Mooroolbark Technical School, (which became Mooroolbark Secondary College) opened in Reay Road in 1962 with 97 year 7 students.
The nineteen and a half acres were purchased by the Education Department from Mr. and Mrs. Mackay, owners of the property since 1944 when they had bought it from the original owners, the McIlwraiths. The original property, consisting of 81 acres, was a Crown Grant issued to Mr. Hugh McIlwraith in 1857 and it became a highly productive dairy farm. The old homestead, built mostly of bush timber and blackwood, and covered with shingles and iron, stood adjacent to the school. It was “done up” for the Mackays to live in after the school was built. The “Lilydale Express” 1964, describes how the school building site was once an old horse works, where a draft horse would circle round and round grinding the chaff.
When the school opened it was bursting at the seams, with all rooms capable of taking a class or even part of one being utilised, including storerooms and the staffroom. Extra portables were brought in, and stage two of the building programme began within two years of its opening.
By 1965 it was obvious that the frenetic growth in the Eastern suburbs and in Mooroolbark in particular (then the fastest growing suburb in Melbourne) meant there was a need for another school. Parents from the local primary schools, Mooroolbark, Pembroke, Kilsyth and Montrose formed committees to lobby for a new high school. In 1967 16 acres (6.5 hectares) was purchased by the Education Department for a new school and construction work began after some delays in 1969.
Planning for the new school – to be known as Pembroke High – was carried out under the guidance of the newly appointed principal Mr Harold Lacy who was serving as the principal of Ouyen High School. Items such as school uniform, insignia and school bag design required committee members to make the long trip by car to Ouyen to obtain Mr Lacy’s approval. On one such trip the car radiator boiled turning the journey into a nightmare.
Pembroke High School opened in 1968 with 86 students and four teachers in temporary accommodation at what is now the site of Melba College’s senior school but was then known as Croydon West High School. In 1970 new buildings were finally opened in Cambridge Road and officially opened by the then Governor of Victoria – Sir Rohan Delacombe on November 14, 1972. As the school was called Pembroke High it was decided to adopt the heraldic insignia of the Welsh city of Pembroke – a griffin rampart. Several years later it was discovered that the school had adopted the insignia of the Welsh city of Cardiff by mistake.
During the 1970s both Mooroolbark Tech and Pembroke High had problems shared by many schools in Victoria. Insufficient forward planning by both State and Federal governments had resulted in a lack of qualified teachers. For several years Pembroke operated without a full complement of teachers, making use of young teachers from the United States and even running a 9-day fortnight for some year levels. Whilst definitely chaotic, those early days are remembered fondly by many of the staff and students.
By 1974 Pembroke’s student population had reached 900 and a new principal, Mr Murdoch Neilson was appointed. After a herculean effort in planning and opening the school, Mr Lacy was seriously injured in a car accident whilst travelling to a school camp. Sadly his wife, travelling with him at the time, was killed. Students from the school formed a guard of honour at her funeral in recognition of Mr Harold Lacy’s immense contribution to the school in those formative years.
In 1994 it was decided to merge Pembroke and Mooroolbark Tech and two years later Mount Evelyn Secondary College was added to form a three-campus school. By the early 2000s the original buildings of both Mooroolbark campuses were well and truly showing their age and it was decided to demolish the old Mooroolbark Technical site and build a fresh, $22million campus. The new campus was completed in 2013 and the original buildings on Cambridge Road demolished and the site closed. This coincided with a new name and identity for the college with the launch of Yarra Hills Secondary College.
Mt Evelyn campus began its life back in 1978 after much community consultation.
Local Shire Mayor Gwen Hardy had a large input to starting a school in Mt Evelyn, along with many other dignitaries of the area. The land was originally owned by the Morrison family where their home was situated. The family home then became Morrison House which was eventually demolished and was rebuilt into the buildings that exist today.
In 1978 many portables were moved to land which once housed cherry orchards. As Mt Evelyn Technical School, it began with a few portables until the permanent core buildings were completed 8 years later in 1986. Many of the original maps of those buildings still exist around the school today. The Shire also built the surrounding sporting facilities which were available to the school during school hours; part of the community aspect of Mt Evelyn Campus. More portable classrooms were moved to various parts of the school to accommodate the growing numbers. Student numbers peaked during the late 80’s at the time the State Government decided that technical schools would no longer exist and all secondary schools would be renamed. Thus the name changed to Mt Evelyn Secondary School. Competition with other local colleges affected Mt Evelyn’s enrolments and with increasing Government pressure to rationalise schools with low numbers, Mt Evelyn Secondary School amalgamated with Pembroke High School in 1995. Pembroke had already merged with Mooroolbark Technical School the previous year and the new multi-campus Pembroke Secondary College came into being. The Mt Evelyn Campus retained students at levels 7-10 with VCE students attending the Mooroolbark Campus.
The Campus continues to be a Community focused school continuing the values and focus of the Strategic Plan that underpinned its birth.