Students delve into the stories behind the names on the board

A whole-of-school and community project at Sydney Technical High School to mark 100 years since World War I has proved the formula that “fun leads to engagement of students, and results in learning”.

In a joint effort with the Teachers RSL Sub-Branch, and with the help of a federal grant, the school’s faculties, teachers, students and the community joined forces to preserve and augment 100 years of Sydney’s social history with a new honour board, rededicated on 23 November.

In conjunction with the honour board project, students in the year 9 and 10 elective history classes worked on the Sydney Technical High School’s World War I Student’s Biography Project, which has so far produced 30 biographies of old boys and teachers who feature on the board. Three students read from their work on the day of the rededication.

Established in 1911 at Ultimo, Sydney Technical High School has a strong association with the Great War — a significant number of boys, former students, and teachers of the school enlisted in the conflict.

This history shaped the early years of Sydney Technical High School, with eight teachers from the school serving in World War I and 38 students and two teachers dying in the service of their country.

To remember and honour the boys, former students and teachers, an Honour Board was constructed in 1917 by the woodwork teacher Arthur G. Humphreys, which is considered an integral part of the historical culture of the school and its place within the community.

As a result of the history project, the stories of service and sacrifice will be published and remembered on the RSL Virtual War Memorial website.

The school’s art, social science and science teachers actively participated on all aspects of the project, which traces not only the service of teachers and students but also community members such as Richard Phillips, for whose family the school built a home after he returned from the war.

Read student Huy Nguyen’s address to the ceremony about Richard Phillips (see box below).

“This was a whole school and community project,” head teacher (history and the library) Robert Devlin said.

Federation Deputy President Joan Lemaire was a guest and lay a wreath during the ceremony accompanied by student Ahmed Hijazi.

The new honour board, which was completed with a grant of $12,770 from the Armistice Centenary Grants Program from the Department of Veteran Affairs, has pride of place in the school auditorium.

The Virtual War Memorial Australia website features a how-to guide for researching biographies and other useful education resources.

As you look up at the honour board and read through the names of soldiers that served you may come across the name Richard Phillips and I’d like to tell you about his story, which is a story about our whole school community. As well as teachers and students from Sydney Tech taking part in the Great War, our school was also involved in a community project to provide housing for returned soldiers.As soldiers returned from war from 1916 and onwards, the Government provided money and access to land at Frenchs Forest as part of what was known as the Soldier Settlement Scheme.This was a combined state and federal government effort to recognise the importance of providing both homes and a source of income for returning soldiers through farming the land.

Sydney Technical High School was one of only six schools who were approved to clear land for returning soldiers and was the only school that had both the vision and resolve to sustain their efforts and build an entire home for which they were recognised in the Herald newspaper.The boys named the house “Techneia” and our students filled the house with essentials and gifts for the soldier who was to occupy it.That returned soldier was Richard Phillips and his family.

Phillips and his family were greatly appreciative of the efforts of Sydney Tech and were adopted by the school, his name permanently in the school records and his service remembered on our refurbished honour board.Philips was born in New Zealand and moved to Sydney with his wife and two sons before World War I.He enlisted for war in the suburb of Liverpool in Sydney into the 13th infantry and 4th brigade.Mr Phillips participated in the Gallipoli campaigns where he received a large shrapnel wound to his leg.

Richard Phillips and his family… fascinated me because it demonstrated that even in Sydney Tech’s infancy our school showed so much camaraderie — what we today would call Tech Pride. The Tech students of 1916 and 1917 worked tirelessly in helping and supporting a family that was going through something most could not imagine.They did this in practical ways that was and is a testament to what our school stands for — care and respect for others and our community, fairness and social justice, and the pursuit of excellence.

I think the words of a student who participated in building Richard Phillips’ and his family a home sum it up best:“We are not assisting these soldiers, we are repaying the debt we owe them…”

Huy Nguyen’s address to the ceremony