The fire

In November 1994, the Flynn community awoke to find the north-eastern wing of the school had been burnt in an arson attack by youths. The building was demolished shortly afterwards, in an action that was illegal because there was no approval (an approved development application is required to demolish a building in the ACT).

Showing the close connections in Flynn, the community had started asking questions about the demolition because parents at the school had helped build the school in the 1970s. They couldn’t believe that a solid, poured concrete building with walls that were two or three feet thick and a ceiling supported by heavy-duty metal beams would need to be demolished, and so very quickly at that.

This began a two-year campaign to have the wing rebuilt. The government insisted for a time that the community would have to raise $60,000 before it would start planning or works, which led to the now famous ‘buy a brick’ campaign. This was and still is unique – there is no record of any other public school being asked to fund reconstruction of government property. Eventually the wing was rebuilt: funds were raised, the department was reminded that the demolition was illegal, and there was a change of government after an ACT election.

The newly constructed wing was reopened in 1996 as a community resource centre, which was to be a showcase for allowing community access to ACT schools. At the Flynn community’s insistence, Enrico Taglietti was asked to design the building, which he did. Although the new building lacks the spectacular open spaces and withdrawal rooms of the original, it is still significant in terms of the architectural consistency and the value to the community of the wing. One wall is covered with name plaques from the ‘buy a brick’ campaign.

The Flynn fire had one lasting effect on ACT Government policy. ACT public buildings at the time were not insured: Flynn’s reconstruction cost around $600,000 in 1995–96. As a direct result of the Flynn fire, the ACT Government now insures all public buildings with an external insurer.

Images from Flynn

Angles on the textured concrete walls


Flynn grounds

Landscape setting & grounds

Enrico Taglietti visting the school he designed

History and design

Memorial to John Flynn

Memorial to John Flynn