Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

1954: University of New England finally achieves autonomy

NSW Education Minister and later Labor Premier Robert Heffron. His desire to create correspondence courses for teachers finally gave New England the opportunity to achieve autonomy as a university. This  is the thirteenth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the eighth on the early days of the University of New England. I am pausing the series here for the present because of length and will resume later.

Despite progress in some areas, at the start of 1953 the New England University College was struggling to some degree The number of students was much the same as it had been in 1948, while the dream of autonomy seemed as far off as ever. Then, as had happened at the time of its establishment, the political stars aligned.

NSW Education Minister Robert Heffron and his Department wanted to create correspondence courses to assist teachers to upgrade their skills. The University of Sydney politely but obdurately refused to cooperate on academic grounds. In the view of the University and its senior academics, standards could not be maintained, a real university education provided, through correspondence education.

Heffron had not previously been a strong supporter of the College. The changes that he had steered through the NSW education system including the establishment of the NSW University of Technology had effectively starved New England of the funds it needed to develop and achieve autonomy. Now Heffron looked to the College as an alternative to Sydney.

Many NEUC academics had similar reservations to their Sydney colleagues. Indeed, those reservations would not really subside until the more mature and motivated external students started to outperform their internal colleagues. However, Robert Madgwick as Warden felt that the proposal fitted his vision of broader education and was in the best interests of the College and therefore pushed the matter.

There were significant practical difficulties in suddenly adding the activity to an already resource constrained College. .In August 1953 Belshaw, again Acting Warden, advised Minister Heffron and Harold Wyndham as Director-General of Education that the new university would lack the resources to introduce external studies courses before 1955.

This created an acute political problem for Minister Heffron. In the discussions that followed, the NEUC Council finally agreed that they had no choice but to accept and also accept the Minister’s request that the new University should provide support to the newly established Newcastle University College, a college of the University of New South Wales.

On 3 November 1953, Belshaw advised that despite his Council’s reservations, “in the circumstances they would make every effort to ensure that the scheme is successful”. In December 1953, legislation was passed creating the University of New England with effect from 1 February 1954. Autonomy had finally been achieved.

I can understand both the practical and academic reservations about the proposal. However, as in 1928 with the Teachers’ College, 1938 with the University College, perfection is not always possible. Sometimes, you just have to grab your chances while you can. In this case, the decision provided a fundamental base for the subsequent growth of the University of New England.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 18 April 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Creating the Parthenon on the Hill; establishment and early life of the Armidale Teachers’ College

Presentation by Jim Belshaw to mark the launch of the permanent Hinton exhibition, New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, Saturday 17 February 2018. 
The art gallery we stand in today was constructed on the old Armidale Teachers’ College playing fields[1]. The art collection that we celebrate today was donated to the Armidale Teachers’ College by that remarkable man Howard Hinton, a man that Michael Moignard will talk about in detail.

The College was the first successful attempt to decentralize higher education outside the capital cities. It would be ten years before the next successful move, the establishment of the New England University College, again in Armidale. There would then be another long gap before further action was taken.

The College’s story is a remarkable one.

Its establishment required a very particular combination of forces, people and events to overcome the barriers to establishment. The College was created with astonishing speed. The State election was on 8 October 1927, lectures began in February 1928. It’s hard to see any Australian Government managing that today outside wartime.

Construction of the College’s new building, the Parthenon on the Hill, was driven forward in the face of deepening depression and rising criticism with a determination that the building should in every way match if not exceed the facilities offered to students at Sydney Teacher’ College. This rush would save the College from Depression closure because Drummond’s white elephant, to use a phrase from the time, was too far advanced to stop.

The College’s establishment was linked to a clash in views about teacher education, a clash between those focused on the academic and those on the vocational. The College was established to prove the vocational case. To this end, the best lecturers were selected, the best supporting facilities created.

The combination of this with the  relative remoteness of the new College made for an intense student experience. To a degree, this experience and the College’s overall influence has been over-shadowed by the later establishment of the university college and the university.

That’s a pity, because the College had a profound influence on many, one that I have become increasingly aware of as my research has proceeded. Perhaps this short talk may redress the balance a little.

I now want to talk briefly about the College’s foundation. We can think of this in two ways, the broad trends that provided the context for establishment, the specific events that led to establishment. 


What would later be called the drift to the cities was evident by the 1880s. The non-metropolitan population had grown greatly, but was thinly spread. With no countervailing forces, booms in city construction especially in Sydney and Melbourne drew people to the cities from country areas. Federation strengthened the drift to the cities because it created a customs union with relatively high tariffs. This redistributed incomes from primary production to manufacturing, from smaller states to bigger states and from country to metropolitan areas.

To indicate the scale of the drift, Sydney’s share of the NSW population rose from 27 per cent in 1871 to 35 per cent in 1891. After a brief pause during the depression of the 1890s, the proportion began to rise again, from 36 per cent in 1901 to 39 per cent in 1911[2].

Country people were aware of this trend, with increasing calls from the late 1880s for effective decentralisation. Country people also faced problems in accessing services. These were especially acute in education, with the Sydney Government struggling to provide schools and teachers to such a dispersed population.

Concerns about the drift to Sydney, about poor services, played into an already established narrative of an oppressed country, an oppressing city.

Farmers faced particular problems. The last decades of the nineteenth and first decade of the twentieth century had seen a rapid increase in farm production, facilitated by closer settlement measures and the spread of the railways. Farmers faced rising costs, rising debt levels, but were increasingly exposed to international markets that determined the prices they received independent of costs.

The growing sense of discontent led to the emergence of two new political movements in Northern NSW. The first was the Progressive, later Country, Party which first entered the State Parliament in 1920. The second was a reborn new state movement.

The Country Party encapsulated country grievances about country neglect, including education. While a state wide party, its heartland was in Northern New South Wales.

The new state movement drew from similar grievances, but in pushing for self government for the North it articulated a common sense of Northerness that did much to overcome that rigid local parochialism that so impeded regional cooperation.

 1915: An apparently minor dispute over the Helen steam ferry re-launches separatist agitation

The twentieth century New State Movement began at Grafton in 1915. Grafton had been the major centre of separatist agitation during the colonial period. Now a dispute over the Helen, a steam ferry crossing the Clarence, created a new movement for self government and decentralisation. 

Earle Page used the Helen to campaign for decentralisation and new states. Page would became mentor to the younger Drummond    
Led by the Mayor of South Grafton, local doctor Earle Page, the movement spread rapidly and then declined because of the First World War. Page would later become Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Prime Minister for a short while, foundation chair of the University College of New England Advisory Council and then UNE’s first Chancellor.  

Following the War, Page relaunched the movement. This call was taken up in 1920 by Victor Thompson, editor of the Tamworth Observer, now the Northern Daily Leader.. With the approval of his Board,
Thompson (photo) launched a newspaper propaganda campaign in favour of self-government that gathered support from most newspapers outside the Lower Hunter. It was also supported by every Progressive/Country Party parliamentarian from the North and by most business leaders.

By 1927, support for the new state cause had declined. However, ideas, links and beliefs were well established. In 1920, the first New State manifesto, Australia Subdivided, put a key problem facing the North in this way: “In Northern New South Wales, a few high schools, no technical schools, no universities exist to retain the intelligence and culture of the area.”[3]

It was time to do something about this.


The state elections held on Saturday 8 October 1927 gave the Country Party the balance of power, resulting in the formation of a Nationalist/Country Party coalition government. The tightly knit Country Party team were determined to use this first time in Government to deliver on plans and policies developed over the eight years since the party’s formation.

Four men would prove critical to the events that followed. The first was David Drummond, the member for Armidale and now Minister for Public Instruction. During the complex coalition discussions there had been some suggestions that Drummond should become speaker. Drummond had reacted strongly. He was too young to retire and particularly wanted the education portfolio.  

Drummond was then 37. Born in Sydney on 11 February 1890, he had been forced to leave school at twelve, becoming a ward of the state soon after. To add to the boy’s difficulties, he was almost deaf following a school illness, a considerable impediment.

David Drummond, 1907, the year he came to Armidale as a farm labourer. 
After a time in a boys’ home and various foster arrangements with farm families, Drummond arrived in Armidale in 1907 as a farm labourer. In 1911, his elder brother arranged for him to become a manager on a share farm basis (that’s income based on a share of the crop) on a new block outside Inverell. This allowed Drummond to marry the following year.

At Inverell, Drummond became actively involved in the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Association and in the Methodist Church, becoming a lay preacher. An inveterate reader, he taught himself preaching and public speaking from how to do books while riding round the paddocks.

In 1919, Drummond was approached by a delegation from his immediate area asking him to run as a Progressive Party candidate for the multi-member Northern Tablelands electorate. Drummond agreed.

Drummond was not expected to win. He was young, deaf, lacked formal education and relatively unknown outside his immediate area. Indeed, some party officials placed great pressure on him to force his withdrawal. Drummond resisted this and to the surprise of most was elected as the third member after Labor’s Alfred McClelland and the Progressive’s Mick Bruxner.

An older Michael Bruxner, 1951. The more experienced Bruxner who shared Drummond's dreams did much to help and support the younger Drummond,     
By 1927 Drummond had established himself as a senior and respected figure in both the Country Party and the New State Movement. He had developed a particular interest in country education and had been involved in early moves to establish a university college in Armidale.

Drummond wanted to establish a country college for country kids. A Northern College would also provide a key building block in the infrastructure required to support a Northern State.

Just nine days after being sworn in, Drummond asked for an urgent report from our second key figure, his new Under-Secretary S H (Stephen Henry) Smith, on the possible establishment of country teachers’ colleges, suggesting Wagga Wagga and Armidale as possible sites.
Smith welcomed the request. The Department was struggling to find country teachers. Too many were refusing country postings after their Sydney training. The new college was also a chance to put his own ideas on teacher education into practice.

Smith with Drummond, Parliament House Sydney. The two men bonded in part because Drummond understood
and respected the older Smith. 
Smith was then in his early sixties [4} Handsome and intelligent, with a commanding presence and a beautiful speaking voice, he was also shy, fussy, sensitive and vulnerable to personal attack. Starting as a pupil teacher, Smith had worked his way though the ranks, becoming Under-Secretary in 1922 upon the retirement of the famous Peter Board. Smith knew that there were those who affected to despise him because of his lack of formal education and was deeply wounded by it.

Alexander Mackie at his desk, Sydney Teachers’ College. His clashes with S H Smith were critical to the establishment of the College
Smith had clashed with Professor Alexander Mackie, the head of Sydney Teachers, College.[5]. Mackie, a brilliant Scottish-born academic, had come to Sydney in 1906 to head the newly established Sydney College. He was a man of strong views who believed that that the main emphasis in teacher training should be academic, that the independence of Sydney Teachers’ College must be preserved, and who had little time for financial or other constraints on his activities.

Smith took a different view. Bound up in the day-to-day problems of State education, he regarded the College’s job as training those teachers the Department required in the way the Department required. Smith also disagreed with Mackie as to the most desirable form of teacher training: While not opposed to academic training, Smith thought that Mackie’s academic bias meant ill-trained teachers, and instead supported a more vocationally-oriented training. This would become important in forming the character of the new College.

These differences in approach were compounded by their differing personalities. After Smith made a surprise inspection of Sydney Teachers’ College in 1927, Mackie wrote to him that such inspections could ‘only be done competently by a person with the necessary qualifications.’ He went on: ‘The inspection of highly qualified specialists on the College staff should be entrusted to men and women with similarly high academic qualifications and with extensive experience of College work.’[6] Not surprisingly, Smith found this letter ‘offensive’[7]. Mackie, he later commented sarcastically to Drummond, had ‘that type of mind which is usually associated with the Scottish metaphysician.’[8] Drummond understood Smith, and the two men would become close.

Smith immediately recommended Armidale, a move that obviously appealed to Drummond, but was not without logic. Armidale was already a major education centre. It also had available land.

The old gaol in operation. Locals were determined to see it gone. 
The best building site in the city consisted of eight acres of crown land on South Hill with commanding views over the city. This was occupied by an old gaol set in gardens gone to wilderness.

Adjoining the goal site to the south were 100 acres of crown land previously used as agistment paddocks for the horses of the Gold Commissioner and District Surveyor. Diagonally opposite was another reserve, the Police Paddock, with another 44 acres of crown land. In all, up to 152 acres (60.7 hectares) were available for use at no cost to the Government, providing a magnificent site for a new college. However, this would take time to build. Other accommodation had to be found in the meantime if a college was to be opened in Armidale.

At this point our next key figures enters the scene, A W Hicks, the very able local school inspector. Hicks knew the city well and was close to Drummond and Smith. At Smith’s request, he began negotiations early in November 1927 about the possible purchase or rental of suitable sites in the city. This included “Girrahween”, a boarding house that had been on the market for some time and which would make an ideal hall of residence for women students. Strict secrecy was required – Drummond, Smith and Hicks were the only ones who knew what was being proposed - on both commercial and political grounds.

On 17 November, Hicks wrote to Smith outlining what was possible; “Girrahween” and “The Elms” could be purchased for £5,150; “Arran House” for £1,500; while “Whare-Koa” could be leased for £3 per week and its furniture purchased for £725. Smith now visited Armidale unofficially as a prospective buyer. By 9 December, Smith had prepared a Cabinet submission seeking approval for the establishment of the College and the purchase or lease of necessary buildings. By 12 December 2017, Cabinet had approved the proposal.

On that day Cecil Bede (CB) Newling, our forth key player, was summonsed to Sydney by telegram[9]. Presenting himself to Smith next morning, Newling was sworn to secrecy and taken to see Drummond. Drummond offered him the post of Principal, but .said that he would like Newling to go to Armidale for three days to see the place and consult his wife before agreeing.

That night, Tuesday 13 December, Newling left for Armidale on the night train. Hicks met him at the station the next day, giving Newling every assistance including full information on conditions, possibilities and potentialities.

Newling was then 44 and had had a distinguished career as teacher and inspector. While teaching, he had also completed both a BA and MA in history with first class honours and a university medal from Sydney University. Newling was known to and trusted by both Smith and Drummond. Both had promised him that academic standards were a matter for him, that they would always back his decisions, a promise both kept. Excited by the concept, attracted by the idea of developing his own curriculum, Newling accepted the offer after discussing it with his wife.
Newling's involvement with the College's establishment and development is outlined in his autobiography. His approach seems paternalistic today, but he was the right man for the time. 
With lectures due to begin in March 1928, just two months away, the pace was frantic. This included developing arrangements that would allow the College to at least begin operations in the absence of facilities. The modifications required to turn newly purchased Girrahween into the women’s’ residence could not begin until an existing lease on the building expired, while construction of the main college building was some time off.

During this frantic period, Hicks continued to handle all the on-ground arrangements. Newling initially split his time between Yass, Sydney and Armidale before his permanent move to Armidale, working on all the myriad practical and educational details associated with creating a new institution from scratch. Smith had to find the best possible staff for both the College and the newly constituted Armidale Demonstration School while ensuring the whole operation meshed with Departmental and public service requirements.

For his part, Drummond monitored every aspect of the project to ensure that his new baby would be health with every chance in life.. An activist minister, his ministerial letter books are full of instructions, suggestions and requests as he looked for resources for the new College.

Strict secrecy had been maintained for practical and political reasons in a way that would not be possible today.

The first break in secrecy came on 12 December when the Tenterfield Star reported that the Armidale goal was to be demolished and that rumour had it that the site was likely to be used for a technical college or teachers’ college that would serve the northern districts and not Armidale alone. This was followed by a well informed article in the Armidale Chronicle which effectively broke the story. On 7 January 1928,  the papers carried a short announcement from Drummond providing details of the proposal including the purchase of “Girrahween” and “The Elms”[10].

The publicity drew a mixture of praise and criticism. Drummond knew the country well and was well aware of the way that sometimes fierce Northern local parochialism had destroyed cooperative efforts. In both private and public he was persistent in emphasizing that this was a college for the north. This College, he told Armidale Mayor Morgan Stephens, must be seen as the College of the North, not just Armidale. The new state campaigns of the early 1920s had been led by key Northern pressmen. Drummond knew the editors and proprietors; he was now a newspaper man himself, so gaining friendly newspaper coverage was not hard. 

There was criticism from the Labor opposition, from some country towns elsewhere in the state who felt that they had a better claim, but the country press in general saw this as an early delivery of an election promise, while the Northern press all mentioned that this was a college for the North.

Perhaps the strongest criticisms came from prospective students and their parents who saw Armidale and the new College as second class compared to Sydney and the Sydney Teachers’ College. This was a significant problem because it might affect enrollments. Smith and Drummond were unmoved

The first class of 1928-29,. There were 33 women, 30 men in the group

The official inauguration ceremony for the new college took place on Friday 9 March 1928. The last students did not arrive until late the night before.

It was a gala affair, including a complimentary dinner in the Armidale Town Hall in honour of David Drummond and S H Smith attended by upwards of 230 people. It was, the Armidale Chronicle said happily, “the largest aggregation of political and educational personages in the history of the city.”[11]Sadly, S H Smith could not attend because of illness.

“We are gathered here today”, Drummond said, “for the purpose of celebrating the opening of the first Teachers Training College in Australia to be established outside of the capital cities…..this is a historic occasion because it marks a departure in educational history ….fraught with the greatest possibilities for good, if the work …..is carried to its logical conclusion.” 

Building the Parthenon on the Hill

Meantime, work continued on the nuts and bolts issues associated with the establishment of the new institution. “Girrahween” may have been purchased, but it would be some time before it was ready. Lectures began for the initial enrollment of 63 (30 men and 33 women) in Siberia, a new two room building used for manual arts training at the renamed Armidale Demonstration School. “Whare-Koa” provided accommodation for 24 women under the supervision of Matron Bell, while the men students and the remaining nine women had to find private board. As would happen ten years later with the University College, everything was in short supply. Again as would happen ten years later, the standard of the new staff and their teaching made the difference.

“Girrahween” was finally ready for occupation by the beginning of 1929, with the female students moving in in February. This allowed the male students to occupy “Whare-Koa”, a use that continued until the lease expired in 1931. Lectures for the second year students could now be given in “Girrahween’s” west wing.

While the new College was settling into its temporary accommodation, work was underway on permanent premises that would come to be called the parthenon on the hill.

In December 1927, Smith had obtained approval for the transfer of the goal site to his Department once the buildings had been demolished. At first, the Government Architect proposed to utilise the old goal buildings, something that was vehemently opposed by the College’s protagonists. Drummond set out the case quite clearly in words that guided his overall approach throughout the project: “if the Armidale Teachers’ College were to be a Country College for Country Students then the Government should provide the amenities both architectural and cultural that the students would have if they were trained in Sydney.”[12]

On 10 February 1928, the decision was taken to demolish the goal and sell the materials. Drummond wanted the new buildings constructed as soon as possible. He called for sketch plans early in 1928, then on 5 April he wrote to the Departmental architect asking him to arrange for the Chief Architect to take the plans of Sydney Teachers” College to Armidale for personal discussions with Mr Newling to see what changes might need to be made to accommodate 250 students, taking local conditions into account.

With plans complete, tenders for the new building were called. On 1 March 1929, a contract was let to the Public Works Department. It provided for completion within eighteen months at a cost of £81,200. Drummond had wanted an iconic building and the plans provided for that. Externally, the style was free treatment of Italian Renaissance with meticulous attention to detail. Internally, there was the same attention to detail.

Construction began on 8 April 1929, with Drummond closely monitoring the whole project. In October 1929, for example, Smith recorded that the Minister had decided to proceed with the whole central section of the building comprising the gymnasium and Assembly Hall as originally envisaged. The gymnasium was constructed with special care, based on the then best models. It featured a floor specially mounted on elliptical springs to cushion impacts.

Drummond lays one of the foundation stones for the new building

On Saturday 29 November 1929 foundation stones were formally laid in a scene marked by flags and bunting thoughtfully provided by Drummond[13]. Two foundation stones were laid, one by Drummond, the other by the Premier.

A large crowd had gathered to watch events and the assembled dignitaries, including Premier Thomas Bavin, the Chief Secretary, the Director of Education, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney, the Director of the Tourist Bureau and mayors and shire presidents from across the North. The Armidale City Band played to entertain the gathering.

The Government, Drummond, told the crowd, was determined on the decentralisation of higher educational facilities and, in addition to providing the Armidale College, had purchased a fine site at Wagga to erect a college to serve the southern parts of the State. “Some people might cavil at the expenditure”, the Minister said, “but if they did it was due to ignorance. Actually, the cost of the college being erected was proportionately cheaper to that of the Sydney College.”

For his part, the Premier said that the tendency to concentrate public activities in the capital city had done an enormous amount of harm and the Government was determined to stop it as far as possible. The decentralisation of higher education was only one phase, but was proof of the Government’s commitment. Sydney University Vice Chancellor Professor Wallace said that he was amazed at the excellence of Armidale’s educational institutions. He could not commit the Sydney University Senate. However, he was sure that the Senate would view with the greatest sympathy any move made to have the College affiliated with the University. As the stones were laid, the Armidale City Band broke into a rousing rendition of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

As the work proceeded, dark clouds were gathering. Few realised just how vulnerable the Australian economy had become to any international downturn[14].  In November, Australia was in the grip of recession, although the scale was still not clear. By early 1930, the expected State deficit for 1929-30 had risen to over three million pounds.

Drummond lost office at the elections of 25 October 1930 with the return of the Lang Labor Government. With student numbers cut heavily because of the Depression, Drummond e faced a withering storm of criticism over what was now called Drummond’s white elephant., but was unrepentant. At first, it looked as though the College might be closed. However, Labor Minister William Davies visited Armidale in March 1931 to inspect the situation for himself. “You are very fortunate to be in such a nice institution”, he is reported to have told students. It is one of the finest buildings in New South Wales”[15].

The completed Parthenon on the Hill before the full development of the trees and gardens 

The building itself was finally completed in September 1931, although students had begun using it from February 1930 when the southern wing was opened. The playing fields were not developed, nor would the new building ever be officially opened. However, the College would survive as an entity, as would its iconic Parthenon on the Hill.

By the time Drummond returned to office in June 1932, student numbers had begun to recover. Within a few years, the College was full to overflowing.

The Student Experience

Scrub school south west of Tenterfield 1923. While earlier, this is an example of the type of schools the 19 year old graduates went to
The students who came to the College in the decades after its foundation found it an intense experience. They were all young, seventeen or in some cases sixteen, most came from Northern families that had no experience of post-secondary education. They were being trained for a career that would place many of them at nineteen or even a little younger as sole teachers in country schools, often boarding with local families, their actions under constant scrutiny.

Getting to Armidale was not always easy. Kempsey road 1920s, Caling family collection 
 Just getting to Armidale could be a battle because of poor transport linkages. For North Coast students, it could require a train trip to Maitland and then a further train north, Others took a bus onto the Tablelands and then caught the train. A few travelled to Sydney and then caught the steamer. The students who arrive late in Armidale on the night before the College’s opening came from the North Coast.

Woolgoolga Wharf. Some students went to Sydney by train and then north by steamer

The students in that first intake, the class of 1928-29, faced particular difficulties. Many had not wanted to come to Armidale. Some hadn’t even heard of the new College until they received a telegram offering them a place there. Many parents were outraged. The initial facilities were primitive.

At the end of 1929, Smith and Newling with the agreement of Drummond decided the make that class a one-off special offer, one that would never happen again. In recognition of their work, they could choose which school they would be sent to following graduation. Newling records that 52 of 54 students chose a country school. To Drummond, Smith, Newling and the others involved, this was a vindication of their work. Country kids going to a country college choosing a country school.

Today, we would think of Pop Newling’s approach as outlined in his biography The Long day Wanes, the nickname pop reflected the way that students saw him, as paternalistic. It was. He aimed to create a secure environment with rules. His aim, in his own words, was to “prepare students to be teachers and to glorify their “calling’ rather than to transform the college into a small university.”

In considering his approach, it is helpful to remember that today those student would be in upper secondary school with four years of professional training before them before they were allowed in the classroom. By then, many of the class of 1928-29 had been teaching for four years, many were married with children, many had been promoted and were engaged in further study.

Our attitudes today are arguably far more paternalistic!

I will finish this talk with a few slides dedicated to the student experience over the first decades:

Howard Hinton. The paintings he donated formed an integral element of College life and were used in teaching

ATC swimming Carnival 1937. Sport was an integral part of College life along with cultural activities. 
And some students:

Keith Bain, Wauchope, dancer and choreographer, inspiration for Strictly Ballroom, dux 1945

For writer Shirley Walker, the College was a way of leaving the claustrophobia of home and community.

Pat Devery started playing rugby league at Murwillumbah High, continued at ATC. He represented Australia in 1946.

Edwin Wilson, Mullumbimby, writer, teacher and artist, attributed his love of art to the Hinton Collection

This is just a tiny sample!

[1] Public lecture delivered at the New England Regional Art Museum. Saturday 17 February 2018, to mark the opening of the permanent exhibition of the Hinton Collection. Unless otherwise cited, material in this chapter is drawn from Elwyn S Elphick and Lionel A Gilbert, Forty-Three and Seven: A Short Illustrated History of the First Fifty Years of Teacher Education in Armidale, Armidale College of Advanced Education, Armidale 1978: James Belshaw, “A university for the north”, pp14- 34, “The Parthenon on the Hill”, pp287-292, in J S Ryan and Warren Newman (eds), Came to New England, University of New England, Armidale 2014; C B Newling, The Long Day Wanes, L F Keller, Hunters Hill, 1973. Further supporting material including material on economics and politics including the country party and new state movements is drawn from Jim Belshaw, Decentralisation, Development and Decent Government: the life and times of David Drummond 1890-1941, PhD thesis, University of New England, 1983.
[2] The statistical material is taken from W A Sinclair, The Process of Economic Development in Australia, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1976, pp108 and 140; and Russell Ward, A Nation for a Continent, pp446-447
[3] E Page and others (eds), Australia Subdivided, The First New State, Examiner Printing Works, Glen Innes, 1920, p10.
[4] The description of Smith is largely drawn from a letter Drummond wrote to Elizabeth Campbell on 1 March 1965. Copy in Drummond Papers, University of New England Archives, A248/1087/6. A brief biography of Smith is provided in Alan Barcan, 'Smith, Stephen Henry (1865–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-stephen-henry-8483/text14921, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 10 March 2018. I think that Barcan underestimates Smith’s influence.
[5] Material on the relations between Smith and Mackie is drawn from E S Elphick, Armidale Teachers’ College: Its Background, Foundation and Early Years, Litt.B thesis, University of New England, 1972, pp70-94. Smith’s views of the clash between himself and Mackie are set out in his minutes to Drummond of 17 November 1927 and 18 September 1928. These minutes (contained in Drummond’s Ministerial Letter Book, Drummond papers, University of New England Archives, A248/Vol.2133, p6 and pp 44-47) give a clear picture of Smith’s attitudes and personality. Mackie’s life is summarised in  A. Mandelson, 'Mackie, Alexander (1876–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mackie-alexander-7396/text12859, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 10 March 2018.
[6] Mackie to Smith, 4 November 1927. Cited Elphick, op cit, p82
[7] Smith to Drummond, 17 November 1927. Ministerial Letter Book, op cit.
[8] Smith to Drummond, 18 September 1928. Ministerial Letter Book, op cit
[9] Newling  pp63ff. Additional details of Newling’s life can be found in L. A. Gilbert, 'Newling, Cecil Bede (1883–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/newling-cecil-bede-7830/text13595, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 5 March 2018.
[10] The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales, 7 January 1928
[11] Both the Chronicle quote and the references to Drummond’s speech are drawn from Elphick and Gilbert, op cit, p31.
[12] Cited Elphick and Gilbert, op cit, p17
[13] Sydney Morning Herald, p12.
[14] Material on the onset of the Great Depression is drawn from Belshaw Decentralisation , Development and Decent Government, pp 258-264.
[15] Cited Elphick and Gilbert, op cit, p37. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Contributing to Northern Life

Shirley Mckechnie at the UNE dance summer school. Under Peggy Van Praagh and Ms Mckechnie, the summer schools assisted the evolution of Australian dance. This  is the twelth in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the seventh on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England

At the end of the Second World War, Jim Belshaw as Acting Warden had spoken of the New England University College as the powerhouse of the North. This view was shared by the College’s founders and the new Advisory Council.

This part of the College’s role s was seen in fairly broad terms; one part was the education of the young; a second economic development and especially the role that agriculture might play in that development; a third the contribution that the College might make to broader Northern life

Belshaw took up the regional development cause. In 1944, he combined with geology lecturer Alan Voisey to launch the New England University College Regional Research Bureau. This was more name than substance, the main print output appears to have been a pamphlet based on a series of articles originally published in the Northern Daily Leader, but it provided a platform for a new movement, the regional council movement.

Belshaw travelled the North, arguing for the creation of regional councils with real powers that could facilitate development, a cause taken up by a number of local councils. As it became clear that the Government in Sydney would not grant the new regional councils the power they needed to be effective, the regional councils movement turned into a resurgent New England New State Movement.

In parallel, Belshaw and his colleagues focused their research and writing on different aspects of the North. This output would peak in the early 1980s and then decline sharply as the University changed direction.

Appointed as Warden in February 1947, Robert Madgwick shared the vision but added to it high level administrative skills along with a profound belief in liberal and adult education.

After founding the Australian Army Education Service,  Madgwick played a major part in establishing the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. He also sat (1943-46) on two inter-departmental committees which set out the future role of the Commonwealth government in education.

Madgwick constantly championed the cause of adult education. When his claims for a Commonwealth-funded national system were thwarted by lack of political support, he chose to leave Canberra and come to the College as a way of putting his ideas into practice in a direct way.

In June 1948, A W (Arnold) Eberle was appointed to head adult education. Eberle died suddenly in January 1954 and was replaced in 1955 by AJA (Arch) Nelson.

Under Eberle and then Nelson, the role played by the College/University in adult and then external education gave it regional reach and national prestige.

Speaking just of the dance summer schools, the Curator of Dance at the National Library Michelle Potter spoke of the excitement generated where creativity was fostered, where some of Australia’s most prominent artists made contributions, and where the talents of aspiring choreographers, dancers, writers and historians were nurtured.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 11 April 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Building university into a regional power house

Colonel Robert B Madgwick, Director of Army Education at work, Toorak Melbourne.This  is the eleventh in the story of the Pacific Belshaws, the sixth on the early days of the New England University College, University of New England 

In February 1947, Robert Madgwick had been appointed as new Warden of the New England University College, replacing Belshaw as Acting Warden. He proved to be a good choice.

Belshaw had previously articulated a vision for the future university. In this he spoke of the College’s already considerable significance in political, social and economic arenas, of its great future, of its heavy obligation to research and extension work. To Belshaw, a third function of the university would be its role as the “power house” for its region.

Madgwick shared these views. Like Belshaw, he also believed in the role of education as a tool for economic and social advancement. However, he also brought a broader experience that would help form the character of the place.

Robert Bowden Madgwick was born in North Sydney on 10 May 1905, the second of three sons of Richard Charlton Madgwick and Annie Jane Elston. His father was a tram-driver in Sydney, his mother a dressmaker. Both were active members of the Anglican Church.. Madgwick stated later that his parents taught him that, "all men and women were sacred, and poverty and injustice were in some way contrary to God's teaching."

After attending Naremburn Public and North Sydney Boys' High schools, Madgwick entered the University of Sydney on a Teachers' College scholarship, graduating in 1927 with the first university medal in economics, an award shared with (Sir) Herman Black.

After teaching, for a period, Madgwick was appointed in 1929 to a temporary lectureship in economics at the University of Sydney. There he completed his Masters and then in 1933 was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship. This allowed him to complete a D Phil at Balliol College, Oxford, later published as Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788-1851.

Madgwick returned to the University of Sydney in 1936 as a lecturer in economic history. There on .19 May 1937 he married Ailsa Margaret Aspinall. The couple would have three daughters.

At Sydney, Madgwick had become involved in adult education as secretary of the University Extension Board. Now the War gave him an opportunity to put his evolving ideas on adult education into large scale practice when he became involved in planning an army education scheme.

In July 1943 he was appointed temporary colonel and given the title of director of army education, becoming head of what would be known as the Australian Army Education Service (AAES).

The AAES aimed: to build morale, to educate for citizenship, to provide a diversion from forward or staging-area tedium, and to prepare servicemen and women for demobilization. This was a large scale activity, with (among other things) some 10 million attending AAES classes.

I will continue this story in my next column.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 28 March 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018