Graeme Irwin AM – Executive Principal
Graeme Irwin AM is the founding principal of St Philip’s Christian College and has been leading the school since its inception in 1982. Two years out of University and in his late twenties Graeme took a faith step as he, with one other teacher by his side, launched St Philip’s Christian College in a church hall with 25 students. By 1984 growth was so rapid that the acquisition of property became an imminent requirement. It was in this year that the school purchased the Wesley Haven nursing home in High Street, Waratah. By 1988, St Philip’s was taking students through to the HSC, only 6 years after it commenced with a high school of three Year 7 students. The College was quickly gaining a reputation for excellence in all areas. This first College in Waratah now has over 1400 students.
It soon became apparent to Graeme that there were a vast number of families seeking holistic education for their children and that God was calling him to establish more schools. St Philip’s Christian College Port Stephens was established in 1995 and has now grown to over 700 students. In his journey with the education system, Graeme observed many students who could not be adequately catered for in a mainstream education environment. A small alternative environment was needed for students whose learning and behaviour needs required specialised attention. Another area of need identified was young mothers who struggled because their education was prematurely stopped with the birth of a baby they wanted to raise themselves. And so in 1997 DALE (Dynamic Alternative Learning Environment) School began with the Young Mothers Program being established in 2000.
These programs weren’t just groundbreaking in Newcastle but in the entire nation. There are now five DALE campuses associated with the St Philip's group of schools and the two Young Mothers Programs have transitioned to stand-alone schools now known as the Young Parents School, catering for both mothers and fathers and their infants. In 2004 Graeme also took on the development of Cessnock Christian School and to date it has grown to over 1100 students. St Philip’s Christian College Cessnock resides on a large property in Nulkaba in the heart of the Hunter Valley.
In 2007 Graeme was again approached to take on a school on the Central Coast that was in rapid decline. Not one to shy away from a challenge, St Philip’s Christian College Gosford became the fifth St Philip’s school and has continued to experience solid growth and a renewed sense of excitement and momentum.
Early learning has been another venture that has met with great success as the group now has six Early Learning Centres across the region. Graeme has led the St Philip’s Christian College group to where it is today - schools of excellence and passion. Passion for quality education but, above all, a passion for God and seeing students receive a holistic education and excel in every area of their life. First and foremost, Graeme is a family man. He is married to Sue and they have three sons and a daughter. His relationship with his family has always taken precedence and his children are a testimony to the godly influence of Graeme in their lives.