Victorian Education Act – 1950 Amendment

Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital TerritoryPrior to 1950, religious instruction in Victorian state schools was delivered sporadically and out of compulsory school hours. During this period, Christian churches grew increasingly dissatisfied with being shut out during school hours. Church leaders overcame their differences and through the newly established Council for Christian Education in Schools (CCES), pushed for a change in legislation to allow a common Agreed Syllabus. With enactment of the Education (Religious Instruction) Act 1950, voluntary instructors began teaching Christian religious doctrine during schools hours.

In 1961, with the aim of overcoming the shortage of voluntary instructors and further embedding religion into secular schools, CCES campaigned for teachers employed by the government to deliver religious instruction. This move was quickly rejected by the teachers’ union. CCES later went on to change its name to ACCESS ministries, an organization that continues to dominate the religious education agenda today.

Phillip K. Newell documented and analysed the changes during this turbulent period in the history of religious education in Victoria. In 1968, he published his work in his Masters thesis titled, The Enactment and Operation of the 1950 Amendment to the Victorian Education Act. Newell went on to serve as the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania from 1982 to 2000.


Text (in PDF) of The Enactment and Operation of the 1950 Amendment to the Victorian Education Act
[Phillip K. Newell, Masters Research Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1968]

Abstract of thesis

Ch 1: A foundation of failure, 1943–1947

Ch 2: The Churches Converge, 1948–1950

Ch 3: Agreement brings amendment, 1950

Ch 4: The system established, 1951–1961

Ch 5: The response of the churches, 1951–1960 (Part 1)

Ch 6: The response of the churches, 1951–1960 (Part 2)

Ch 7: The development of opinion (Part 1)

Ch 8: The development of opinion (Part 2)

Ch 9: Facing the future

Appendices, Bibliography

  1. Project Overview
  2. Special Religious Instruction Campaign Chronology
  3. Parent Responses to Religious Instruction
  4. Religious Instruction in State Schools Promotes Prejudice
  5. Religious Instruction by Australian State
  6. Victorian Education Act – 1950 Amendment
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