St John's Primary School recently commenced the process of becoming a FIRE CARRIER school. (Friends Igniting Reconciliation through Education).

We recognise the special place and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within Australia. We acknowledge that First Nations peoples have been the caretakers of the land, water and sky for more than 60,000 years. We respect their spiritual connection to We understand that practical measures need to address the disadvantage experienced by First Nations Peoples in education, health, employment, and general opportunity. True Reconciliation requires national and local solutions achieved through positive and purposeful partnerships not just for today but for tomorrow. We work for Reconciliation, in partnership with those who believe that there can be an alternative to the present order.

‘An apology begins the healing process. Apology means understanding, a willingness to enter into the suffering. It implies a commitment to do more’. The late Sir Ronald Wilson, Chair of the National Inquiry into the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.

“Reconciliation is an active pursuit – it’s about getting on with what’s needed and what we know to get the results we all want, and that’s a mixture of measures that target the body, the mind and the spirit.” Mick Dodson, Australian of the Year, National Press Club address, 17 February 2009

A School Covenant declares the school’s commitment to stand in solidarity with First Nations peoples on the path to meaningful reconciliation. They recognise the special contributions that First Nations people and their culture make and acknowledge the rightful position that they should hold within Australian society. Covenants emphasise the ethos and faith belief of Catholic schools and the social justice responses they are committed to make as part of their Christian identity. It is broken up into the three core values of Spirituality; Practical Reconciliation and Justice; and Cultural Recognition and Awareness. Completing a Covenant is an important first step taken by FIRE Carrier schools as part of their commitment to the program and is reflected in practical goals and actions which they strive to achieve in the year ahead.

Our School

Our school began in 1920 when Sisters of Mercy from St Ann’s Convent in Warrnambool began teaching about 50 Catholic children from the Dennington area. A Catholic Church, St John the Baptist, had opened in Tylden Street in 1919. The Sisters of Mercy taught the children inside this building - the older students inside the church itself and the younger children in the Supper room at the rear of the church, for the next 12 years.

In 1932 a dedicated school building was erected after years of fundraising by the Catholic community. This weatherboard building comprised two large classrooms, small staff room, cloak rooms and a foyer. It, along with the Church Supper room, were the school facilities through to the early 1970s.

As enrolments increased, so did the need for more classrooms and upgraded facilities. A portable double classroom was placed on the grounds and in 1980 a new brick building was built. This comprised classrooms, a library and office space. In the late 1980s the school received a large bequest from Mr Leonard Hogan, a local businessman. This enabled extensions and improvements to be made to the school buildings and grounds.

The school continued to be run by the Sisters of Mercy with the assistance of lay teachers. In 1980 non-Catholic children were able to enrol in the school for the first time. At the end of 1989 the Sisters of Mercy finished their involvement with the school and it was passed over to lay administration.

In the early 2000s, as enrolments continued to rise and space became limited, a decision was made to relocate the school to a more spacious plot. Land was purchased in the north of Dennington and a new school opened in 2011 with a mix of permanent and portable classrooms. Further building works increased the number of permanent classrooms and facilities. In 2020 our school celebrated 100 Years of Education.

In 2024 we currently have an enrolment of 256 students in 12 classes.

Our Covenant

At St John’s we learn and work on the lands of the our vision for reconciliation is to be a place of learning and teaching that respects Aboriginal protocols, history and culture. We will have strong and mutually beneficial relationships with Aboriginal communities. These relationships will provide for the sharing of knowledge and ideas, and the opportunity to listen and learn from Aboriginal Australians about the past, their current circumstances, and their vision for the future. We will be a place where Aboriginal culture is respected and celebrated.

Our covenant was developed by the Principal Ben van de Camp and members of the FIRE Carrier Team, Kristie Prendergast and Jan Madden. We will continue to develop this covenant in 2024 with input from our students, other staff members and the local Indigenous community. 


Culturally safe environments
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety is defined as an environment that is safe for Aboriginal & Torres Strait islanders, where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity and experience. (Williams 2008)

The school “St John’s Dennington”, takes account of and makes reasonable efforts to accommodate for the diversity of all children in implementing the Child Safe Standards relating to the following standard. 

“Schools and school boarding premises must establish culturally safe environments in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children, young people and students are respected and valued.”