24 August 2006









 When a member of the Queensland colonial parliament, Samuel Griffith, later the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia was reported in the Parliamentary Debates on the State Education Bill, 9 July 1873, at pp. 413-414 as saying:


"Another point which had been entirely settled was that primary education should be free. That had been settled beyond recall, and he should be the last to wish to see it otherwise. There was another question which had been settled also by the parliament of this colony, and by the people - and in his opinion it was a most important one, as dealing with one of the principles of the Bill - that the propagation of religion should not be aided by the State. He had found in the course of the consideration which he had given to the Bill, which was a good deal, that that was the key to the most vexed question in the whole measure; and he would endeavor to show the House, before he sat down, how he arrived at that conclusion. These points being granted - primary education by the State, which was to be free; and that the State would not assist in the propagation of religion..."

Six years later Edmund Barton, later the first Prime Minister of the Australian Federation agreed with Samuel Griffith's opposition to State Aid to religious schools and support for free secular and public education systems . The public education system of New South Wales had been under attack by the Roman Catholic Archbishop Vaughan of Sydney. He is reported in the New South Wales Parliamentary Debates of 1879 as follows:



" ..I may say that I do strongly resent the statement that the system under which I have grown up is calculated to produce infidelity, immorality, or lawlessness. The gentleman who uttered that condemnation is to be listened to with the greatest respect, even by those who are not members of his communion; but if that prelate descends to make statements like this, and supplements them by saying that he is ready to shed his blood in defence of the views he propounds, and goes on almost to express a wish to be disembowelled, it is right that I, as one of those who have been educated under the system so sweepingly condemned, should say a word or two in its defence.


I was for two years a pupil at the Model School in Fort street which was then conducted upon the Irish national system, and if any special religious instruction was given in connection with that system, I do not recollect it. I was afterwards educated in another purely secular institution where I met the sons of many Roman Catholic citizens with whom, I am happy to say, I am still on terms of close friendship; and I was subsequently educated at an equally secular institution ( the Sydney University) I point this out because I object that those who were educated with me under a system which has been stigmatised as producing infidelity, immorality, and lawlessness, should have it imputed to them that they are other than what I know them to be, namely, upright and God fearing citizens.


We have been told that every legitimate means is to be used to upset the present system of education...

I may state at once that I shall give a very warm and hearty support to the second reading of this is a Bill which tends to bring about that system of education which ought to be and will inevitably become the policy of the future - a system of education which is general, consistent, and uniform in its character. I suppose it will scarcely be denied that a system of education undertaken by the State should be in its grasp as large and comprehensive as possible, because it is not to be forgotten that those who are to be educated under it  will become the fathers and mothers, the voters and jurymen of the future - that to their hands the greatest powers, fraught with the most momentous consequences, are to be entrusted; and that the future of this country depends very much upon the manner in which they exercise them. ..


It is the duty of the State to educate, and the right of the people to demand education. if it be the duty of the State to institute a wide and comprehensive system of education, it is also the duty of the people to take advantage of the education which is offered, because the end of education is to make the State a better one - to fit the component parts of it to properly exercise their functions.  A State which has universal suffrage and a wide extension of the jury franchise, must qualify the people by education to rightly exercise the great powers with which they are invested.


I go on to say that in my belief the system of education should be free. ..


If it is the duty of the State to educate, it is the duty of the State also to bear the burden of education, namely, the taxation out of which education is provided. It is not a good thing that for the want of 3 pence, supposing such a want to exist, any number of children should sit in our public schools in a position in which they may consider themselves as pauper children, or be spoke of as such I do not believe there would be many of them, but in proportion as they are few, will their position be the more isolated and irksome?  It will be an injustice to make the children of any such tax-payer sit on the same bench with those of his more fortunate neighbour who on the strength of the payment of a three-penny - bit will think  he can afford to laugh at them...


I say further that our system of education should be unsectarian. I cannot support for a moment any system of education which in the name of denominationalism or under any other name, draws funds from the coffers of the State manifestly for the propagation of creeds and dogmas widely divergent.  Taxpayers ought not to be called upon to support a system of that kind. It ought not to be compulsory upon any man to support that which he believes to be untrue, but that is inevitable under a system which subsidises what to different minds must appear as truth and error in the various and discordant dogmas and beliefs.  What we want is a system which, while tolerating all religious beliefs, places them on a footing of perfect equality. The difference between the denominational system and the public school system is all the difference between bolstering them up on the one hand and letting them alone of the other. Denominational educations supported by the State bolsters them up, while the policy of the country as affirmed in the abolition of State aid to religion is to let all religions alone, neither to discourage nor support any of them.  That principle is now the law of the land as applicable to public worship; and it if it is a wise principle when applied to teaching religion to adults, why in the name of common sense is it not a good principle to apply to the teaching of religion in the schools? By the passing of the Bill to abolish grants in aid to public worship, the people have said, "We acknowledge our obligation o support the State as a State. We acknowledge that we ought to pay our taxes for the support of all the elements of harmony prosperity and peace; but there we must stop.


If, as tax-payers, we are asked to support religion we say, "No; you must leave that to our consciences as individuals, and not impose it upon us as tax-payers." That is really the opinion which the people have expressed with regard to the teaching of religion to the adult population, and I say it is inconsistent to deal with the teaching of youth on any other principle at variance with it.


...Holding the opinions I do as to the functions of the State and the Church - believing that the concern of the State is merely temporal, and that the concern of the Church is something widely different from that, - I say let each go on in the exercise of their proper functions - let the Church continue to endeavour to fit us and our children for a better world, and let the State seek to promote the elements of social harmony and material prosperity - let them do their work separately, although, if you will, side by side.

While the State concerns itself to give such an education as will fit citizens for the discharge of all temporal duties, let every facility be given at the same time for the teachers of religion to do their work so long as they do not infringe upon the province of the State by the manner in which they seek to indoctrinate the children of their communion in the particular tenets which they hold. ...


Our current prime Minister and his Treasurer claim to be supportive of  separation of Church and State and the secular State. They are also interested in the teaching of Australian History.

 D.O.G.S.  suggest all our current governmental representatives follow the example set by Griffith and Barton as well as other Founding Fathers like Parkes, Higgins and Inglis Clark.






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Last modified:Thursday, 24 August 2006