Lismore Quadrangle as it was in the 1970s.
Lismore Quadrangle as it was in the 1970s. APN archvies

Our learning evolution

ONE of the many concepts behind the Dungarimba Wandarahn installation, set to light up the Quad later this month, is that Lismore has always been a place of learning.

It has played a part in the revival of the Bundjalung language.

And the buildings that make up what is now referred to as our arts precinct have changed and evolved over time.

The Quad is a space surrounded by heritage institutions that have a long history in the identity of Lismore.

The site was once the home of Lismore High School, before being transformed into a Teacher's College in the 1970s.

Lismore High School in the 1920s (current site of Northern Rivers Conservatorium of Music).
Lismore High School in the 1920s (current site of Northern Rivers Conservatorium of Music).

That educational institution evolved into the Advanced College of Education and eventually into Southern Cross University in 1994.

By making its home in Lismore, the university flourished economically and became a hotspot for students and those looking for an alternative lifestyle.

In the late 1990s, the university moved to a bigger campus in East Lismore and the site became the home of the Northern Rivers Conservatorium and the Lismore Library, which still remain today.

Now, with the addition of the $5.8 million Lismore Regional Gallery and Quad space, the site is evolving again into a creative hub for students and the community.

Through the partnership with council, Southern Cross University is now returning to its original home to deliver real-world learning for students through grassroots projects to connect and engage with the Lismore community in the heart of the city.

Dungarimba Wandarahn (Lismore place of learning) is a collaboration between Southern Cross University's Indigenous School Gnibi Wandarahn, and Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, Terranora, and will tell the story of how the region's indigenous language has been saved.

Internationally renowned multi-media artist, Craig Walsh, tells the stories of Bundjalung elder, Aunty Irene Harrington who, as a young Aboriginal student at Lismore High School in the 1950s, went on to see the Bill for Aboriginal Languages passed through the NSW Parliament last year.

"Through the form of large scale visual projections and audio installations, Irene's story will virtually 'take over' Lismore's historical educational institutions,” Mr Walsh said. "The heritage listed site of the Lismore Quadrangle (now the Conservatorium of Music and Lismore Library) will be lit up with Bundjalung language and history.”

While attending Lismore High School, Aunty Irene was living on the mission where it was forbidden to speak the language of her elders.

"The language was kept under the rug,” she said.

As a result, images of a carpet, and other connections to country will come to "dominate” the walls of the high school”, Mr Walsh said.

"It reclaims the Lismore Quadrangle as a historic 'place of learning', recognising the importance of cultural knowledge as essential to education.”

The research undertaken behind Dungarimba Wandarahn looks into how indigenous children have been assimilated into the western schooling system and how attitudes have changed towards the value of traditional culture.

In the 1880s Aboriginal children were expected to attain the same manner of living as other Australians and to live as members of a single community "...enjoying the same rights and privileges, accepting the same responsibilities, observing the same customs and influenced by the same beliefs, hopes and loyalties as other Australians.”

Today, the languages of the first peoples of the land comprising New South Wales are "an integral part of the world's oldest living culture and connect Aboriginal people to each other and to their land.”

  • Dungarimba Wandarahn takes place from Thursday to Sunday, May 23-26. 6pm-9pm (production plays on a continuous loop). The Quad, 110 Magellan Street, Lismore

More information:


1882 - 1889 Lismore Public School (362 students)

  • 1890 Major Flood 12.46 metres

1905 - District School (Extended to Magellan St, 1911)

  • Remaining 1885 building demolished and two-story brick extension built on corner of Keen and Magellan Streets corner.

1920 - Public School

  • 1921 flood 10.79 metres

1942 - Lismore High School

  • Lismore Public school moved to new complex and the vacated buildings were taken over by Lismore High School. First country school to achieve high- class status.
  • 1954 Major Flood 12.17 metres

1961 - Science block

  • Now the Regional Art Gallery

1970 - Teacher's College

  • Lismore High moved to complex in East Lismore.
  • Lismore Teachers' College opened in the converted buildings

1973 - Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education

  • 1974 Major flood 12.17 metres

1977 - Institute of Aboriginal Community Education

1978 - Northern Rivers Centre of Music

1989 - NRCAE moves to Military Rd

  • 1989 Major Flood 11.28 metres

1991 - Northern Rivers Conservatorium Arts Centre Inc

2003 - Richmond Tweed Regional Library

  • Building on Magellan St
  • 2005 flood levy completed

2017 - Regional Gallery and Quadrangle (The Quad)

  • 2017 Major Flood 11.59 metres

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