A Primary School for Active & Creative Learners.

Darlingia is an independent, parent-run, primary school focusing on hands-on, outdoor education for active and creative learners.

Our Philosophy

Darlingia Forest School follows an eclectic mix of alternative schooling philosophies including Democratic Education, Forest Learning, and Place-Based Education. From these philosophies we have taken three themes: Voice, Connection to Self, and Connection to People & Place. These philosophies shape how, where, and when we teach the Australian Curriculum.


We believe children need to have a voice in the decisions that affect them. By allowing children to practise making decisions we aim to develop autonomy, critical thinking and communication skills.


We believe children need time for self-directed play and learning. By providing children time for self-directed learning and play, we aim to develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and good mental health.

People & Place

We believe children need to interact with their local community and environment. By using place-based pedagogy we aim to build connections and contribute to the quality of our community and environment.

Our journey to now

In March 2017, Deborah Schiel Zaini started a group on Facebook looking for like-minded parents and teachers; parents and teachers in Innisfail who wanted alternatives to the State and Catholic/Christian schools available in the area.

Many years and many hands later, not one but two small independent schools now offer an alternative option for families in the Cassowary Coast region.

Home away from home

Our school building is a quaint Art Deco house on a quarter-acre suburban block in Innisfail, Far North Queensland. We are conveniently located on Mourilyan Road, on the local TransNorth #803 bus route, just a two-minute drive or 15-minute walk from the centre of town.

As a home away from home, children are free to wear what they want, lunch is prepared and shared together, plus books and materials are included. This means there is no extra cost for uniforms, no book lists, no lunch boxes, and no fees for weekly excursions.

All this at no extra cost







Our teachers

Gabrielle Kennedy

Gabby is a secondary trained teacher with over 20 years of experience in the Northern Territory, predominantly in the Primary Years.

With extensive experience in English as a Second Language pedagogy, she believes that the strategies used here help all children learn. Experienced in the Special Education space she knows that tailored learning and associated techniques also help children learn.

She is excited to be part of the school, blending evidence based techniques into a Forest School environment.

An advocate of UNICEF, she believes “play based learning continues to be critical, yet it is often neglected in favour of academic focused education approaches. Yet in this period, active play based learning approaches can transform the educational experiences of children in the early primary grades and strengthen learning motivation and outcomes.”

Deborah Schiel Zaini

Twenty years ago, after a holiday in Far North Queensland, I fell in love with the region’s tropical rainforests and decided to make Innisfail my home. I taught at various schools in and around Innisfail, became an Australian citizen in 2007, and married a local farmer a few years later. 

When our eldest child approached school age, I started looking into alternatives to traditional schooling. Why? Because everyone is different. Diversity is good! But while mainstream school works well for many, it doesn’t work for everyone. And, other than homeschooling, there weren’t many other options available for families to choose from until now.

Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Darlingia Forest School has allowed us as parents to choose a personalised, hands-on education for our active, autonomous, and creative children.

Jake Stockley

Jake was born in a remote Aboriginal community and was raised speaking and respecting the language and culture of the Yolŋu people.  He completed his schooling at Flying Fish Point State School and Innisfail State High School, then onto James Cook University in Cairns. 

Jake has worked across a wide range of education settings including as a classroom teacher, school camp leader, team building facilitator, manager, and teacher trainer. Jake has spent many years living and working as an educator in Aboriginal communities in Australia and in developing countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam. As part of his recent work at Yirrkala, Jake was part of a team that developed a comprehensive learning app for the iPad aimed at improving Aboriginal students’ first language phonics development.

We welcome Jake to Darlingia as a highly experienced classroom teacher. Having lived in the region for much of his life, he now returns home to share his wealth of local, national, and international knowledge and experiences with our learning community.

How you can support our school

Quote scheme ID# C10400187 when you drop off your containers & the change will go directly to our school’s account.

Please like & share our Facebook page to help spread the news of our school throughout the region.

Send us a gift voucher that will help add to our school’s teaching & learning resources: admin@darlingia.org

Send us a message