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 Pademelon family, 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.

Read more...

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

Principal

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.

Kristy O'Neill

Kristy O'Neill

Deputy Principal

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.

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.

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.

Trudi Cauley

Trudi Cauley

Pademelon (Year 1) Teacher

I was 20 years old when I graduated from Teachers College.  I had no way of knowing the life lessons that this chosen career path would unfold before me, but I did know that teaching in a classroom did not appeal to me at the time.  Keen for an adventure I taught School of the Air for several years in Western NSW and after that went on to spend two years mentoring teachers in Cambodian village schools. To skim the surface, these experiences forever cemented my passion for community based Education.
Read more about Trudi

When I returned to Australia, a friend called me to say a school was opening in Maleny and “I just know you should teach there”.  In the River School’s first year we had 16 students ranging from Year One to Year Seven.  Many of these kids have grown to become remarkable adults who explain with conviction, how the River School has shaped their lives, my own two children included. Some of them now send their own children to the River School.  I know because I have seen from the passing of time, that our students believe in themselves and their agency to make the world a better place.  

Since then, I have studied a Graduate Diploma at UQ in Social Work Community Development and a Graduate Certificate in Gestalt Therapy.  As well, I am a qualified Parent Effectiveness Trainer and have completed Facilitator Training in Community Conferencing Restorative Practice which forms the basis of our school’s behaviour management approach.  I have worked for several years in the Community Sector as a Program Manager for a National pilot Early Intervention Program and taught in Special Education with Education Qld.

I believe that my role as a teacher is to build a sense of belonging to a community for the students, outside of their home. My classroom is a family that genuinely cares for every member. I work with the students to build their skills in negotiation, so they can create together and repair their relationships.  I believe that education should empower children to trust in their own experience and learn from each other. In my experience we are both simultaneously teachers and students. Our personal circumstances are always related to a shared global experience.  I help children to make these connections so that they can become a person with a more compassionate and global outlook.

Shelene Black

Shelene Black

Kingfisher Year 2/3 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.

Belinda Gicquel

Belinda Gicquel

Piccabeen Year 4 Teacher

I was born and raised in South Africa, and having also lived in France, I have now lived in Australia for the past twenty years, with nineteen of those spent in Maleny. I speak four languages and love the ethos of the River School, particularly the focus on inclusion and diversity. Myself and my husband Denis have four children, all of whom have attended the River School, and it was The River School that first inspired me to retrain as a teacher.

Read more about Belinda

I have a passion for literacy, and I am a trained “7 Steps to Writing Success” coach. I am also trained as a facilitator in the “Celebration Day for Girls”, a beautiful rite of passage for girls approaching puberty which we celebrate at our school. I am currently undergoing my own further studies, completing my Masters in Education through QUT.

Annie Willrich

Annie Willrich

Yr 5 (Regents) 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 five 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.

Kerrie Kirwan

Kerrie Kirwan

Year 6 Teacher

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.

Kester Chalkley

Kester Chalkley

Music Teacher

I am passionate about the performing arts. I live, breathe and dream them.  I have been a professional performer for the last 25 years and toured all around the East Coast of Australia, Hong Kong, England and Scotland as a dancer.

As a musician I played in the band Frenzi that achieved JJJ and Rage airplay as well as having my compositions placed in short Australian films. I have recently been endorsed by the guitar company Fretlight in recognition of my teaching and performing.

Read more about Kester

As an actor I have featured in a number of short Australian films and many stage plays.
My aim in the River School arts program is to nurture artists. I believe everyone is inherently a musician, dancer and actor and given the right mix of environmental factors, can express themselves in ways far deeper than words, as the abstract language of the arts is universal thus it highlights the fact that we are all connected. I believe the arts take a central role in Neo-humanist education for just this reason – connection.

Alieta Belle

Alieta Belle

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!

Maria Dodd

Maria Dodd

Empowerment & Sports 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.

Rebecca Judah

Rebecca Judah

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.  

Didi Ananda Tapomaya

Didi Ananda Tapomaya

Spiritual Advisor/Acarya

I was born and grew up in Northern Finland, where on clear, frosty evenings you could see mysterious lights of Aurora Borealis on the starry skies, and on mid-summer nights the sun would not set at all. Living with nature and with natural elements has, since then, been very important aspect to me.

In upper primary school I gradually became fascinated by different cultures and languages and dreamt of travelling the world. Off I went to study theatre-drama in Denmark where I also learnt meditation. It set my mind onto a special quest to find out more about how to connect inner peace and joy, and how to teach those techniques to others.

Read more about Didi
A’carya’ means one who not only teaches techniques and knowledge, but also who teaches through one’s own behavior. In a way all people engaged in teaching are setting an example with their own manner of interacting with others and environment. For my A’carya’ training I went to Sweden where, for a year, I did intensive meditations and study of Neohumanism, ancient and modern yoga philosophies and social service.

My last part of the training was in India, where I experienced a huge culture shock. Afterwards I understood the value of the experience of being a penniless nun novice in a third world country. My perspectives changed drastically, I got a chance to really dive deeper than the surface, and adjust wherever I am. I also found the value of compassion, when people much poorer than I were ever so ready to offer their hospitality, and with a big smile.

For some reason, I then was often sent to different ‘hot-spots’ on the globe; and I have enjoyed my postings immensely. The first one was in South-Africa, where I learnt to drive, run government-funded feeding programs and supervise a small shanty-town kindergarten. I gained confidence and understanding on what really unites humans across all cultures and traditions.

I was then placed to work in Malta, where for five years I taught yoga classes, which were highly popular. Together with the local people we were able to fundraise and purchase an 11-room house, just within our budget, which we renovated and nowadays functions as a busy Neohumanist community centre and an afternoon school hub.
Then off I went to Brazil, South America, where I supervised a primary school and several kindergartens in southern city of Porto Alegre. I also lived and worked in Paraguay and Colombia, where I learnt to tell jokes in Spanish.

Next stop for me was Melbourne where I was the manager of the Sunrise Preschool for five years. Then I was here in Queensland helping out at our River School EEC for couple of years. For my following assignment I was asked to be a part of restarting our yoga programs in Central and North America.

As of November 2017 I have been here in Maleny, happy being part of the River School community again. I feel honored to be teaching here and I am looking forward to creating beautiful connections with all.

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
admin@riverschool.com.au

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
admin@riverschool.com.au