How Catholic Schools developed in Australia
The first Catholic Schools were established in Sydney and Melbourne in the late 1820s and early 1830s. They were commenced by the Church to protect the faith of the Catholic children in the colony and run by lay people – mostly parents.
The first schools received some assistance from the Government until the Education Acts of the 1870s. These Acts founded the state school system – they introduced free, secular and compulsory education into Australia.
The response of the Bishops was to develop a Catholic school system with the help of personnel from religious orders and the support of Catholic parents. The majority of religious were from overseas countries. The Catholic school system received no assistance from Government from the 1870s until the 1960s. The self-sacrifice of religious and lay people laid the foundation for the strong Catholic education system of today.
After World War II, increased student numbers, declining numbers of religious teachers and the beginning of the lay teacher era put great pressure on Catholic Schools. There was an urgent need for Government assistance.
Parents and Friends Lobby
In the 1950s parents and friends organisations were formed and the national organization for non-government school parents, the Australian Parents Council (APC), was a result of the Goulburn School closure.
The main goal of the parent network was to persuade Governments, both Commonwealth and State, that there was justice and economic wisdom in financially supporting non-government schools.
A Catholic Schools Parents and Friends organisation for Tasmania
On Sunday 22 November 1959, delegates representing seventeen Catholic schools met at St Patrick's College, Prospect,Tasmania, for the purpose of establishing a Federation of Parents and Friends Associations.
The meeting was opened by Mr W J Keegan who welcomed the 44 delegates present, Mr R D Haley was elected chairman of the meeting and Mr P J Doolan minute secretary.
A constitution was adopted and the following office bearers were elected:
Mr R D Haley, President; Mr W Phillips, Vice President; Mr A Shirley, Secretary and Mr T O'Rourke, Treasurer; Mrs P Finlay and Messrs D A Kearney, J B Polya, A J Bravo, P Lane, L J McConnon, P G Blizzard, R M Mooney elected members of the Council.
In February 1960, Archbishop Sir Guilford Young accepted the office of Patron. He appointed Father J Dolan, Chaplain to the Federation.
The Tasmanian parents made immediate approaches to political parties and had the full support of Archbishop Young who was held in high regard by all political parties in Tasmania.
The political climate at State level with regard to non-government schools was remarkably favourable. The Advocate of 30th April 1959, in summarising the views of the three Tasmanian political parties at this time on the issue of 'state aid' reported "All Political Parties agree in principle." It further reported:
"Leaders of the three political parties in Tasmania, in their policy speeches for the election on 2 May, gave detailed expression to their views on relationships between State finance and non-State schools. This, in itself, remarks an editorial in the Hobart Catholic weekly 'The Standard', is an historic event in Australian life. All parties have given formal recognition of the importance of the place of these schools in the community.Further, every party has promised to do something in the way of using State resources to assist non-State schools."
At this time Mr Reece was Premier of the Tasmanian Labor Government and transport subsidies to parents of children in non-State schools were being paid. Textbook hire, access to government stores and to the Schools Library Service were promises in the future, as were the Liberal Party's promises to allow government-trained teachers to have the choice of teaching in government or non-government schools and to participate in the State Teachers Superannuation Fund.
The newly formed Democratic Labor Party (DLP) said that in the long-term all schooling should be free. In the short term, in addition to the promises of other parties, there should be interest-free long term loans for school buildings. Despite these comforting words and good intentions Tasmanian parents realised there was a long way to go to obtain equitable funding for non-government school children.
The Federation’s newsletter, “Triangle” was first published in 1965. It was used very powerfully and effectively to communicate the case for State Aid.
On the 24th November 2012, the Archbishop of Hobart, formally gave approval for the winding up of the Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents and Friends Federation and the formation of the Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents Council.
This has allowed for a restructuring and the establishment of School/College Community Nominees representing Catholic School communities across the state, who all meet twice per year and any business to be transacted between these meetings, will be undertaken by the Executive Committee.
A copy of the Archbishop’s letter can be viewed by clicking on this link .