Narbethong is an aboriginal name that means 'happy place'.
In 1886 under the provision of the 'Hospitals Act 1847-1891' the Queensland government vested a site of some ten acres in Trustees for the benefit and use of blind persons and deaf persons. These Trustees included 3 persons appointed by the Governor. The site was at Cornwall Street, Annerley.
A workshop was opened in 1887 and 4 blind and 2 partially blind men were admitted. Educational programs, a ‘home’ and a school for blind students were established in Queensland on the 1st February, 1893. The one teacher, Miss Sharp, struggled with the education of 20 children of both sexes, some of whom were blind and some deaf.
In 1897, the education of the deaf was conducted in separate classes. In 1908, a request was made to have the compulsory clauses of the Education Act of 1875 made applicable to blind and to deaf children. This was finally agreed to in 1924 under the 'Blind, Deaf and Dumb Children Instruction Bill.
From the commencement of the school, the Education Department was involved in payments to the Board for the salary of the teacher and for each child. In 1950, nominal boarding charges were abolished giving free board to all resident pupils.
From 1883 until 1963, deaf and blind students were educated on the same site at Cornwall Street, Annerley.
In 1963, with the separation of education for deaf and blind students, Narbethong School was established at Buranda for blind and low vision students. The enrolment was 52 primary pupils and 7 secondary students. The school was located in a building previously occupied by Buranda Infants School. A new classroom block was built at Narbethong in 1968. This was followed by the development of the present school in 1979.
In 1968, a program for children with a combined vision and hearing impairment was established. It expanded in numbers due to an increase in Maternal Rubella deaf/blind children. Although the educational provisions for visually handicapped children were separated from those for deaf children in 1963, it was not until 1969 that the residential facilities were separated. This was achieved by the establishment of a Private Accommodation Scheme by which country children lived with host parents in the metropolitan area. Also in 1969, a free door to door taxi transport scheme was introduced.
Families of students at Narbethong School now reside across the wider Brisbane metropolitan area. The school supports the operation of Coochiemudlo Lodge on Coochiemudlo Island which is available for use by students with a vision or hearing impairment and other groups. More recently, the school has enthusiastically embraced the 'Active Learning' methodology.
The responsibility for Vision Impairment Services Queensland (VISQ) is managed by the Principal of Narbethong Special School. This service provides state wide educational support to blind, low vision and deaf blind students, their teachers and parents.
An historical overview of Narbethong school was written by past teacher Heather Grainger for our 50th Anniversary in 2015.