A fire that devastated a heritage building in Kapunda, near Barossa Valley, has a silver lining for students at the local school who are learning skills to restore it.  

According to the Kapunda High School principal, David Marino, the students at his school are the only ones at the high school level to be offered the stone masonry course to help restore the Eringa building.

The heritage building was built in 1879 and donated to the school by Sir Sidney Kidman. Fire destroyed the building in May 2022.

Students will help restore the historic Eringa building.(Supplied: Department for Education)

“It’s a pretty unique course,” Mr Marino said.

“And I’m informed by the Registered Training Organisation … that it is the only course that’s been run in Australia for high school students,”

What they’ll learn

Mr Marino said the course began in term 4 last year, where students began practising some of the skills of stone masonry.

“Those students are learning all those skills of restoring heritage brick, stone and walls,” he said.

“[They] … are practising for when the actual rebuild starts on Eringa to be involved in various aspects.”

He said the damage was significant, and the stone structure remained strong but in need of restoration.

The restoration of Eringa building is set to begin two years after the fire.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Education Minister Blair Boyer said the school was using the tragedy to contribute to its future in a meaningful way.

“From the ashes, Kapunda High School has risen to the occasion and found an opportunity for its students to learn heritage trade skills and investigate potential future career paths,” Mr Boyer said.

The blaze gutted the historic building at Kapunda High School.(Supplied: SA Police)

A future of learning at the school

Mr Marino said 16 students were enrolled in the original course, which would be continued beyond the restoration of the Eringa building.

“We’ve also got various other buildings across the school, like the Kidman Coach House … so there’s plenty of things for the students to keep learning on and keep practising their skills and contributing to the restoration of the school,” he said.

Sir Sidney Kidman donated the Eringa building to the school.(Supplied: Department for Education)

While the course is currently offered to Kapunda High School students, Mr Marino said it could be offered to students at surrounding schools if they expressed interest.

“If there’s interest in the project, we’ll keep exploring how we might grow it, he said.

“And it is a very niche area in terms of stone masonry.”

Designs for the restoration and rebuild work are expected to be finalised by the end of the year, with work to commence in April 2024. It is expected to cost about $20 million.