Australia in the 1960s

Funding non-government schools

In May 1964, the Menzies government brought in legislation that provided for government financial grants to non-government schools for science-teaching facilities. Church schools would now receive direct 'state aid' for the first time in a century, since the introduction of 'compulsory, secular and free' education acts in the 1870s and 1880s.

The Catholic church had established its own primary and secondary schools based on Catholic teaching orders, but had been denied government assistance for more than a century. Until 1963, the Australian Labor Party, which was the party of choice for many Catholics (despite the formation of the Democratic Labor Party), was opposed to government assistance for church schools. By the 1960s, many Catholic communities could no longer rely on bazaars and fetes to fund increasingly costly schooling. The nature of schooling had changed; one teacher in front of a large class of 60 students or more became a scene of the past.

The Catholic community launched political campaigns as a measure for change. In 1962, one such incident was the closing of the Catholic schools in Goulburn, not far from Canberra, thus putting unbearable strain on the local state schools with increased enrolments.

In 1962 St Brigid's school in Goulburn became the focus for the fight for state aid to non-government schools.

A snapshot of 1968

  • January
    • Senator John Gorton becomes prime minister after the disappearance of Harold Holt, presumed drowned off Portsea, Victoria.
    • The Tet Offensive is launched during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese troops attempt to take significant South Vietnamese strongholds in the one offensive action.

  • February
    • The Draft Resistance Movement is formed. They declare that the group not only opposes conscription, but intends to destroy it.
    • WC Wentworth is appointed the first minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although he has no department under his control.

  • May
    • A mineral investment boom begins on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
    • The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

  • December
    • The breathalyser test for drink-driving is introduced in NSW.


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