Allen S. Roberts B.A., Litt. B., M. Ed., D.C.E., M.A.C.E.

Dr. Allen Roberts is the founder and director of the Australian College of Christian Education, and for many years lectured trainee school teachers at Nepean CAE.

It is not widely known that education in Australia was first established not by the government, but by the Christian Church. In this brief article, the history of Australia's Christian dayschool movement is traced from its colonial beginnings to the year 1880 when government education officially began. The article reveals that the Bible-based church-related school of early colonial times was remarkably successful in meeting the academic and spiritual/moral needs of the younger generation of that day. It also shows that when certain principles undergirding this Christian school movement were disregarded, Australian education began to lose its dynamic. It is suggested that this Christian dynamic can and must be restored to Australian education today.


"I wish to advocate a system, not merely a system of education for the State, but a Scriptural education to train up not moralists but God's worshippers. "

Bishop Nixon, 1843 1

Australia's first church building also served as a schoolhouse. It was erected by Rev. Richard Johnson, the colony's first Chaplain, in 1793 and served the dual purpose of church and school for some five years 2. It is not widely known that the majority of schools established in the infant colony were started by clergymen and supported by small grants from religious bodies and missionary societies 3. Nor is it widely realised that this phenomenon in Australia was but part of the great church-based dayschool movement which developed in several democratic countries during the seventeenth and eighteenth cen turies. The Puritans and Wesleyans like the Presbyterians of Scotland and the Lutherans of Germany and Scandinavia all established schools in which the Bible was the central study and textbook 4

A similar church school tradition was established also in colonial America. In certain respects, Australia and America (both newly settled countries) shared much in common in their early educational histories. Firstly, a pattern of church-based schools, built and staffed by pastors or their nominees was common to both countries. Secondly, both were products of the evangelical tradition of Great Britain. In Ameri ca, the vision for a total missionary outreach which involved teaching as well as preaching was transmitted, for example, through Quaker William Penn and Puritan John Drury. Both of these men along with numerous others who followed them placed heavy emphasis upon the need for religious and moral instruction of the colony's young. In Australia, one sees a similar outreach expressed in the missionary appointment by the evangelical arm of the Church of England of men such as Richard Johnson and Samuel Marsden. Continuing encouragement, both financial and moral, was extended to the Australian church school movement by various British religious societies and leading reformers such as Shaftesbury and Wilberforce. Wesleyan and Presbyterian support was available also to the school-founding missionaries of those denominations in Australia.

The majority of early Australian education then, like that of America and a number of other countries, was initiated not by government legislation but by the Christian church. This historical survey will first involve a brief account of how this occurred. It will then examine the process by which the colonial government gradually began to exert its influence and control over Australian education during the nineteenth century. Such a survey should provide not only the historical perspective so necessary for a proper understanding of the current situation, but should also help clarify the basic principles underlying both church and government education in Australia.

It must be stressed that the kind of historical developments to be examined in this survey have been produced by a complex of factors, not only religious but political and social also. Although reference to a range of these factors will be made, major emphasis will be given to the religious factors. It should be stressed also that the survey is not an attempt to cover Australian educational history from its beginnings to the present time. The first century only will be treated and this period will be divided into three phases.



The Rev. Richard Johnson, first Chaplain to the Australian colony, was deeply concerned about the moral state of the convict population to whom he was to minister. Only three years after the colony's settlement, he began to examine the possibilities of providing some form of Christian education. Johnson wrote to a friend in England asking him to recruit someone prepared to establish schools on Sunday for illiterate convicts in New South Wales "with the intention of bringing some of those unhappy wretches to a better way of thinking. " 5

By 1793, as already noted, Johnson had established the colony's first Christian dayschool for the young and by the end of the following year was able confidently to write to the Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel:

"If any hopes are to be formed of any refermation being affected in this Colony, I believe it must begin amongst those of the rising generation. " 6

The belief that education of the young was of the highest priority, was later echoed by the Rev. Samuel Marsden in a letter addressed to the Bishop of London:

"The future hopes of this Colony depend upon the rising generation-Little can be expected from the Convicts who are grown old in vice, but much may be done for their children under proper Instructions."'

It was not only the clergy who stressed the need for some kind of values for education for the younger generation. Non-clerical government administrators also saw the matter as one of dire need as this excerpt from a Speech by the Rt. Hen. Spencer Percival, Chancellor of the Exchequer, clearly indicates:

"Schools, or some system at least of regulated education in which industry and morals are more attended to than is learning, should be co-ertensive with the youth of the settlement. " 8
Australia's first schoolhouse near Circular Quay, Sydney

Governor King was also deeply concerned about the matter and encouraged the establishing of schools. He was largely responsible for setting up and even financing from his own private funds orphanages for the illegitimate offspring of convicts. Attached to these institutions were schools in which the inmates were taught tailoring, shoemaking and gardening up to the age of fifteen years. 9

There is abundant evidence to suggest that many in positions of authority in Australia around the turn of the century, saw in the moral state of the colony the imminent threat of widespread and irreversible delinquency among the rising generation. 'Ib most of them the obvious solution was some kind of values education and this was automatically seen act the rightful province of the church. Regarding this, Partridge observes:

"... at this stage in the history of educational thinking, it was commonly assumed by respectable people that education (or at any rate the education of children of the lower orders) was an aspect of moral training and that since the Christian faith was the foundation of morality, education was She responsibility of the Church. This piece of European culture of course passed to Australia. It was assumed Shat the churches and religious organisations would care for the education of the young; that the clergy would be responsible for the schools and teachers..." 10

This assumption continued on into the early decades of the nineteenth century and as late as 1830 Bishop Broughton was still able to write to Governor Darling that the only viable solution to the problem of moral degeneracy lay in religious instruction:

"The degraded state of morals which unhappily characterises too great a proportion of the Inhabitants of this town, has unquestionably forced itselffrequently upon the attention of Your Excellency, as it must upon that of every observant person. Nor have I any greater doubt of your entertaining a persuasion that effectual amendment can be expected only from an increase of religious principle, which we cannot hope to witness without adequate provision of the means of religious instruction. " 11

Of course, the protestant churches of early Australia saw education not only as a direct means of inculcating Christian ethics and doctrine, but as a means also of developing widespread literacy, which, as Cleverley rightly paints out, was considered to be fundamental to protestantism itself:

"The argument that teaching the masses to read was essential if Biblical truths were to be revealed to all, was central to the religiolls beliefs of the English phikanthropists of the 1790's who sponsored lending libraries, savings banks and Sunday Schools. " 12

What were the characteristics of Australia's church-based education? Whilst records are not as complete as one would wish, there is nonetheless sufficient evidence to indicate that during this initial phase, church schools were characterised by distinctive approaches to the matters of staffing, curriculum, control and funding. Each of these matters was later to be of crucial importance.

What kinds of teachers were employed in these church schools? Since they were expected to cater for the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of their charges, teachers were expected to be committed Christians. Hence, the Rev. Samuel Marsden called for schoolmaster emigrants who possessed the attributes of "personal Piety and an earnest desire to communicate Christian knowledge." 13

During the very early years, there were of course few persons who were able to so qualify for the post of church school teacher. The following letter indicates something of the problem inherent in choosing the kind of dedicated personnel required. It also provides some interesting insights into late eighteenth century administrative attitudes towards selection of suitable teachers:

"I wish you would send out a few persons with small salaries to take on them the office of schoolmasters. I say small salaries because if you were to give large ones, improper people would accept the situations, if you would let me look out for a few persons, fit for the purpose, I should be greatly obliged to you and I trust you know me well enough to believe me, without reservations that I make the proposal not because I have four or five people that I wish to do jobs for, but because I am desirous of promoting the temporal and eternal happiness of the people who are in question. " 14

In spite of these difficulties, it would appear that the majority of those schoolmasters employed were Christian in their personal belief and commitment to the vocation. A number were in fact missionaries. Matthew Hughes, for example, was described as 'a sincere convert' who had previously been involved in the prayer meetings of John Wesley's people in Ireland. The Kissing Point Chapel Schoolroom in which he operated was consecrated by Marsden and Johnson in July, 1800. At Windsor School, the master was J. Harris an ex-cooper who had previously served as an acting chaplain at Norfolk Island. 15 Harris' Christian background and standing were seen as consistent with the purpose "of illuminating the infant mind by the inculcation of moral principles and the help of such branches of useful instruction as are absolutely necessary to the rescue of the rising generation from the morbid glooms of tgnomnce." 16 The Parramatta School was headmastered by a missionary named Crook and The Portland Head Society for the propagation of Christian Knowledge and the Instruction of Youth (a Presbyterian School) was placed in the care of John Youl, a Church Missionary Society missionary. 17

There were understandable difficulties in securing suitable schoolmasters during this early phase which occasionally led to the appointment of less than ideal personnel. (Johnson for example found it necessary to employ the services of two convict women.) However, in appointments made, great care was taken and every effort made to ensure that those given the responsibility of the spiritual and moral education of the young were themselves sincerely committed to the kind of Christian position deemed appropriate for the task. The undoubted sim during this early phase was Christian teachers for Christian schools- an aim which appears to have been largely achieved.

What kinds of curricula were employed in early colonial church schools? Since there was during this phase a very real conviction that the essential task of education was a spiritual and moral one, there was an understandable emphasis upon this task in school curricula. In fact, much of the evidence available indicates that the Biblical truths and teaching which embodied the Christian doctrines of these schools were given a position of centrality in curricula. Reading, writing and those various other areas requiring treatment were correlated with the central core of Christian doctrinal teaching. The school in the daub and wattle church in Sydney's Hyde Park being "conceived in the Protestant vernacular tradition expounded by Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth century" 18 featured a curriculum of this kind. The children who attended it were required to memorise the church catechism and recite it back to Rev. Johnson on Mondays. Their singing involved Isaac Watts hymns and their Dixon's Speller, in addition to the A B C and selected syllables, contained prose excerpts with a religious and moralistic intent of a Christian kind. Towards the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, Australian church education began to reflect the influence of the monitorial system which had become very popular in Britain by that time. The system involved schemes devised by the Anglican Dr. Andrew Bell and Quaker Joseph Lancaster. Monitorial schools utilised the idea that the teacher teaches the older more competent students who in turn teach the lower grades. Using this approach the originators claimed it was possible to establish a ratio of one teacher to every five hundred children. In Britain, by 1820, some quarter of a million school children were enrolled in monitorial schools. 20 The system appeared to have obvious advantages to Australian schools, the vast majority of which by this time were still church sponsored. Here it seemed was a way of catering for a large number of children with the minimum number of teachers who were not only difficult to secure, but costly to support. The system also had the advantage of being conceived and developed by Christian men whose aims coincided with the aims of those at work in Australia. This is quite clear from Dr. Bell's own statement of objectives for his monitorial schools:

"... to imbue the minds of my pupils with the principles of morality and of our holy religion and infuse or spirit and habit of diligence and industry, so as at once to supply the necessities of the community and promote the welfare of the individual, two objects indissolubly united in every well regulated state. " 21

"The Lancaster monitorial model was used by Crook in his Anglican school. Methodists Bowden and Hosking used it also. In 1820 Rev. Reddal was sent specially from Eng land to establish the Anglican model in ALLstralia and Governor Bigge actually selected it as the best basis for the colony's reorganised education system." 22

An examination of the details of the monitorial system reveals a number of principles and even techniques which have quite recently been revived and successfully applied within Christian schools. 23 Although teaching approaches varied during this initial phase, church school curricula were in general Bible based.

How were early colonial schools controlled and funded? As already mentioned, during these very early years, the churches and their missionary societies supplied the vast majority of financial support for schools which were essentially under their control . This policy was consistent with the churchs' view that establishing, staffing and controlling their schools was their own responsibility. Furthermore, this view was the commonly accepted one, for the great public school system had not yet come into being and the role of the government in education was not accepted as it is now. Certainly government funding was not seen as the normal way to support schools. There were many in fact who felt quite strongly that government aid was not in the best interests of education at all. The British particularly, it would appear, put very little trust in State aid and their efforts were as much directed at inhibiting as encouragingit. na In Australia, during this early phase, the churches made the most strenuous efforts to support their own schools. However, it is important to note that those who established church schools did receive some assistance from government resources. The Anglican schools particularly received this assistance in the setting aside of specially apportioned plots of land for churches and schools. They were also given some help in erecting buildings and in staffing. Although the church school movement was accepted as a basically autonomous venture, the principle of government funding was certainly implied if not applied on a large scale. In later phases, the need for many more schools in the colony imposed very heavy burdens upon the churches and missionary societies undertaking the work. This, as an examination of Phase II will clearly reveal, was to result ultimately in church requests for government assistance, which, when it was given, gradually increased and brought with it the inevitable government control. During this early phase, those church-sponsored schools, which comprised the majority of institutions in Australia, were characterised by personally committed Christian staff, Bible-based curricula and largely non-government control and funding.

How successful was this early form of church-based education? The assessment of even a currently operating system of education is fraught with difficulties. However, to assess meaningfully the effectiveness of a number of schools which functioned over a century and a half ago is extremely difficult indeed. Records are never as plentiful or as appropriate as one would desire and there is always the danger that one will tend to generalise too widely from what is available. In spite of these problems, it would seem that a somewhat cautious attempt ought to be made to evaluate certain aspects of the work of church schools in their attempts to educate the native born. Two areas of achievement will be examined. The first of these is the area of literacy development and the second that of moral behaviour. Concerning literacy, it is of course not possible to estimate accurately the extent to which schooling of the kind discussed above resulted in a rise in literacy levels in the colony. However, as Cleverley suggests, it is quite probeble that the changes in literacy levels which do appear to have occurred in New South Wales in the early years can be attributed in part to the schooling received by several hundred youngsters from 1792 onwards. 25. Mr. V. Goodwin who made a count of the marriage registers still extant in a number of the early colonial churches at Sydney, Parramatta and Windsor for the years 1804 and 1814, found that 55 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women born outside the colony could sign their names, the remainder marking the register with an 'X". He found however that for the same period the percentage of those born in the colony who could sign their names was 63 per cent of men and 69 per cent of women. Of course it cannot be assumed that signatures in church registers can be taken as entirely valid indications of literacy. Nor can it be assumed that these rising literacy rates occurred solely because of schooling. However, in spite of such qualifications it would not seem unreasonable to argue (as does Cleverley) that "the long tradition of schooling in New South Wales contributed its measure to the comparatively high level of literacy among the native born." 26

Concerning moral behaviour there are several indications that the colony's native born children were generally held in higher regard and had a lower crime rate than did convicts, emancipists and free immigrants. Governor Bigge having observed evidence of moral growth in the native born, recommended that they be eligible for land grants and loans of cattle and that they be called for jury service. n Bigge's opinion was shared by a number of others. Peter Cunningham in the 1820's writing of the colony's native born claimed:

".... they are a little tainted with the vices so prominent among their parents! Drunkenness is almost unknown with them and honesty proverbial; the few of them that have been convicted having acted under the bad auspices of their parents or relatives..."

"The young girls are of mild-tempered, modest disposition, possessing such simplicity of character; and like all children of nature, credulous and easily led into error. The lower classes are anxious to get into respectable service, from a laudable wish to be independent, and escape from the tutelage of their often profligate parents. " 28

A correspondent in The Edinburgh Review in 1828 described the native born as "in a more than ordinary degree, temperate and honest." 28 Whilst it could be claimed that these opinions reported in the contemporary press were possibly subjective and perhaps even politically motivated, they are of some significance when taken along with other evidences.

The most significant evidence that the native born were the least criminal class in the colony has emerged from an analysis by Ward and MacNab of early nineteenth century Sydney Goal committals. This analysis revealed an average index of only 3.43 per thousand for the native born in contrast to 4.23 for free immigrants, 15.4 for emancipists and 10.4 for convicts 30 The following comment by Sir W.W. Burton, Judge of the Supreme Court, indicates that he was impressed by the law-abiding nature of the native born and concerning them wrote:

"There was not one of them ever tried before the writer for any of those atrocious crimes which are attributed to their country, but belong only to the convict class; nor did he hear or know of any person born in the colony, being tried for or even charged with, either the offence of rape or any other Iicentious crime; nor has he ever found any offence committed by any one of them, such as to call upon him to pronounce sentence of death; and no such sentence has ever been. passed within his knowledge, or any crime committed with such a degree of violence as justify it. " 31

There are certainly a number of quite significant indications that Governor Macquarie was correct when he claimed that the colonists were more regular in their Conduct, More temperate in their Habits and infinitely more Moral and religious than they Were" when he first arrived in the country. In addition to this, it would seem reasonable to assume, as did the Rev. Samuel Marsden, that there was some connection between the sobriety, honesty and industry of the native born and their education in Christian schools during this early phase. 32



The second phase in early Australian education was characterised by a number of decades of denominational disquiet. By this time a number of denominations were involved in dayschool education. The colonial government was faced with the problem of handling equitably the claims of each. Most of the Government's solutions were spectacularly unsuccessful and eventually led to compromise. The Anglican Church was favoured by the home government and this brought forth opposition from the Presbyterians and Roman Catholics. It must be remembered that a number of those in the denominations represented feared that the sectarian strife, even persecution, which had earlier occurred in Great Britain might be reproduced in Australia. There is little doubt that a good deal of denominational suspicion and rivalry came to the country with the First Fleet.

The first major problem came with the setting up in 1830 of The Church and Schools Corporation. The home government using this legislation set apart one seventh of crown lands in each country "for the maintenance and support of the clergy and the established Church of England... and the maintenance and support of schools and schoolmasters in connection with the established church." 33 The scheme favoured the Anglican Church so strongly that it soon aroused antagonism from other denominations.

The nature of Roman Catholic opposition emerges clearly from this reaction from Father J.J. Therry written in 1825:

"And as from a document which has been recently published, it may be inferred that public provision is to be made fbr protestant parochial schools erclusively, and that, the children of the Catholic poor are to be either ercluded from the salutary benefrts of BdlLcation or compelled or enticed to abandon the truly venerable religion of their ancestors according to the past or present system of the orphan school establishment in the colony, and that as the lesser of these evils it is to be deprecated as a most serious one, the Roman Catholic Chaplain, with the fond hope of obuiating both is determined 'deo adjuvante' immediately to form a Roman Catholic Edumtion Society into which however persons of any persuasion may be admitted on subscribing to its funds Nteen shillings a year or one shilling and threepence a month. " 34

Opposition was also forthcoming from Presbyterian Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang. 35

By 1830, the reaction to The Church and Schools Corporation was so strong that the government abandoned it. By 1833 the scheme had been officially dissolved.

The next attempt to solve the sectarian problem was a scheme known as The Irish National System. It was endorsed by Governor Bourke in 1833. se The essential features of this scheme were that children of all denominations would be accepted into the schools and while approved extracts from Scripture would be read, no other religious instruction would be given by teachers. Clergymen however were to have permission to enter the schools on one day per week to provide religious instruction to the children of their own denomination. Like its predecessor, this scheme also brought forth vociferous opposition. Anglican Bishop Broughton was quick to see in the plan a serious violation of the basic principles on which protestantism rests; namely free access to the Scriptures:

"I lay my finger upon this principle and I say this is the bone and plague spot which infects the whole system. llb this as a Protestant I must object in tote.... What does Protestantism rest upon, upon this principle... that Holy Scripture contains all the things necessary to salvation; and that the use of it should be free to every man who has a soul to be saved. " 37

Bishop Broughton went on in the same address to make clear that the scheme would receive his support only if the free use of Scriptures was guaranteed:

"I cannot unite myself with your entire system because it does not include all which I think desirable.., but if, in the agreement in doctrine to which you've already come, the free use of the Scriptures shall be established... and no doctrine to be taught in your School adverse to the Church ofEngland, I shall most cordially wish God-speed to all who engage in 60 good a work; and will most cheerfully contribute my influence and recommendatian towards obtaining for you a share of the public support. 38

Broughton's strong stand on the principle that the Bible must be retained "in all its unmutilated completeness and in all its unsullied purity " 39 was strongly endorsed by the fiery Presbyterian Rev. Dr. John Dunmore

Lang. In 1840, Lang formulated a devastating attack on the Irish National System of Education. 40 The attack was joined by several others including John Locke 41 and Bishop Nixon in Tasmania. 42

Although their opposition was countered by a Select Committee in 1844 43 the introduction of the scheme was defeated, at least temporarily. Two factors of considerable significance emerge from developments at this time. The first concerns the fact that The Irish National System embodied the pattern which some forty to fifty years later was to characterise Australian public education. The second was that at this time Governor Bourke officially made the very strong and clear claim that public education is the responsibility of government. In writing to the Secretary of State of the Colonies, Bourke claimed:

"that government took the lead in their institution (that is of the schools) fixing the places from time to time where they should be established as population increased, erecting the schoolhouses and assisting luellqualified masters and mistresses to be brought from England if need required. I may without fear of contradiction, assert, that in no part of the world is the general education of the people a more sacred and necessary part of the government than in New South Wales." 44

The next scheme to be established was known as the Dual System which virtually ushered in the great compromise period in Australian education. It involved two government appointed boards; one the National Board, which was to control government schools, and the other, the Denominational Board, which was to attend to the supervision and distribution of funds made available to private schools by the government.

The years following 1848 were actually a transitional period which ultimately raw the almost complete victory of government education over that sponsored by the church. A number of factors operated during the period to produce this.

As the population increased, church and missionary society resources were not adequate to handle the situation, with the result that first Lang 45 and later Broughton, two of the strongest opponents of the government system, finally capitulated. Because government resources were increasingly called upon, the number of public schools expanded. In all the colonies, conditions called for State aid. In South Australia, the newly elected Legislative Council failed in 1851 to renew the Church ordinance, and withdrew all support from non-government schools and became the first state to commit itself to non-denominational education. The two boards of the Dual System were officially abolished in 1866. Griffiths presents Council of Education statistics which indicate a remarkable increase in the enrolments of New South Wales public schools and a decline in those of denominational schools in the next decade or so. In the year 1867 public schools contained 28,000 pupils and in 1879 this number had more than trebled having reached 88,000. Denominational schools in contrast, had reduced from an enrolment of 317,000 to 33,000 over the same period." a Partridge stresses two other factors which contributed to the triumph of government education. The first of these factors was the changing character of the Australian colonial communities. 47 Austin writing particularly of Victoria's gold rush immigrants says, "her aggressive, radical newcomers were producing a society which was more irreligious, more anti-clerical, than any other in Australia. 48 The second factor was the influence of Australian democracy in its emergent form. The notion that it was the government's responsibility to provide the essential needs of the common man was already abroad and was to be increasingly voiced in the demand for public education.

Phase II then saw a decline in church schools and a vast increase in government schooling and government control of education. By the end of the phase, prior to the eighties, those church schools which did continue had already yielded up much of the autonomy and character which they possessed in the earlier phase. State education, however, was moving swiftly towards a position of religious compromise which was to be legislatively embalmed for the ensuing century in a number of Public Instruction Acts.



The New South Wales Public Instruction Act of 1880 was typical of a number of acts passed in six of the colonial states of Australia Through these sets, public education became strictly secular in the sense that assistance to church schools was abolished. The New South Wales 1880 Act set down clearly the nature of teachings in public schools and the conditions under which religious instruction was to be given:

"ln all Schools under the Act, the teaching shall be strictly non-sectarian but the words 'secular instruction' shall be held to include the general religious teaching as distinct from dogmatical or polemical theology. " 49

It also stated that:

"In every public school four hours during each day shall be devoted to secular inslruction exclusively and a portion of each day, not more than one hour, shall be set apart when the children of any one religious persuasion may be instructed by the clergyman or other religious teacher of such persuasion." 50

This act, like those passed in other states, was a culmination of what has been called the "drive towards a centralised, unified, rigorously standardised system of schools." 51 It is more than this however. It reveals some of the most basic assumptions upon which Australian State education has operated for the past century. An understanding of the philosophy underlying this important act is the key to understanding the contemporary values education situation in Australia. It is doubtful whether one could find more pertinent comments concerning its philosophy either for or against it--than those made around the time of this legislation's enactment. The two camps were sharply divided and their philosophical dissonance emerges clearly in a number of remarkably insightful observations recorded in the documents of the period. The central issue, although complicated and clouded by certain administrative and political factors, was the place of moral and religious teaching in the emerging educational order. Should education function (as State educators claimed) on a religiously neutral basis, or should it embody moral and religious teaching? (the position maintained by a much reduced minority of church school administrators). The two positions were perhaps best represented by Wilkins and Vaughan respectively.

William Wilkins was Chief Inspector for the National Board of Education in New South Wales. He was for several years prior to the Public Education Act of 1880, one of the most vocal supporters of the kind of national education system eventually ratified within that act. In a pamphlet entitled National Education: An Exposition of the National System of New South Wales, Wilkins wrote:

"The characteristics of the national system resulting from the adoption of religious neu trality as its central principle are: firstly its unity mainly in its laws and its administration... it is more readily supervised, more effectively controlled and so much more cheaply administered. Its second great characteristic is its comprehensiveness." 52

Although this central principle of religious neutrality was extolled as a virtue by Wilkins and his supporters, others saw it as a dire threat to Australian education.

Archbishop Vaughan was one of these and attacked the principle of neutrality in a series of pastorals and speeches on education delivered in 1880. He described the government system as "godless education, " consisting of "schools which the church knows from experience will in the course of time Fit the country with indifferentists not to speak of absolute infidels. " 53

He also gave reasons why a policy of religious neutrality would not operate effectively when he wrote:

"There is one greater curse in the world than ignorance and that is instruction apart from moral and religious teaching. To instruct the masses in reading writing and arithmetic and to leave out religion and morality is to arm them with instruments for committing crime... A great deal has been said in the colony about the crime that proceeds from want of schools; very little about the still greater amount of crime which is produced by training the intellectual faculties whilst the will and the animal passions are allowed to run loose." 54

Vaughan then went on to predict state schools which would be "seed plots of future immorality, infidelity and lawlessness, being calculated to debase the standard of human excellence, and to corrupt the political, social and individual life offuture citizens." 55

There are those who would claim that this prophecy is now being fulfilled in Australia, exactly one hundred years after it was made. They cite evidence to show that the government policy of 'religious neutrality' has resulted in a tragic loss of spiritual and moral bearings with a subsequent lowering of standards in our schools. There are many Australian parents and teachers who realise today, as did Archbishop Vaughan a century ago, that no education system in a Judeo-Christian culture can be built upon a foundation of 'religious neutrality'. In rapidly increasing numbers, these people are exploring means whereby Australia's Christian school heritage might be regained. As a result, in recent years, a large number ofnon-government schools have been established and staffed by Biblebelieving Australian churches. PPlany of these schools are offering today high quality programmes which embody the same principles applied so successfully in early Australian Christian schools.

These institutions, like their colonial prototypes have been established on the Biblical basis that:

"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of thy children." lsaiah 54:13)

When viewed from this Biblical perspective, it is clear that there is in Australia an urgent need for Bible-based church-related dayschools administered and staffed by Godly men and women who are committed to exalt Christ as Saviour and Lord that His values might become the values of the next generation.


  1. Bishop Nixon, Launceston Examiner 8th November, 1843.
  2. N. K. Macintosh, The Reverend Richard Johnson (Sydney: Pilgrim International Ltd., 1975) p. Id.
  3. P. H. Partridge, Society Schools and Progress in Australia (Sydney. Pergamon Press, 1969/, p.ll.
  4. H.G. Good, A History of American Education (New York): Macmillan and Co., 1962), p. 80.
  5. R. Johnson, Correspondence, Johnson to Fridrer, 4th October, 1792, n.p. (SPG).
  6. R Johnson, Correspondence, Johnson to secretary 6th December, 1784, n.p. (SPC).
  7. Rev. S. Marsden (to the Bishop of London, 11th March, 1821.
  8. Rt. Hen. Spencer Percival, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Speech, 27th December, 1807, HH New South Wales, Vol. VI, p. 393.
  9. J. Cleverley, The First Generation School and Society in Early Australia. (Sydney University Press, 1971) P. 93.
  10. Partridge, Society Schools and Progress in Australia, p.ll.
  11. J. Woolmingon, Religion in Early Australia. The Problem of Church and State (Stanmore, New South Wales: Cassell. 1967), p. 148.
  12. Cleverley,The First Generation, p.45.
  13. Ibid,p. 137.
  14. Wilberforce to Dundas, 7th August, 1792, HR New South Wales, Vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 634.
  15. Cleverley.The First Generation. p.81.
  16. Sydney Gazette. 26th August, 1804.
  17. King to Hobart, 1st March, 1804, HR New South Wales, Vol. V, p. 324.
  18. Cleverley,The First Generation. p.44.
  19. Ibid,p.45.
  20. Ibid., p. 132.
  21. A. Bell, An Analysis of the Experiment in Education Made at Egmore, near Madras (London, 1807), p.v. quoted in Cleverley, The First Generation, p. 133.
  22. Commissioner Bigge, ill, p. 75, quoted in Cleverley. The First Generation, p. 133.
  23. The Accelerated Christian Education dayschool programme currently used in over 3,000 schools worldwide, embodies a number of features used in the monitorial system.
  24. Cleverley, The First Generation, p.130.
  25. Ibid,p. 134.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.,p.135.
  28. P. Cunningham, 100 Years in New South Wales (Vol. II, pp. 47, 49), quoted in Cleverley. The First Generation, p. 135.
  29. W. Hughes, The Australian Colonies. p.11, quoted in Cleverley, The First Generation, p. 135.
  30. McNab and Ward, Nature and Nurture. p301, quoted in Cleverley, The First Generation, p. 135.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid., p. 136.C
  33. A. G. Austin, Select Documents in Australian Education 1789-1900 (Melbourne: Pitman Publishing Ltd., 1972), Chapter 1, No. 6.
  34. Father J.J. Therry to Editor of The Sydney Gazette. 14th June, 1825 from Lirr and Letters of archpriest John Joseph Therry (Sydney, 1922), p. 75 quoted in Austin, Select Documents. Chapter 1, No. 9.
  35. Rev. Dr. J. Dunmore Lang, enclosed in Lindesey to Coderich, 14th November, 1831, DB A I, mi, 202-203.
  36. Governor Bourke to Stanley, 30th September, 1833, Hansard, 3rd Series hi, 124461, quoted in Austin, Select Documents.
  37. Bishop Broughton, Speech delivered at the General Committee on Wednesday 3rd August, 1836 by the Bishop of Australia, Sydney. 1836, pp. 5-23, quoted in Austin, Select Documents, Chapter 2, No. 17(a).
  38. Ibid.
  39. Bishop Broughton, Speech delivered at General Committee of Protestants, Friday 5th August, 1836, quoted in D.C. Griffiths. Documents on the Establishment of Education in New South Wales, 1789-1800 (Melbourne, 1957), p.52 from HH A Vol. 70, p.30.
  40. Rev. Dr. J. Dunmore Lang, An Historical and Statistical Almanac of New South Wales (London, 1840) Vol. II, pp. 365-7.
  41. pp. 87-90, quoted in Austin, Select Documents, Chapter 2, No. 25.
  42. Bishop Nixon, Launceston Examiner, 8th November, 1843.
  43. Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council, First June, 1844, quoted in Griffiths, Documents on the Establishment of Education in New South Wales.
  44. Historical Records of Australia, Vol. 17, p. 230, quoted in Griffiths, Documents on the Establishment of Education in New South Wales.
  45. Austin, Select Documents. Chapter 2, No. 19.
  46. Griffiths, Documents on the Establishment of Education in New South Wales, p. 136.
  47. Partridge, Society Schools and Progress in Australia, p.l8.
  48. A.G. Austin, Australian Education, 1788-1910; Church, State and Public Education in Colonial Australia (Melbourne. 1961), p.22.
  49. New South Wales Department of Public Instruction, The Public Education Act of 1850 and Regulations Thereunder. Section 7 (Sydney: Government Printer, 1912).
  50. Ibid.
  51. Partridge, Society Schools and Progress in Australia. p.20.
  52. Griffiths, Documents on the Establishment of Education in New South Wales, p.103, quoted in Partridge, Society Schools and Progress in Australia, p.20.
  53. Archbishop Vaughan. Pastorals and Speeches on Education (Sydney: Flanagan, 1980) quoted in Partridge. Society Schools and Progress in Australia, p. 26.
  54. Ibid.,p.27.
  55. Ibid.

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