Summary

Hard hat worn by Jane Hayward, principal of Strathewen Primary School, during the rebuilding of the school in 2010.

On 7 February 2009, the Kilmore East fire swept over Sugarloaf Hill and destroyed most of the small settlement of Strathewen, including the primary school. The school re-opened just days later in borrowed space in nearby Wattle Glen. In April 2010 the re-construction of the school began on its original site in Strathewen. The principal, Jane Hayward, made weekly site visits and always wore a hard hat borrowed from the construction firm. One of her students decided Jane needed her own hat, so the family purchased one and decorated it with Jane's name and the words 'Super Teacher'. The school re-opened on 18 October 2010.

Physical Description

White plastic hard hat with webbing lining. On each side of the hat is a sticker of a pink and white flower with green leaves, outlined in lighter pink. Across the front are individual letter stickers in pink, green and blue letters spelling out the name 'Jane'. Across the back are two words written in permanent ink in black. On the interior of the helmet is a white barcode sticker and an orange manufacturer's sticker.

Significance

Behind this simple object is the story of a community's loss and its determination to rebuild. Strathewen Primary School had always been an important part of the settlement of Strathewen - too small to have a shop, a pub or even a post office, the tiny settlement had few public buildings and the school was an important landmark. After the bushfires of 2009 the temporary school became even more vital as it became a centre of grief, assistance and recovery for many families. Its rebuilding in 2010 was significant for everyone in Strathewen: the noise of children once again playing in the school yard was a symbol of resilience and hope for the whole community.

The hard hat also represents the many hats, both real and symbolic, worn by Jane Hayward, the school's principal. She negotiated the tasks of re-opening the school in temporary quarters, assisting and supporting the school's families, liaising with outside interests including the media and hundreds of well-wishers, planning and rebuilding the school and anticipating future challenges in the community's recovery from the bushfires.

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