all Senior students have been requested to do something positive about encouraging younger students to conduct themselves in a manner that will reflect well on their school and on themselves.

A final word to our present Grade 12 students.

You are the first group of students to pass through five years of secondary school without an external public examination. Although improvements could be made in some aspect of our assessment system, I believe that you have been more fortunate that your predecessors. The school has provided you with better learning opportunities than would have been possible without the change. We look forward with interest to hearing of your future careers.

1971 - 1972

E. Aldridge E Aldridge

Extract from Euroka 1971

An important part of the spirit of any school is supplied by the traditions it has established. Our present achievements tend to be measured against standards established in the past. If these standards are good and we seek to equal or to excel them, then our present achievements will be good. But we need not always be satisfied with existing traditions – we can strive to improve. It is the task of the students and teachers of today to establish, in every avenue of school life, worthwhile standards to serve as a model for those who follow us. We should be conscious of this at all times an endeavour to make our standards high. This attitude – so important in the scholastic side of school life – is shown also, in many other activities of the school.

1958 - 1970

 C.N. Crosswell

Extract from Euroka 1963

CN Crosswell

… the great essentials remain unchanged. And what are these essentials? They vary in kind. Happiness is one; good friendships are another. Chief among them is the adoption of sound principles leading to the development of fine character. Social competence comes through your associations, and with the sharing in the many activities that make up the corporate life of the School. Not the least are habits of industry and concentration without which the full realisation of potential cannot be attained. I would emphasize the co-operative attitude which gladly engages in the constant constructive efforts of all for the common good.

1955 - 1957

A. Werman A Werman

In a school, we learn many things; but of these, the greatest is to extend discipline over our own selves. To live happily in such a society we have to bend our individuality to the general: our desires and expressions to the common purpose and pattern of school life.  Those who cannot measure up to the standards of attainment in honest competition, frequently turn to exhibitionism to exalt their little egos.  No one is impressed: most are inconvenienced.

Discipline of behaviour can easily be obtained by force, but it is a sullen respect and obedience.  The discipline of co-operation and striving is a moral courage.  When you have acquired it, you can go on as far as you capacities can take you.  Disregard this self-discipline, and you will have to be content in the subjection to a stronger whose menial tasks you will perform.

Our school motto Vincit Que Se Vincit has a world of meaning.  I give you another – “Who aims at the sky, shoots higher than he who draws at a tree”.

1951 - 1954 

F.T. Milne

Extract from Euroka 1951

FT Milne

The opportunities of our “teen-agers” were never better. To the poor as well as the rich, the opportunities are there to be grasped. The Commonwealth Scheme of Scholarships at the University has thrown open the doors of those professions which were formerly the prerogative of the wealthy.

My purpose in this letter is to appeal to parents to give their children the very best start in life. We parents need educating in the possibilities of Vocational guidance, and in choosing the vocations of our children. Probably to act, as I have suggested, will mean a little extra sacrifice, but is it not worth it in the end? Why allow your child to be a “hand” when he has the ability to be a “head”?

To the wise parent, who contemplates allowing his boy or girl to complete the Secondary course, I give this assurance, that the School will do its part faithfully and well in equipping its pupils, for a full and happy life, a life enriched and enobled by character, for the motto of the school is “Vincit qui se vincit”.

1949 - 1950

L. Powell

Extract from Euroka 1950

L Powell

At no period of our existence has there been a greater need for men and women of integrity who are prepared to labour for good and to lead. 

Never has the temptation to avoid responsibility been greater; never has the incentive to work for the sake of work itself been so lacking; never has the loss of self-respect been more apparent. 

Our hope for that ultimate state, for the creation of a happy, peaceful world where honest work is once more deemed to be dignified and honourable and where selflessness and not selfishness is a virtue, lies in the hands of children who pass through this school and other schools like this.

May they go forward with “that ineffable longing for the life of life” and not be “baffled for ever.”

1945 - 1948

J. McGrath

Extract from Euroka 1948

J McGrath

It is seven years since the previous issue of ‘Euroka’ was published, and its re-appearance as the Magazine of the Cairns State High and Intermediate School, Technical College and Junior Teachers’ Training College, has been made possible by the generosity of Cairns firms, business managers and citizens who have advertised in this issue.  Since the previous issue (of ‘Euroka’ was published i.e. Seven years prior), the most terrible war in history has been fought and won. 

Forces which threatened to deprive man of his fundamental rights have been challenged and conquered, but a bitter price has been paid for victory.  For the second time this century, the flower of our manhood has been sacrificed and the loss of the cream of this generation must affect seriously the future welfare of our country. 

False standards and untrue values have been raised and are flaunted in our community.  Moral ties have been loosened and all too often standards of behaviour are inadequate.  The world, even now, with fears of yet another war so wide-spread, is weary and men are groping, hoping that something will happen to prevent disaster.

There are so many positions open to the youth of today and there are so many employers who do not demand reasonable attainments that many children imagine there is no need to cultivate habits of industry perseverance and thoroughness.  This short-sighted viewpoint has done much harm to individuals and if continues, must lower the normal community level of attainment.

An appeal is made to all parents to see that their children are not misled by these artificial present day standards and to ensure that their sons and daughters develop to the full the talents and capabilities they possess so that they will be the leaders of their generation when they attain manhood and womanhood.

1943 - 1945  

F. Cafferky

1940 - 1943

C.Searle (Acting)

1938 - 1940

E. Loney

Extract from Euroka 1940

Leading educationists’ to-day regard manual subjects, the sciences, arts and crafts as important even for those who have reached the stage of adolescence in the secondary school. The notion so widely prevalent that, in adolescence, education is a preparation for life’s work, is generally confined to consideration of the training necessary for a boy or girl to earn a living.  That idea embraces the utilitarian viewpoint only and while admitting that a man must earn his living adequately, we must remember that he has a soul which should be developed in social intercourse with his fellow beings if he is to obtain the fullest enjoyment of life.

1924 - 1937

J. Barnes

Extract from Euroka 1938

J Barnes

Mr J. A. Barnes, B.A., severed his connection with the Cairns High School on his transfer to the position of Principal, Mackay High School, at the commencement of 1938.  Mr Barnes first took charge of the Cairns High School when it was opened in 1924, and was Principal from that time until his transfer, except for a period in the later years when he travelled to Europe on holiday.  During his years here, Mr Barnes prepared many students for the Junior University Public Examinations, and his most outstanding successes have placed the Cairns High School as one of the foremost in the State.

Last reviewed 25 July 2019
Last updated 25 July 2019