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Timeline 1788-1899

1789 1790 1796 1815-22 1821 1822-3 1825 1827 1829 1832
1837 1848 1849 1853 1858-9 1866 1870s 1874 1875 1880
1882 1883 1884 1887 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1899


The capture and English education of Bennelong

Governor Arthur Phillip organised the capture of Bennelong.

Phillip attempted to teach Bennelong about English language and culture and to learn about Aboriginal people from Bennelong.

References: Dark (1966) pp 84–85; Heiss & McCormack (2002)

Associate Professor Anita Heiss (Wiradjuri) and Terri McCormack discussed Bennelong’s attempt to educate non-Aboriginal people about his culture:

‘While Bennelong suffered from the worst aspects of enculturation, he also represents those who tried to change the behaviour of Europeans on Aboriginal lands.’

– Heiss & McCormack (2002).

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Attempts to educate individual Aboriginal children

Convict George Bath ‘adopted’ and provided a European style education for ‘James’ whose parents were shot by non-Aboriginal people near Toongabbie (Sydney).

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 15.

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An early Aboriginal experience of a NSW school

Reverend Samuel Marsden attempted to provide a British education for ‘Tristan’ and sent him to school in Parramatta.

‘Tristan’ was one of the earliest known Aboriginal people to attend a NSW school.

The Marsden family attempted to train him as their house servant but he ran away from them in Rio while travelling to England in 1807. He eventually boarded a ship back to Sydney and died soon after arriving home.

After this event, Marsden claimed that nothing could be done to educate Aboriginal people.

References: Bridges (1968) p 228; Fletcher (1989a) p 15.

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Parramatta Native Institution (Sydney)

The Native Institution was an ‘experiment’ in education established by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and former missionary William Shelley.

Aboriginal children (who educators thought were more easily influenced than adults) were taught to be labourers and servants for colonists.

They were instructed in basic literacy skills, agriculture and craft and encouraged to convert to Christianity.

Some students were brought to the school by force, and students were separated from their Aboriginal families and cultural influences.

While several students achieved excellent results, they chose to return to their communities after schooling.

References: J. Brook & J.L. Kohen (1991), Chapter 4; Read (2006); Fletcher (1989a) pp 19–21.

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Student achievement

An Aboriginal student at the Native Institution and Sunday school received top marks in her examinations, ahead of non-Aboriginal students.

References: Brook and Kohen (1991) pp 250–251; Duncan (1997) p 193.

A reporter noted:

‘…a black girl of fourteen years of age between three or four years in the school, bore away the chief prize, much to the satisfaction of the worthy judges and auditors.’

Sydney Gazette 17 April 1819, cited in Brook & Kohen (1991) p 251.

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Native Institution at the Black Town (Sydney)

The Native Institution was relocated to Black Town, on one of the earliest land grants to Aboriginal people assigned to Nurragingy-Colebee by Governor Macquarie.

Problems with the Parramatta site including epidemics, partly contributed to the decision to relocate the school.

Proximity to the Blacktown Aboriginal community and access to farms for practical teaching also influenced the move.

Approximately 12 students attended.

References: Brook & Kohen (1991) pp 38–46, p 87, Chapter 7 pp 132–157; Fletcher (1989a) pp 21–22.

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Aboriginal students at Liverpool Orphan School (Sydney)

Several students from the Blacktown Native Institution were moved to the Liverpool ‘Orphan’ School as part of a mixed schooling trial.

Governor Brisbane wanted to see if mixed schooling at the Orphan School would lead to the assimilation of Aboriginal children.

References: Brook & Kohen (1991) pp 240–241; Fletcher (1989a) p 22.

Mission education at Lake Macquarie (Central Coast NSW)

Reverend Threlkeld established a London Missionary Society mission at Lake Macquarie to preach Christianity to local Awabakal people.

Later Threlkeld learnt from Biraban (John McGill) how to speak Awabakal.

Under Biraban’s tuition, Threlkeld eventually interpreted for Aboriginal prisoners at trials and published early studies of the Awabakal language.

References: Bridges (1968) pp 233–234; Gunson (1967) pp 528–530.

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Scott-Hall segregated school established at Blacktown (Sydney)

NZ Missionary William Hall and Archdeacon Scott attempted to revive the Native Institution at Blacktown.

Maori, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children attended, though classes were racially segregated.

Reading and writing lessons were provided and boys were trained in carpentry.

Fletcher (1989a) pp 22–23; Brook & Kohen (1991) Chapter 10, pp 204–228.

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Black Town Aboriginal School closed

Remaining students were sent to Liverpool to complete their education with Reverend Cartwright as their teacher.

Cartwright wanted the children to remain segregated from the rest of the colony.

Students ran away frequently.

References: Brook & Kohen (1991) p 225; Bridges (1968) pp 232–233; Ramsland (1986) pp 33–37.

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Anglican Church Missionary Society establishes Wellington mission and school (northern NSW)

Reverend Handt and Reverend William Watson established a Christian mission and school at Wellington.

They taught Aboriginal children using visual and oral approaches as well as music, recognising and using connections with Aboriginal education techniques.

Attendance was eventually forced, and parents hid their children, fearing their removal.

References: Fletcher (1989a) pp 24–26; Edwards & Read (1997) p xi.

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Select Committee of House of Commons (UK) inquired into the conditions of Indigenous people in British Colonies

The Select Committee recommended a system of Protectors for Aboriginal people in Victoria, which influenced policy in NSW.

The committee was influenced by the emerging anti-slavery movement in the UK.

References: Fletcher (1989a) pp 26–28.

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Peak education management established

The Denominational (religious) Schools Board and Board of National Education (secular) were appointed to manage colonial education.

Governor Fitzroy referred Earl Grey’s proposal of sending Aboriginal children to existing schools and creating boarding schools in remote areas to these peak bodies.

References: Fletcher (1989a) pp 31–35.

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NSW Select Committee decides against investing in Aboriginal education

The Select Committee reviewed previous efforts and experiments in education for Indigenous people.

They decided Aboriginal people could not be ‘changed’ by European education.

Education funds were directed towards educating non-Aboriginal children rather than Aboriginal students.

Reference: Fletcher (1989b) p 39.

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The NSW Board of National Education rejects boarding school proposal

The NSW Board of National Education rejected Grey’s mixed boarding schools proposal.

They regarded efforts at providing education for Aboriginal people to be futile.

References: Fletcher (1989a) pp 34–35; Parbury (1999) p 67.

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Aboriginal student’s achievement at Fort St Public School

At Fort St Public School (Sydney) an Aboriginal student came first in Geography two years in a row.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 38.

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NSW Council of Education formed

The Council of Education was made responsible for managing government schooling.

Public Schools Act established

The Public Schools Act stated that provisional schools could be set up for 15–24 pupils who attended regularly.

Half-time schools could be established for 10 pupils in an area.

References: Fletcher (1989a) p 52; pp 81–82.

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Aboriginal children enrolled in public schools

Some Aboriginal parents enrolled their children in schools around the state.

Population growth, the expansion of public schools, and increasing Aboriginal employment on rural properties contributed to higher Aboriginal student enrolments.

Several parents wanted their children to learn skills to improve their children’s economic and social prospects.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) pp 37–38.

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Malgoa Mission School established (south-western NSW)

Daniel and Janet Mathews established the Christian Malgoa Mission School near the Murray River.

They taught basic maths, writing and singing to approximately 25 Aboriginal students.

After numerous rejections, the mission received government funding after 1881.

Sunday schools and other church-based societies supported the school too.

References: Fletcher (1989b) p 60; Fletcher (1989a), pp 42–49, Brady (1996).

Dr Wendy Brady, a Wiradjuri academic, argued in her thesis that the mission schools were experimenting with education as the missionaries tried to convert Aboriginal people to Christianity. (Brady, 1996)

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Rooty Hill Public School established (Sydney)

The NSW Council of Education agreed to establish a school at Rooty Hill, where 25 Aboriginal children, including the extended Locke family, lived.

Many Locke descendents still live in the area today.

The Rooty Hill site was close to the previous Native Institution, marking a connection between Aboriginal communities and education in the area.

References: Fletcher (1989b) p58; Fletcher (1989a) pp 39–40; Brook & Kohen (1991) p 240, p 259.

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NSW Public Instruction Act

Henry Parkes’s NSW government oversaw the introduction of free, compulsory and secular education.

Primary schools were to be ‘free and fair’, open to all children of school age within 2km of a school – though in practice access was often not equal.

Aboriginal families in many areas enrolled their children in public schools.

Approximately 100 Aboriginal students were enrolled by the end of the 1870s, mainly in the heavily populated coastal areas.

The Council of Education became the NSW Department of Education.

References: Fletcher (1989a) p 40; Duncan (1997) p 194.

Warangesda Aboriginal School becomes a government school (south-western NSW)

Warangesda Mission School opened and run by Reverend Gribble for non-Aboriginal (15) and Aboriginal (27) students.

The school became segregated after a school inspector’s visit, as he regarded mixed education as ‘improper’.

Warangesda became the first Aboriginal school to become a government school.

Children were placed in separate dormitories and sent out to ‘service’ from this school, a precursor to Cootamundra Training Home and Kinchela Boys Home.

Wiradjuri parents protested to the APB about their children being taken away.

Historian Peter Read estimates that 300 girls were sent to service from Warangesda before 1909.

References: Brady (1992) pp 94–98; Elphick (1989) p 41, pp 41–72; Read (1984) p 11.

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Number of Aboriginal children attending schools

A census conducted by the Protector of Aborigines NSW stated that 200 Aboriginal children were attending school in NSW out of approximately 1500 school-age children

References: Fletcher (1989a), p 54.

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Brungle Aboriginal School established (south-western NSW)

Schools were established on some Aboriginal reserves (which did not have an on-site manager) and stations (which had a manager present) such as Brungle Station, after Aboriginal students were refused entry to some public schools.

In other cases they attended local public schools, if there was no non-Aboriginal outcry, for example Botany Heads Public (later La Perouse) and Sandringham Public (Sydney).

References: Goodall (1996) p 110; Duncan (1997) p 194.

Aboriginal students attend Botany Heads School (La Perouse)

Botany Heads (later La Perouse) Public School records mention the attendance of nine Aboriginal children from La Perouse camp.

It is likely that Aboriginal children attended this school with other local children from its commencement in 1868.

References: Mission Publications of Australia (1968), p 8.

Aboriginal children were prevented from attending Yass Public School (southern NSW)

Yass Public school expelled all 15 Aboriginal students from the school after non-Aboriginal parents complained about them attending.

The Catholic school enrolled them, but in a segregated class.

The Minister for Education publicly accepted the case for exclusions of Aboriginal students from schools in NSW when local non-Aboriginal communities excluded their children.

References: Fletcher (1989b) p 74; Goodall (1996) p 110.

The Minister for Education stated after the Yass dispute:

‘No child whatever its creed or colour or circumstances ought to be excluded from a public school. But cases may arise, especially among Aboriginal tribes, where the admission of a child or children may be prejudical to the whole school.’

Minister for Education, George Reid, 1884 cited in Fletcher (1989b) p 74.

Aborigines Protection Board (APB) established

The APB consisted of members of charity bodies, government, police and the legal fields – all non-Aboriginal representatives.

Local police were often used to enact policies, distribute rations and clothing to the sick and aged, and to ‘encourage’ working age men and women to join the cash economy.

The Board favoured segregated government-run stations and supported the existence of separate schools if communities were isolated.

If indigenous children lived close to public schools, the APB supported their attendance.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) pp 57–60.

TAFE begins

The Board of Technical Education assumed management of Sydney Technical School.

TAFE NSW system commenced.

Reference: DET (1983) p 9.

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NSW Education Minister’s policy on Aboriginal schooling

The Minister for Education favoured separate schools in areas with large Aboriginal populations.

Where there were few Aboriginal students they were to attend the nearest public school if they were ‘habitually clean, decently clad and they conduct themselves with propriety…’

Reference: Fletcher (1989b) pp 74–75.

Killawarra school boycott (north coast NSW)

Non-Aboriginal parents of students at Killawarra Public threatened to boycott the school after an Aboriginal girl attended.

While the Inspector agreed with the non-Aboriginal parents’ position, the Education Minister overrode the decision and she was allowed to stay.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 64.

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Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School established (south coast NSW) Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School established (south coast NSW)

Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School was established on the request of local people, after the NSW Parkes government rejected their appeals for support in 1880 to attend local schools.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 65.

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Forster School exclusions (north coast NSW)

Non-Aboriginal parents demanded the exclusion of 11 Aboriginal students at Forster claiming they were a ‘dangerous presence’.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 67.

Brewarrina Aboriginal School opens (northern NSW)

Brewarrina Mission Station Provisional School commenced.

Jimmy Barker who later completed numerous recordings with Janet Mathews, attended the school as a child from 1912.

He experienced violence from some teachers, but others were encouraging.

He taught himself to read, outside school hours.

Reference: Barker (rev. ed. 1988) pp 56–65.

‘School started in early February, and I shall never forget my first day. Billy and I sat together both feeling very nervous. It was on this day that I learnt how unacceptable Aborigines are to other people. The manager [Scott] told us straight out that we were just nothing… He said it was not much use trying to teach us and that he wanted to make it clear that it was a complete waste of time. I had never before encountered the cruelty and brutality which surrounded us here, and it was a shock to find that this could occur.’

Barker (1988) p 56.

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Gulargambone Public School exclusions (central west NSW)

Aboriginal students were excluded from Gulargambone Public after petitions were sent by non-Aboriginal parents to the Department of Education.

Though the teacher pointed out they could not be excluded under the ‘clean, clad and courteous’ directive, the Department recommended their exclusion.

References: SRNSW, NRS 3829 [5/16180.2] f.308, 312, 333–4,324–5

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North coast school exclusions

Rollands Plains, Wauchope and Pelican Island (north coast NSW) Aboriginal schools established after complaints from non-Aboriginal parents about their attendance at local public schools.

References: Fletcher (1989a) p 68; Goodall (1996) pp 109–110.

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Downgrading of the curriculum for Aboriginal school students

The Aboriginal schools’ course of study was set at a lower standard than that of public schools.

Teachers employed at these schools were often not qualified and the buildings and equipment provided were frequently poor.

Reference: Fletcher (1989b) p 101.

More segregated schools established in north coast and southern NSW towns

Segregated schools established at Grafton, Cabbage Tree Island (north coast) and Cowra (south-west).

15 of 27 separate schools established between 1883–1909 were established on the north coast according to Goodall.

Aboriginal reserves and independent farms were under pressure from non-Aboriginal communities and closer settlement policies in relation to land.

References: Fletcher (1989a) p 69; Goodall (1996) p 110.

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A simplified syllabus developed for Aboriginal Schools

The APB requested a modified and less challenging version of syllabus for Aboriginal schools, to which the Education Board agreed.

Reference: Fletcher (1989a) p 84.

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Gulargambone protests result in separate schools (central west NSW)

Non-Aboriginal parents withdrew their children from the Gulargambone Public School after Aboriginal students attended.

Various education officials visited and found the children to be acceptable for school attendance, yet the Department still decided to exclude the Aboriginal students.

The separate Gulargambone Aboriginal School was built.

References: SRNSW Gulargambone Aboriginal School 1876–1939, NRS 3829 [5/16180.2]

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