The Catholic School
The Catholic school has as its specific mission and duty the Christian formation of its pupils within a community of faith. The school is a special place where the subjects taught enable the student to assimilate skills, knowledge, intellectual methods and moral and social attitudes.
Quality Christian education demands constant self-reflection and renewal which will ensure a clear catholic identity for the school.
Collaboration by parents, teachers and students is essential to maintaining faithfulness to the school's mission.
History of Catholic Schools in Australia
Throughout history and throughout the world, the Catholic church has been concerned with education, culture and welfare as well as spreading the Word of God. The Catholic church's participation in the early settlement of Australia was no exception.
The first Catholic schools, humble as they were, sprang up in the Sydney area in the 1830s. They were run mainly by lay people. The first Catholic school in Victoria, established in Melbourne in 1840 by Father Patrick Geoghagan, was similarly run by lay people.
Queensland followed closely with the first Catholic schools being established in the late 1850s and 60s. In 1860, there were four schools and no religious sisters in Queensland. By 1878 there were 33 schools and 130 religious sisters.
Education in Australia became free, secular and compulsory with the Education Acts of the 1870s and 80s. Prior to this, the government had provided some assistance to Catholic schools, but all aid ceased on introduction of the legislation.
The Catholic community - bishops, priests and parents - made it clear that they wanted Catholic schools to continue and were prepared to make sacrifices to have them.
In response to these new circumstances, religious brothers and sisters and priests came to Australia from Europe. They were supported by local vocations and the founding of new orders (eg Josephites, Good Samaritans), and together they shared the task of providing Catholic education in Australia with the laity.
These religious orders, supported by lay teachers, have made an enormous contribution to Australian learning and culture over the past 150 years. Australia as a nation has benefited greatly from the massive influence of Christianity flowing from the Catholic school sector. A solid base has been laid for Catholic schools to flourish in Australia.
The Battle for Educational Justice
Despite tireless efforts by church leaders and lay people, bids in the late 19th century for “state aid” for Catholic education failed. Growing Catholic resentment at this lack of assistance saw the formation of a Catholic Federation in 1911 to apply political pressure. The Democratic Party, formed in NSW at this time, fielded candidates to stand for Parliament. When it failed to win seats, the Catholic Federation fell apart.
Efforts during the 1930s to gain tax concessions also failed. It wasn't until a post-World War II change in community attitudes that progress was finally made.
The Post-War Era
The Australian community became increasingly tolerant of Catholic schools following World War II. The exact reason is unclear, but the unifying and maturing effect of the war effort and resultant broadening of Australian minds no doubt contributed significantly.
In the late 1950s and early 60s, Catholic schools in Australia increased their enrolments rapidly as a result of the post-war baby boom and a major flow of migrants to Australia. Vocations to religious orders were declining and still no government money was provided to Catholic schools other than minor assistance such as the scholarship scheme in Queensland.
However, with improved community attitudes Parents & Friends Associations were formed first in Western Australia and quickly spread to other parts of Australia. The P&F policy was to make friends and influence people, thereby building on the goodwill that now existed.