“The church has always considered education its mission. Circumstances in Australia have been such that its commitment to catholic education in this country has been quite remarkable, and indeed is seen by others as a distinguishing characteristic of the Australian Church.”
The Catholic Church’s commitment to education in Australia has been quite remarkable, and indeed is seen by others as a distinguishing characteristic of the Australian church. Catholic schools have been a major component of Australian education for over 175 years, during which time they have adapted to changing circumstances and changing times. In recent decades, as both the Church and Australian society have changed, Catholic schools have continued to develop and to grow in quality and public esteem.
Throughout history and throughout the world, the Catholic Church has been concerned with education, schools for catholic children were considered important for both general and religious education. The first priests in the colony of New South Whales faced a hard battle given the low priority of education, the monopoly of the Church of England as regards Church schools, and effective banning of Catholic schools. Catholic school were eventually permitted but were not given any government funding. “however in 1833 Governor Bourke introduced the Denominational systems, providing financial assistance for all Church schools.”(Booklet, pg.12) In the 1850’s and 1860’s government policies in many states began to tighten control, resulting in many Church schools closing which occurred around the same time that non-denominational state schools were being established. Victoria passed its Secular Education Act in 1872 and the other states soon followed, which meant an end of all government funding to non-government schools.
Catholic schools have changed a lot over time and what happened as a result of the secularisation of education is one of the proudest chapters in the history of the Australian Church. The bishops called on Catholics to establish and maintain their own schools and that’s exactly what they did. The rapid growth of Catholic schools created a need for teachers. The call went out to religious orders and congregations of both men and women, mainly in England and Ireland. The response was generous and the number of religious congregations in Australia grew, along with the communities of these groups. In Catholic schools the faith was taught thoroughly and young Australians were trained in doctrine and practice. They aimed to educate their students to a standard that would enable them to make their way in business, trade and the professions. This destroyed the belief that Catholics belonged to the lower socioeconomic levels of society and could not rise beyond them. “By the first half of the 20th century more and more Catholics were beginning to move into positions of influence in Australian society.”(booklet
“Both the Australian and Victorian governments are important providers of funding for Catholic schools along with families who contribute to the costs of Catholic education through fees and fundraising. In 2008, the breakdown of total income by source for Victorian Catholic schools was as follows: Australian Government – 55.2%, Victorian Government – 16.3%, Private sources (mainly school fees) – 28.4%.” (http://www.ceomelb.catholic.edu.au/our-schools/funding-of-catholic-schools/).