Welcome to the Era website, still
very much 'under construction' after all these years
because I'm a lazy sod! I'll try and get it finished
before we're all dead.
Members of the Era community have noted with sadness
the passing in early 2019 of Jane Barlow (formerly
Chapman) and in March 2019 of Nick Hudson, one of
the founding Era parents. If anyone has a digital
photo of either of them I would appreciate it.
More information can be found on the Era, Education
Reform Association Facebook
In 2017 I was contacted by John Welch, co founder
and principal of Chiron College, an alternative
senior secondary school in Sydney. He invited any
Era people to contact him with comments, stories,
or just to converse on the state of progressive
education and discuss how students who experienced
alternative education first hand could be valuable
voices in the contemporary debate about education.
He knows quite a bit about Koornang, the progressive
boarding school that started up in the 1940s very
close to the Era site in Springvale. More information
and contact details for John can be found at the
bottom of the history page of this website dealing
or you can get his details from the Era database,
available by request.
The Era database is constantly being
updated with contact details, so if you are interested
in contacting long lost friends from Era just ask
for a copy via the menu link.
Era on Facebook
Those of you with Facebook accounts
can access a lively Era
Facebook community by using the search term
'Era, Education Reform Association' or the link
A lot of Era memorabilia is archived
in the State Library of Victoria, but a lot is also
still held in private hands. Marion Pears has been
kind enough to keep a large collection of magazines
and other material stored at her home and is happy
to let Era people view it. You can contact her via
the Era Facebook page or via the contact form on
If any of you have Era photos in digital
format please send them through. Ideally, if you
could put the year and some of the names in the
title so I can create a caption, that would be great.
Thanks, Guy West. (1972 -1976)
Era has long since disappeared, but
happily its spirit seems to linger on.
To many of us who were involved with
Era, the school represents a very significant part
of our lives. I suspect many of us are reluctant
to concede that the philosophies which gave birth
to Era are no longer relevant and I admit to being
one such person.
Despite its troubled history,
Era had many triumphs, some of which will be chronicled
on this site (along with the disasters!) One of
the lasting impressions that one has of the school,
is the level of effort and sacrifice that some people
were prepared to make for Era over the years. Looking
back now as an adult I realise that many of these
people, particularly some of the founding parents,
were very courageous in pursuing their vision of
a better quality of education. To a large extent
this site stands as a dedication to the pioneering
work of those who puts their hands into their pockets
and with hard work and determination built a school
out of nothing ... a very unusual school.
What was Era?
Era was an alternative or 'progressive'
co-educational secondary school that opened in Melbourne
in February 1971. Drawing inspiration from A.S.
Neill's Summerhill experimental school in England,
the most obvious difference between Era and traditional
schools was the relaxed disciplinary environment
in which students could wear what they want, call
teachers by their first names, attend only classes
of their own choosing (or none at all ) and take
part in much of the school's decision making process.
Era started in temporary quarters
at the 'White House', a big, white, rambling building
in Warrandyte, with five teachers and eighty nine
students, at that stage in forms one and two only.
In 1972, after numerous working bees
to clear the blackberries and help get the new buildings
ready for habitation, Era moved to its permanent
site on 13 acres of virgin bushland in Donvale,
very much an undeveloped outer suburb at that time.
A new form was added each year so
that by 1975 it offered a full secondary education,
culminating in what was then matriculation at year
In 1975 the Era Primary School was
established at the same location, so that parents
could give their children an Era style education
right from day one if they so wished.
Over the years Era was forced to overcome
crises on many fronts, philosophical, interpersonal
and financial. By 1986, social and economic changes
in Australia had put Era's enrolment numbers under
extreme pressure and years 11 and 12 were dropped
from the school syllabus, with only one student
doing HSC; Eve Merton.
In late March 1987, an anticipated
second mortgage deal fell through and in April the
school was forced to close for financial reasons,
sadly ending 16 years of one of the most radical
educational experiments in Australia's history.
ERA stood for Education Reform Association,
a name proposed by Journalist and foundation parent,
John Pinkney. The Association believed that the
education system needed reform, not the students!
Era did however accept unruly students who had failed
to integrate into other schools, and this sometimes
led to 'confusion' about the name.
material from 'The Era alternative' by Professor
Les Lomas, Era School prospectus 1971, Volumes 1
- 29 Eratica school magazine.
Photos and posts from the Education
Reform Association (Era) group on Facebook.