Goulburn, in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, is hardly the type of place one associates with anarchy. However, on Friday, July 13 (yes, Black Friday) 1962, the Catholic Church flexed its muscles against the State Government. Bishop John Cullinane ordered the closing of six Catholic schools in the diocese, advising around 2,000 students to enroll at surrounding state schools for the following six weeks.
What had led to this action? Well…….the crunch had come over school loos, although a broader row had been brewing for years.
The government had been pushing St. Brigid’s primary school to enlarge its toilet block as pupil numbers grew, but the church/parent funded school argued they lacked the funds to comply. The strike was an effort to demonstrate that church schools eased the pressure on state schools and therefore deserved government funding.
There was great goodwill among the general public. The city had a large Catholic population and many Catholics had children who were already receiving a state funded education. 640 of the faith based ‘strike’ students were duly enrolled at State schools. Surprise surprise, there was not the capacity to cope with 2,000! 😨 Complicating matters, the action coincided with trial exams for Leaving Certificate students.
An assembly was held at Goulburn High School when hundreds of pupils and their parents arrived for enrollment. In the following photo the crowd of some 800 is being addressed by Deputy Head Mr. A. McConnell.
Following the meeting a ballot was held to allocate available places. One boy who missed out was 15 year old Gary Wardell from St. Patrick’s College. Gary was worried he would fall behind in his studies. Others were less concerned and simply looking forward to a few weeks holiday!
Fortunately the chaotic situation was resolved relatively quickly. The Bishop’s point that church schools shared the load of educating young people and deserved assistance had been made. After just one week a vote among parents was held and the decision was taken for the strike to be called off. The campaign for funding was to be continued in other ways.
And yes, St. Brigid’s did get a new toilet block, but the degree of state funding for faith based schools remains a contentious issue in Australia to this day.
I wonder what became of young Gary Wardell? With his attitude towards education he probably did very well in life. 😍 I would have been among the kids hoping for a holiday!
For more on school funding in Australia CLICK HERE