Pioneer School

Sorell School is “the oldest continually operating public school in Australia having provided education and care on the same site for children and families of the Sorell community since the school opened in 1821.” Retaining that distinction is a source of great pride for the Sorell community. 
As described in our history journal Pitt Water Chronicles Vol 2, the Pioneer Village is a collection of buildings on the Sorell School Farm that depict the life of the early settlers of Sorell.
Established in 1979 and expanded over the years with the support of the school community and local families, the Pioneer Village includes an olden days school room; a drapery shop; a post office; a doctor’s rooms; a working blacksmith shop; a tea room and history room to name a few. A yarning circle added in 2012 is a focus for learning about the Aboriginal heritage of Sorell and surrounding districts.


The driving force behind this outstanding educational facility was teacher and local historian Moya Sharpe, who celebrated 50 years of teaching in 2018.

At a time when the risk benefits of nature-based outdoor education and experiential learning are being rediscovered worldwide, Moya Sharpe has been a leading example for decades.

Moya inspired the joy of learning that has shone on the faces of students and families celebrating Heritage Day each May, with many former students who once dressed in period costume and danced with Miss Sharpe, watching on with pride as their own children performed. Heritage Day has been a long standing feature of the Sorell School calendar, with proceeds from stalls and other activities going to fund the Pioneer Village upkeep.

Moya Sharpe and students celebrating Heritage Day and her 40 years teaching at Sorell School, May 2015

Moya started teaching in 1968, moved to Sorell School in 1975 and retired in 2019. Our community is indebted to Moya for the way she continued to inspire generations of children at Sorell School and through her many history initiatives that have built community connectedness and created an important legacy in Sorell and the south-east.

Moya also co-founded Southern Beaches Historical Society in 2003 and has led many significant community history projects and successful community events including:

  • History Room at the Pioneer Village
  • Annual Heritage Day at Sorell School
  • Lagoon Farm history sign at Okines Beach, Dodges Ferry
  • Princess Royal history sign at Gary Street, Lewisham
  • Samuel Thorne Reserve at Lewisham
  • Mumirimina sign at Blue Lagoon wetland, Dodges Ferry
  • Neil Davis commemorative sign at Sorell School
  • Sorell School student Landcare activities at Sorell and Dodges Ferry
  • Carlton Post Office restoration
  • CamKids volunteer teaching and fundraising
  • Jazz by the Sea annual community concerts at Dodges Ferry
  • South East Community Band
Of all her many achievements, the Pioneer Village is the boldest and most precious to the children of Sorell and their families.

We believe that the most respectful and fitting tribute to Moya’s dedication and inspiring career is a secure long term future for the Pioneer School buildings and artefacts. 
In the lead up to the school’s 200th anniversary in 2021 we look forward to seeing the Pioneer Village made an essential component of Sorell School redevelopment plans, and that a suitably skilled person be employed to follow in Moya’s footsteps and continue the Pioneer School teaching program which is such an important and unique part of the culture of the Sorell School Community.