TERM One came to an end last week and with it the tenure of Foster Primary School’s principal for the last seven years, Fiona Bull, who is retiring after almost 37 years with the Education Department.
Surprising as it may seem to some, given that there remains not a trace of a burr in her voice these days, Mrs Bull hails from Scotland. She came out to Australia on a 15-month contract back in 1976 – and stayed.
“I came out for an adventure,” she tells The Mirror. “It was like a Gap year, I suppose, but after rather than before uni. I had just qualified as a teacher.”
She certainly found adventure. She fell in love with an Australian teacher by the name of Greg Bull – who became her husband – and decided to stay in Australia.
There was a shortage of teachers in Australia at the time, particularly in remote, rural and inner suburban schools. Mrs Bull’s first appointment was at Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula, which was quite challenging. Since 1982, however, she has lived in Gippsland, where she returned to teaching part-time in 1983 after several years of family leave. Her husband is principal of Loch Primary School.
“I have come to love Australia, Gippsland in particular. My children have grown up here – I have two daughters – and my grandchildren are growing up here, too,” she says.
Mrs Bull’s parents followed her out to Australia a few years later. Her father has died, but her mother still lives in Gippsland, and she has a sister in Sydney and other family members in WA.
Mrs Bull has taught at various schools, for many years as a teacher/librarian, and she has also taught Italian. Prior to succeeding Heather Stone as principal of Foster Primary at the start of 2006, she was assistant principal at Leongatha Primary for a couple of years.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed being principal of such a great school,” Mrs Bull says of Foster Primary. “It is such a delightful, supportive community. One of the things I really like is that the families are open to so many things. For instance, we have been able to get the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program going, the first primary school in Gippsland to get on board. It has been a real team effort with the staff and the community, something the school has become known for across the region.”
Mrs Bull also loves the way that the children of Foster love their dance, music and art as well as sport. “This might be a rural school, but it is not isolated from culture and all the great things there are. It’s culturally aware. Part of this is because of the families from outside the area moving in and renewing and refreshing the school.”
Mrs Bull has high praise for her staff. “The teaching staff work well as a team with the students, parents and school council. There’s a real sense of sharing the load.”
She singles out office manager Jenny Voros for special mention. “She has her finger on the pulse and I am very thankful to her for her role in supporting staff, students and families. She has worked here for a long time, which ensures continuity in the running of the school.”
Mrs Bull lives in Korumburra within earshot of a school bell, which will, she says, ensure her thoughts of school are never far away. However much she will miss her contact with the students, though, she is looking forward to the next stage of her life. Her immediate plans are to travel in Europe with her husband, before settling back to life in Gippsland and spending more time with her family, including her four grandchildren, who range in age from two to six years.
“I will maintain contact with school life, through my grandchildren – but strictly as a volunteer!” she says. “I’m looking forward to that.”
While Mrs Bull finishes her career in education with some long service leave, Sue Duggan will act as principal at Foster Primary during second term while the process of selecting a new principal is under way. Once selected, a new principal is expected to commence at Foster Primary School at the beginning of third term.