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Education in the bush

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The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 22 June 1848



To the Editors of the Sydney Morning Herald,

GENTLEMEN, – The post has just brought me your report of the debate on education in the bush; the result being that £1500 have been voted, confining the expenditure to schools conducted on Lord Stanley’s national system.

Allusions were made to New England, and I conceive that my duty both to those among whom I labour, and to myself, requires that I endeavour to correct misapprehension on so important a subject.

The member for Sydney asked “What religion there is beyond the boundaries ?” adding “If there is any, they are not indebted to the clergy for it, for he never heard of one visiting the districts, except perhaps a stray itinerant Catholic.” Now that this is unfair, and to a great extent untrue, will be seen by the following facts :- Out of our small community, a congregation of more than sixty people assembled at Armidale yesterday. On Easter Day the congregation could not be accommodated in the Court-house, which was then used for public worship ; and fourteen persons partook of the Holy communion. And as to visiting, I find by my note-book that during the five months of the present year which have passed I have travelled 1358 miles in visiting the stations in this district, or 3250 miles per annum. If it be true that there is little religion beyond the boundaries, and I do not deny it, how should it be otherwise? Yet it would have been more becoming both in a legislator and a Christian if instead of being ” the first to cast a stone at us” he had helped to send us some of the light which he enjoys, and which is apparently superfluous for his necessities. But bad ye are, ye bushmen, and bad you may remain !

I can corroborate Mr. Wentworth’s statement that Roman Catholics are often content to send their children to Protestant schools ; I have myself taught them; abstaining strictly from attempts to make proselytes directly or indirectly, teaching the grand doctrines of Christianity, and leaving the rest to their parents. And by God’s help I hope to be in a position to be able to offer to do so again. Government aid is virtually denied us, but we have built a school-room of our own without it. The Roman Catholics have done the same ; and if those buildings are to remain useless except of places of worship, let the blame rest where it is due.

Honorable members were in error in saying that there are two schools in Armidale. There is neither Church of England nor Roman Catholic school in the district. There was indeed a private school, and when the master gave it up I continued to instruct the children gratuitously for two months before last Christmas, hoping to get another master; none, however, was found, and my duties called me elsewhere.

I said that government aid was virtually denied us – for this reason :- the school-house to which I refer was built on these terms, viz., that although “children of all denominations would be admitted, the sole control as to instruction would be vested in the Church of England clergyman at Armidale.” It would I think be impossible for any conscientious clergyman to connect himself with a school receiving boarders, (in which Mr. Cowper well observed the children would be”as a large family.”) and feel himself precluded from calling them together morning and evening for family prayer.

The school-house, of which I have spoken, is a substantial brick building, containing a large dormitory intended for boys ; and what is now wanted is a schoolmaster’s residence, sufficiently large to allow him to receive girls also. If this were done, a respectable married man would find himself well supported, and a properly conducted school would be an inestimable benefit to tho community. The cost of such would be from £200 to £300. And I feel assured that if such a boarding school were provided, the gentlemen in this district would assist their poorer neighbours to take advantage of it. But they cannot build the house and pay for the children also. I appeal then, from the representatives of the people to the people themselves. I ask them not to stand by and see us struggling ineffectually in such a cause, when so little is required.

Twelve years and more have some of these lands been occupied. Immense sums have been paid into the revenue, and yet nothing has been done on this all important subject. I have met with children who, I believe, never heard the word “God,” except in the mouth of the blasphemer. And parents who, when urged to assist their children, have unblushingly told me that “they gave them a bellyful of victuals, and that was all they could do for them.”

Truly, the Colonial Secretary was right when he said this was a “disgrace.” And what has been done for religious instruction among bushmen in other ways ? In most squatting districts, nothing at all. In this one, since March, 1846 £100 a year has been given for the support of a clergyman ! I feel myself fully entitled in thus appealing to our fellow-colonists. Let them judge between the Council and us, and I hope that they will not hesitate either to express their opinion of this vote, or to counteract its evil consequences by assisting us in our necessity.

You will much oblige me by inserting this letter in your valuable publication.

I am, Gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,


Armidale, New England, June 12.

Written by macalba

April 9, 2013 at 9:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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