Don College

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Don College
Don College Devonport Tas Logo.png
Devonport, Tasmania
Type Public
Established 1973
Principal John Thompson
Grades 11-12
Number of students 985 (as at April 2016)
Mascot Douglas the Polar Bear

The Don College is located in Devonport on the North-West coast of Tasmania. "Don", as it is commonly known to residents of Devonport, is situated by the Don River and enjoys commanding views over the river and surrounding forest reserve. Students completing year 10 in local secondary schools have the option of moving to Don College to complete years 11 and 12 before attending a tertiary education institution, or entering the workforce. Students come to study there from as far as Penguin and Deloraine.


The Don College, commenced in temporary class rooms behind Devonport High School in 1973, while the college buildings were in construction. Students moved into the new buildings beside The Don River in February 1976 and the college was officially opened by Neil Batt, Minister For Education, in November of that year.[1] Don College, designed by architect John Gott,[2] is an excellent example of Brutalist Architecture. Its scale makes it one of the largest examples of the style in Devonport. The site was covered with Tasmanian Tea Tree, also known locally as paper bark, which was used to construct the boxing for the concrete in the buildings. This left a distinctive texture on the concrete, a connection with the natural environment surrounding the college.

The first principal of The Don College was Thomas (Tom ) Bailey. Tom was renowned for his progressive view of education.

"Tom had been frustrated by the petty rules of high schools, which he felt existed more to reinforce the authority of teachers than to benefit students" [3]

Tom did not see a school as a place where students were controlled. He believed that students should be guided and given a safe place to make mistakes.

During the late 1970s the Tasmanian State Government developed proposals to amalgamate secondary colleges with the technical colleges (TAFE) and Adult Education to form Community Colleges. This proposal resonated with Tom Bailey's vision of providing further education to a wider section of the community, the lost "60%". In 1980 The Don College combined with the Devonport Technical College and Mersey-Leven Adult Education to become the Devon Community College. The new college was managed by a board consisting of the principals of the three component institutions.[4]

The community college concept failed to gain wide enough support and a change of government finally saw the Devon Community College disbanded back to its component parts in 1982.

Tom Bailey retired in 1991, and in 1992 John Lee-Archer took over as principal. At this time public education in Tasmania commenced a period of rapid and significant change. It fell to John to carry the college through this. John Lee-Archer's style of leadership has been described as more traditional hierarchical[5] than Tom Bailey's. Certainly John needed to run a tighter ship and reign in the freedom that Tom had allowed staff. Changes were coming which would require all staff to work as a tighter team and work towards collective goals rather than individual ones.

In 1992 the TCE was introduced to years 11/12. This involved the introduction of an entirely new curriculum.

Seeing the need to provide for a wider range of students John began to plan for the introduction of Australian Vocational Training Scheme (AVTS) courses. These were nationally accredited courses in vocational areas such as retail and trades. Through 1995 - 1997 these courses gradually grew. Don College was no longer simply a place to prepare for tertiary study.

Another significant change that John Lee-Archer had to accommodate was the introduction in the early 1990s of a new Tasmanian Department of Education Staffing Policy. Under this policy staff appointments were reviewed every 5 years. Staff working in isolated or 'difficult to staff' schools were assured that requests for transfer would be approved at review time. This coincided with an increase in college teaching load implemented as part of the state government response to the Cresap Report (1990). The result was a period of rapid staff changes in a college which until then had enjoyed a high degree of stability.

In 2004-5 the secondary curriculum framework was developed in collaboration with all schools (Government and non-Government). By the end of 2005 Tasmania had, for the first time ever, an inclusive, values based framework for senior secondary education with clearly articulated purposes and outcomes.[6] John Lee-Archer was seconded to work on this project and Don College was a leader in its implementation on his return in 2006.

After rating very poorly in biennial Education Department leadership reviews, John Lee-Archer left the college in 2008 to take a senior position in the new Tasmanian Academy.[7]

Once again Don College faced significant structural change with new and untried leadership when in 2009 the Tasmanian government restructured secondary colleges and the Don College became known as the Don Campus of the Tasmanian Polytechnic[8] which delivers vocational (VET) courses and the Don Campus of the Tasmanian Academy [7] which delivers TCE courses. The staff on site were divided into 'Polytechnic' and 'Academy'. There were also staff movements as some staff were exchanged with the other Polytechnic campus in Valley Road Devonport. (previously known as the TAFE College).

There were now two separate administrative structures in place, with John Thompson appointed as acting principal of the Tasmanian Academy (Don Campus) and Michelle Best appointed as campus leader for the Polytechnic (Don Campus). After two years it was judged that this model, with two institutions on one campus, had not worked. The college was restructured back to a single college and renamed Don College, with John Thompson as the principal. Don has, however, continued to offer many of the vocational certificate courses. John Lee-Archer was demoted to principal of Forth Primary School.

John Thompson was made permanent principal in 2010, and once the college had settled back to a single institution in 2011 his challenge was to rebuild and sustain the college ethos in a college which is much larger and more diverse than the one Tom Bailey knew. Changing government policy on education has also continued to provide a turbulent leadership environment.

In March 2016 the Minister for Education announced that secondary schools in the Devonport area would offer grade 11/12 courses in 2017.[9] This announcement ended Don College's monopoly on state funded senior secondary education in Devonport. The impact that this will have is yet to be seen, but it is certain that Don College is entering another period of change.


The subjects that are taught at Don College fall within either the curriculum of the office of Tasmanian Assessment, Standards & Certification (TASC) [1], or Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET).[10]

TASC courses available at the college include Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Science, Mathematics, Languages, Media Production, Humanities, and many more. Upon successful completion of the equivalent of 8 TASC subjects, including literacy, numeracy and ICT, students are awarded the Tasmanian Certificate of Education.

VET subjects include Hospitality, Automotive, Animal Studies, Hair and Beauty, Retail etc. Students completing these courses receive the relevant certificate or statement of attainment.

There are no compulsory subjects, although students are encouraged to enroll in a literacy and a numeracy subject to satisfy the requirements of the Tasmanian Certificate of Education. Most grade 11 students are also required to attend "Pathways" classes, which cover a range of topics such as study skills, ICT skills etc.

A full-time course consists of 4 TASC subjects per year, or one VET subject and 2 TASC subjects per year. Don College also has a transition education program for students with learning disabilities. This focuses on life skills and independence.

Don College also has a transition education program for students with learning disabilities. This focuses on life skills and independence.


  • A Block is the administration block with the main office as well as the lockers . It connects B and E blocks.
  • B Block contains Science, computer labs, Mathematics and Languages
  • C Block contains MDT, Graphic Design, Media and Computer Science
  • D Block contains the visual arts
  • E Block contains the library, the common rooms and music
  • MFC contains the Gym, weight training room, Drama and Dance.
  • Terrapins (prefabricated classrooms) contains English, transition education and health


Classes commence at 8:35 am and finish at 3:25. The day consists of 4 teaching blocks of approximately 90 minutes. Students on a full load will attend 12 - 14 lessons each week. The remaining time is set aside for free study and tutorials.


Don has a tradition of biennial musical productions, some of which include:

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Matthew Richardson (former Australian rules football player)
  • Michael Gaffney (politician)
  • Prema Smith (Actor, director)
  • Peter Binks (Rhodes Scholar 1983 - St John's)[11]
  • Tim Monks (Rhodes Scholar 1982 - St John's)[11]
  • Taylor Beaumont-Whiteley (Olympic finalist)


  1. ^ Shane Wolfe (1997). "From pillar to post : a history of the Don College 1973–1997". Devonport, Tas. : The Don College, 1997. 
  2. ^ Shane Wolfe (1997). "From pillar to post : a history of the Don College 1973–1997". Devonport, Tas. : The Don College, 1997: pg.21. 
  3. ^ Shane Wolfe (1997). "From pillar to post : a history of the Don College 1973–1997". Devonport, Tas. : The Don College, 1997: pg.11. 
  4. ^ Shane Wolfe (1997). "From pillar to post : a history of the Don College 1973–1997". Devonport, Tas. : The Don College, 1997: pg.43–45. 
  5. ^ Shane Wolfe (1997). "From pillar to post : a history of the Don College 1973–1997". Devonport, Tas. : The Don College, 1997: 59. 
  6. ^ "Tasmanian Draft Curriculum Framework" (PDF). 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "Tasmanian Academy". Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  8. ^ "Your Polytechnic". Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2017. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°10′03″S 146°20′00″E / 41.1675°S 146.3332°E / -41.1675; 146.3332