About Us

The River School is an independent, co-educational Primary School and Early Childhood Centre located in a beautiful rainforest valley in Maleny, Queensland. 

The guiding philosophy of The River School is Neohumanist Education. Based on Neohumanism, the philosophy of the innate oneness of all things, we seek to instill in children an innate sense of love and compassion for all beings: people, animals, plants, and even the inanimate matter of the whole universe.

Our school is a loving community of like-minded families who honour children as individuals and work to create a harmonious learning environment where children, families and staff feel a sense of belonging, respect and community.

School History

In the mid 1980s, 52 acres of farm and rainforest land was purchased by a group of like-minded individuals keen to establish a community housing cooperative. The yellow house, current classroom to our Lillypilly (Yr 1) class, is the original farmhouse and communal living space that was fondly referred to as the “pink house”.

Initially the land was known as the Maleny Land Community and a number of the original shareholders still reside on the community land above the School, now known as the Prout Community Settlement Cooperative. Many of the original residents identified as Ananda Marga, hence the Sanskrit name for the land – Ananda (bliss, happiness) Kamala (lotus).

Once the community of residents were settled they began thinking about schooling options for their children and possible service projects. Some Maleny locals had heard about the Ananda Marga community in their town and drawn by the Neohumanist philosophy of love and caring for all, decided to befriend their town’s newest residents.


It wasn’t long before the vision of creating a Neohumanist school as a service project on the land gathered momentum. A preschool run by Prabha (Pepa Demasson) was the first step towards a school. Often held at the creek, this preschool was attended by Ananda Marga children and other local families. It was these children that came up with the name The Wet and Wild River School that was later amended to the Ananda Marga River School.

In 1995, the 25 acres of land set aside for the school received the stamp of approval by the Department of Education. The school began with 23 students of mixed ages learning as one family in the little pink house. Dada Ratnaprakash (whom many knew as Dada Ratnadevananda) was appointed Principal in October 1995, and remained in that position until December 2010. Prabha was appointed Administrator and spent eighteen dedicated years, including three of those years in the Principal position, developing, nurturing and building the heart and love that is the River School. In mid 2013, Jenny Oakley took over the helm as Principal, and in 2017, Ann Donoghoe, a staff member of the River School since 1997, was appointed current Principal.

The first River School teacher was Trudi Cauley (our current Pademelon teacher) who remembers “… the way everyone loved and cared for each other. All the children played and learned together. The younger children adored the older children. They would create games together, a favourite being a make-believe world in which they made up rules, teams and characters.” Today that same magical sense of fun and love is captured in games at lunch times, buddy classes, service projects, yoga and meditation, the Arts and a dedicated staff team committed to achieving the objectives of the Australian Curriculum while creating a learning environment that ensures our young people are safe, happy and free to learn.

Over time the School has witnessed many changes as a result of its physical and social growth, however the one constant has been our commitment to Neohumanist Education.

“Neohumanism takes the inner spirit of humanism (love of humanity) and expands it to also embrace plants, animals and indeed the entire universe. Neohumanism recognises diversity but also emphasises the interconnectedness of all things. A Neohumanist education seeks to cultivate in children their already innate capacity for love and compassion. In the words of Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar who first propounded the philosophy and who founded a global network of Neohumanist schools:
“When the love of the human heart extends its embrace to the entire living and non-living worlds, this is Neohumanism.”1

Today our beautiful River School and Early Childcare Centre is a thriving, loving community providing multi-dimensional learning to close to 200 young people and their families. We are grateful to the many adults, including our Dada’s and Didi’s, the children and events that have shaped and will continue to shape the River School way. It is with great enthusiasm we move into The River School future firmly wearing our Neohumanist lenses with the love and care that embodies the heart of our School.

A Great Foundation Lasts a Lifetime.

Our Wonderful Staff

Ann Donoghoe

Ann Donoghoe


My journey as an educator began in 1990 when I was accepted into Edith Cowan University in Western Australia to complete my Bachelor of Education. After graduating in 1994, I taught in a number of Government and Independent Schools. In 1997 I was delighted to take up a permanent teaching position with The River School.

Read more about Ann

I was drawn to this particular School as its Neohumanist philosophy aligned beautifully with my belief that young people need access to a variety of opportunities to positively develop their social, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental capacities. 

In the 22 wonderful years I have been with The River School, I have gained valuable experience in the positions of Senior Teacher, Deputy Principal and now Principal. With my Restorative Practice background and deep passion for education, it is an honour to lead The River School on its continued journey of real and rich learning for our young people to grow into responsible global citizens who will make positive contributions to the world.

Sue Attrill

Sue Attrill

Deputy Principal

Sue has worked in Education for 35 years as a Teacher, Leader, Advisor and Consultant.
She is passionate about working with schools and teachers and has worked extensively assisting schools to build robust relationships systems. Sue facilitates training for educators in the areas of Positive Relationship building, Restorative Practices and Circle Work. As the Director of Relationships @ School Pty Ltd, Sue continues to assist schools to develop safe and supporting learning environments.
Dada Divyalokeshananda

Dada Divyalokeshananda

School Archarya

It is a great fortune for me to join the school team as School Archarya, yoga and meditation teacher.

The system of the “Neo-humanist Education” is a unique one, that aims to inspire and promote the all round welfare and growth of each individual in accordance with the students particular needs on all levels: physical, mental and spiritual. The teachers here are loving and skilled persons providing the perfect ambience and atmosphere for coordinated cooperation. Each student’s life acquires the best possible foundation for their entire life to come.

Read more about Dada
Every day I guide a class with a couple of yoga exercises, singing spiritual tunes which I accompany with different musical instruments, such as guitar, violin or the Indian string instrument, sitar. This is followed by a meditation and thereafter we elaborate on moral issues creating a solid base for spiritual practices as well as an awareness for proper social interaction with individuals and the whole of community.

I feel so privileged to be part of this amazing community.

Alieta Belle

Alieta Belle

Curriculum Design, Arts & Cultural Studies Teacher

I am a passionate advocate for integrating creativity with learning, and promoting quality Arts, Media and Environmental education for young people. I love being the Arts and Cultural Studies Teacher at the River School; teaching Visual Arts and Media Arts to the students across the school. I have a Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts and a Grad Dip in Primary Teaching.

Read more about Alieta

I have a professional background of over 15years working in digital video production, particularly working with young people and Indigenous communities on diverse community cultural development projects. In Media Arts classes at the River School, I teach students clay animation and video editing skills. I was asked to provide work samples to the Australian Curriculum Authority (ACARA) for the national Media Arts curriculum.

Each year I program numerous Arts and Cultural experiences for our students to engage with, such as excursions to theatres, participation in local art events and workshops with local artists and parents.  I am really proud of The Arts program offered at the River School! In 2015 I trained as a facilitator for the ‘Celebration Day for Girls’ program. This is a unique program offered at our school, which celebrates what it means to be a Girl!

I also co-ordinate the Year 5 River School student’s involvement in the ‘Kids in Action’ environmental conference. Each year, we explore a new theme and I work with the students to create a workshop, display and film about their topic.

I have been involved with the River School since 2006, when my daughter first came here. I have three children and they all have attended to the River School. The River School nourishes children’s childhood and grows a deep love of learning and belief in self. Equally, the River School is a great environment to teach in!

Paula Beaumont

Paula Beaumont

Prep Teacher

I am Paula, the Prep teacher at the River School in Maleny. My family and I emigrated to Australia from England a few years ago. I am married and have a son and daughter who are now teenagers. We live in Palmwoods with my two gorgeous dogs who emigrated with us. I have a Primary School Teacher Bachelor of Arts teaching degree which specialised in Early Childhood. I have over twelve years’ experience of teaching children in Prep class.

Read more about Paula

I believe that children in Prep learn successfully through a play based environment. I enjoy teaching and strive to make it a fun, enjoyable, educational experience for all children. I ensure that my teaching is accessible for all learning styles and is differentiated for all abilities within my class. I also consider a child’s personal, social and emotional education is paramount to a child’s overall education and well-being. The children in my classes learn through a thematic approach based on their own ideas and thoughts. The learning is based on a wide range of play activities focused on the current theme.  It provides the children with a balance of child initiated, teacher initiated and teacher led learning in the classroom and in the outside environment. I consider that when the children enjoy their learning they are interested, motivated and learn to become independent focused learners.

I feel very lucky to work in this beautiful school and teach in such an amazing environment, alongside such a dedicated, caring team of people. I love working at the River School because all the teachers are dedicated to fostering and cultivating every child’s whole self through developing their emotional, physical, spiritual and mental knowledge and understanding of themselves, each other, and of everything in the world around them in a supportive, caring environment.

Kristy O'Neill

Kristy O'Neill

Lillypilly (Yr 1) Teacher & Senior Teacher

I have an extensive educational background, having worked in both primary and secondary schools as a teacher, specialist teacher in learning support and school literacy coach and mentor, before moving into administration as The River School’s Deputy Principal. In 2021, I will be moving back into the classroom as Senior Teacher and following my passion back to face-to-face teaching.

Read more about Kristy

I hold a Bachelor of Education (Primary) with a major in Middle Years Education. I am married to a wonderfully supportive husband and we are blessed to have our child, Joshua, also attends The River School.   

I am passionate about Neohumanist education particularly the encompassing component of community service. Myself and my family spend our weekends caring for our most vulnerable children as a Foster Family, giving respite care to children in need.

I also have the honour of working as a board member on our communities most recent school, The Maleny Independent School.

Shelene Weyman

Shelene Weyman

Kingfisher (Year 2) Teacher

I grew up on the outskirts of Sydney, surrounded by orchards and dairy farms. My love of the country life inspired me to study Agriculture at university and I enjoyed managing a wildflower farm and writing articles for a rural newspaper before I decided to pursue a career in education.

Read more about Shelene

I have taught in both the state and private sectors, in a variety of locations throughout New South Wales and Queensland and have seen many different approaches to teaching and learning. It has been a wonderful opportunity to observe how a school’s culture and the community ethos that underpins its operation (whether explicitly stated or not) really influences the experience of the child.

While the world is changing so rapidly, it’s difficult to see evidence of a response to this change expressed in most traditional educational systems. As they struggle under the load of more industry-driven, mandated curriculum and data-based evidence of learning outcomes, the human element; the unique offering and experience of each individual, can be undervalued, which can produce a sense of hopelessness in young people who (like all of us) yearn to be ‘seen and heard’.

My philosophy has always been that in order to help a child reach their full potential, that child needs to feel loved, supported, challenged and encouraged. Not in order to fulfill a role as a ‘cog in a wheel’, but to offer humanity and the universe a unique contribution. To be in service from a place of creative, inspired devotion. My hope is to support my students to become responsive (rather than reactive), life-long learners, with curious, open minds and compassionate, open hearts. It is so refreshing and such a privilege to be a part of a community who shares this philosophy.

Annie Willrich

Annie Willrich

Piccabeen (Yr 3) Teacher

I gained my Degree in Education at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. I majored in psychology and sports science as they were my interests at that time. I absolutely loved my years of study there and knew, without a doubt that I had chosen the right career as I knew I wanted students under my care to sincerely believe in themselves and feel valued, supported, understood and encouraged as learners and as people and also to embrace their own subtle individuality and creativity. 

Read more about Annie

It is important to me to foster self- awareness, self-management, motivation &  independence in my students as well and be a catalyst in their life long love of learning.

I have taught at a variety of schools ranging from small schools with a dominant indigenous demographic, such as my first position at Stradbroke Island where I experienced the most amazing professional and personal life, surfing with many of my students and enjoying the rich, indigenous culture to large inner-city schools.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my many and varied teaching experiences spanning over the past three decades of my life and have held a variety of positions within this time. My other passions have included English and Speech and Drama, so I have spent time pursuing an associate degree with Trinity College –London in Speech and Drama ( A. S . D. L – Hons) and another associate degree with Speech and Drama of Australia, (Hons). I have run many drama workshops and staged musicals and child drama productions in Brisbane. I also used my skills to support psychologists and other related professionals with motivating and helping young students in crisis and experiencing difficulty, as an act of service outside of my working life.

Another of my life long passions is yoga. My first experience with it at 16 had such an impact on me that I became a teacher of yoga when I was 23. Yoga plays such an important and integral part of my everyday life and I practice it daily! I engage my students in it daily aswell and have found it has a deep and positive effect on their social and emotional development, health, attitude and therefore their ability to learn.
I am currently teaching Year 3 at our amazing River School and apart from enjoying our beautiful, natural environment  I thrive under the expectation of versatility  and teaching excellence. I am extremely grateful also that I can bring my creativity, love of yoga, my passion for facilitating rich pedagogy to challenge students and support a variety of learning styles and my love of nature all together in the one place. I have certainly found my place here at The River School as it is so important to me to work in an environment with like minded individuals with open, curious and questioning minds and compassionate hearts who wish to make a difference to the world. It is also a privilege to be part of a supportive school community where I feel I belong, as I understand just how important this type of  compassionate scaffolding  is to the life long happiness and development of young students.

Jacki Craggs

Jacki Craggs

Wattles (Year 4) Teacher

I am an experienced middle and upper primary teacher who recently returned to Australia after having spent much of my career in international schools in Asia. Prior to moving overseas I worked in a number of schools in the Northern Territory and Victoria. 

My career has been varied and interesting, having worked with all primary age groups in a variety of classroom settings. I have also worked with a range of curriculum frameworks. This has enabled me to develop into a flexible and innovative teacher. Having led teams in the implementation of new pedagogy and creating scope and sequence documents for the school, I feel confident in all aspects of curriculum design and assessment.

I am a creative and knowledgeable teacher who is passionate about all areas of teaching and learning, particularly mathematics. I am confident in the use of technology and whilst teaching online during school closures I utilised a wide range of resources to enhance student learning and wellbeing.


Read more about Jacki

During the past few years I have become passionate about developing student critical thinking and questioning skills. I have utilised critical thinking tools to enhance student learning and have developed age appropriate challenges which have encouraged creativity, collaboration and communication. I continue to develop my skills in this area and have been fortunate enough to spend time in small seminars with Dr Ron Ritchhart and have completed a course led by The Right Question Institute.

Damian Mitchell

Damian Mitchell

Red Cedar (Year 5/6) Teacher

My 13-year-old son and I moved from the Central Coast of NSW in June 2021 for a lifestyle change and to be closer to family.

In NSW, I was working as a teacher and Head of Middle College at a K-12 Sports College.

The College philosophically aligns with the River School, where we put relationships and nurturing of the students at the forefront of a solid academic experience, plus sport!

I’m looking forward to adding my own flavour to The River School’s learning to complement the overall philosophy and academic experience they’ve had so far.

I love teaching and find it extremely rewarding. I hope to be able to make every child’s experience at school a fun and memorable one.

Racheal Sims

Racheal Sims

LOTE (Japanese) Teacher

On top of my B.Ed degree, I have a graduate certificate teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) as well as a certificate in Permaculture Design and Floristry. I thrive when I am learning new things and spend much of my time undertaking professional development to further my understanding of my students, my job and the world around me. I am familiar with a Neohumanist education and while I have not had direct experience using this philosophy as the basis of instruction, I personally use this approach in my teaching.

Read more about Racheal
Respect, love, connection and communication is essential and this approach promotes healthy relationships and empowers students to realise their potential. I teach on the basis that we all have more in common (rather than prescribing to stereotypes based on gender/race/age) than we have difference and I constantly encourage my students to think outside the box in this way.

I am passionate about education and I love my students and my job. I am invested in children as human beings and worthwhile contributors to our communities. I see a need for an approach that offers children respect and empowers them to be involved in making decisions that affect their lives. I believe that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an essential part of instructional design to fulfil this need; and I utilize creative practices and a variety of sensory activities in my classroom to achieve this.

Teaching Japanese to students K-6 for the last 15 years, I was valued by the school community and led culturally diverse collaboration; organizing many international study tours and partnering with international organizations to facilitate multicultural experiences for students at our school.

I am bilingual (English and Japanese), and I have been instrumental in the introduction and implementation of restorative practices to create and maintain positive, respectful relationships with students.

I am also very happy to have been able to raise the status of the environment amongst staff and students. For the past 3 years I have been able to implement sustainable practices at my school and I am inspired everyday by my students’ commitment and resolve to lead others in this area.

Maria Dodd

Maria Dodd

Empowerment Teacher

I set out with a mission 18 years ago, to equip myself with the skills and knowledge required for a profession where I could have a positive influence on the lives of young people.  Along the way, I engaged in every opportunity I could to not only gain experience, but also to guide or mentor others.

I completed a Bachelor of Psychological Science, with Honours, while raising my own children and working as a teacher aide at the River School.  I further trained and worked part time for three years as a telephone crisis counsellor with Lifeline, followed by a year as a Learning Club Co-ordinator with The Smith Family.

Read more about Maria

These volunteer positions afforded me personal and professional growth while needing to listen, show compassion, empathy, respect and care for the lives of adults and children in need.  Alongside my work and studies, I coached and managed our local Little Athletics Centre for 15 years. The time spent with those wonderfully motivated kids was incredibly rewarding and brought me so much joy.  

I completed my teaching degree in 2013, and prior to my position as the Empowerment Teacher and Sport’s Co-ordinator, I taught years 5 and 6.

I am extremely grateful that I am able to work in a position where I get to ignite a spark in students that can find some aspects of learning challenging.  I help them see their potential and surround them with love, support and encouragement.  Neohumanism is based on the principle that each child has an innate desire to learn and develop themselves, and to have a sense of connection with self and others.  All children develop at their own pace and it is my duty to facilitate their development by empowering them with the skills for greater independence, self-motivation and the ability to problem solve. Further, I aim to foster their sense of belonging and connectedness, while enhancing their physical and spiritual well-being.

Kerrie Kirwan

Kerrie Kirwan


I think from the first day of school in Year One I dreamt of becoming a teacher.  As a little girl we would play schools at home and guess who ALWAYS got to play the role of teacher?  I taught my little brother to read when he was only four years old, I was a very mature nine at the time!  I feel blessed to have been taught by some truly inspiring teachers who have been role models throughout my career.

Read more about Kerrie

I studied in Toowoomba following Year 12 and was posted to Biloela to teach Preschool after graduating.  Most of my teaching career has been spent in the Callide Valley and I think I have taught at every school within a 50 kilometre radius of Biloela except for Biloela State High School.  My teaching roles have been extremely varied and covered a broad spectrum from classroom teaching (Kindergarten to Year 7) to the more specialised roles of Enrichment Coordinator and Teacher Librarian.

I believe that the most important factor that influences learning is the relationship and connection between the students and their teacher.  Once this is established, students feel valued and respected for their beautiful uniqueness and individuality. Coming to The River School was like a breath of fresh air in a teaching career that felt, at the time, a little stale.  I just don’t believe that any other school I have taught in fits so well with my personal beliefs on education and the values and virtues that I hold as central to my core as a human being and as an educator.  In a world that is becoming more disconnected as a result of so many social and technological changes, it is so reassuring to have the opportunity to play a small part in creating the amazing environment that is The River School.  Being the Red Cedars teacher (Year 6) is a huge responsibility and one that I just love.  

It is an honour to have the privilege of guiding our school leaders in their final year at The River School.  They are amazing young men and women who will certainly make a difference in the world.

Rebecca Judah

Rebecca Judah

PA to the Principal & Administration Officer

I feel it is an absolute privilege to be the first person that most people encounter when they are first introduced to The River School.  As the Administration Officer, I thoroughly enjoy the interactions I have on a daily basis with students, families and staff at the school.

Read more about Rebecca

I bring to my role a diverse background of knowledge and skills from my years working in the Finance sector as a Business Analyst as well as my previous career in Hospitality and Events Management.  I have two children who have called The River School home since they were just little 2 years olds at the Early Childhood Centre, with my eldest just graduating Year 6 in 2018.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside them as they’ve grown and the River School has been an absolute haven for them. It has equipped them with the quiet confidence and valuable real life skills that will be essential for the future.

I often say that I have the best job in the world but my favourite part of my job is knowing that students and families always know that they can call on me for help.  My work is diverse and fulfilling and I feel very lucky to be able to build and nurture amazing relationships with our beautiful school community.  

Pira Bereziat

Pira Bereziat

Office Manager

Hello my name is Pira and I am the Office Manager at The River School.

I started my journey at The River School in 2007 whilst working as a one on one student support with a child who was then in year 3.  I am a long time local to Maleny having moved here in 1987.  My husband and I moved north for a couple of years but decided to return to Maleny to raise our 3 daughters.  

Read more about Pira
I was lucky enough to train as a Teacher Aide at The River School and work in the Prep room (it was known as the Sugar Glider class then). I have worked with some amazing teachers, delightful students and their incredible families throughout my time in the classroom. In 2013 I transitioned into the office and have enjoyed the new skills and adventures that have come with the new role.

Quick Links

Latest school events

There are always so many exciting and enriching events and activities happening at The River School. Take a look at some of the latest news from around school and beyond...

Contact Information

The River School
251 Bridge Creek Road  (PO Box 411)  Maleny QLD 4552
Primary School: (07) 5494 3559

Early Childhood: (07) 5499 9359


Latest school events

There are always so many exciting and enriching events and activities happening at The River School. Take a look at some of the latest news from around school and beyond...

Contact Information

The River School
251 Bridge Creek Road  (PO Box 411)  Maleny QLD 4552
Primary School: (07) 5494 3559
Early Childhood Centre: (07) 5499 9359