Since before Federation, for a period of over eighty years up to the late 1960s, public funds were not provided for non-government schooling in Australia.
NSW Parents’ Council (NSWPC) was founded in Goulburn,1962, by parents who campaigned for public funding of their small non-government school. NSWPC was part of the vanguard of action to achieve this in Australia in the late 1960’s and continues to lead action for true justice, choice and fairness for non government school parents and their children.
Today NSWPC is the state-wide organisation of non-government school parents and their local school parent associations. NSWPC is recognised as the voice of independent school parents in the general community.
NSWPC is a non-party political and multi-denominational organisation. It is self-sufficient and autonomous in its work. It has been in the past a state affiliate to Australian Parents Council (APC), the national organisation of parents of non-government school children giving NSW independent school parents an even wider voice in the Federal arena. Currently we have developed a direct and high profile engagement strategy on national issues as the body representing the single largest group of independent school parent organisations in Australia.
NSWPC achieves and effectively contributes to significant outcomes for parents, their children and their school communities. We have been successful in monitoring the educational environment and affecting change when required.
In 1962 in Goulburn NSW, a momentous event gave impetus to the formation the Australian Parents Council. This event, known as the Goulburn ‘Closure’ received nation-wide media coverage on the unjust treatment of Catholic and other parents who chose other than State schools for their children. It was a watershed for the ‘state aid’ issue amongst politicians of all political persuasions. The details are contained in the section titled The Goulburn ‘Closure’.
Prior to the happenings in Goulburn, in other areas of NSW, Catholic parents were coming together to discuss how best to obtain a return of a fair share of their taxes which they paid for all schooling.
In Wagga in 1959, a group of Catholic laymen with the encouragement and help of Bishop Francis Henschke, set up a committee to look at all aspects of Catholic schooling in that city. They researched all aspects of government aid for schooling both in Australia and in overseas countries. Material from the United States Council for Educational Freedom had a great influence on their thinking. This was supplied by Mr Lawrie and Mrs Kathleen Woolf of Sydney, recently returned from the U.S. The committee soon proposed that it should undertake political action to secure equity in the distribution of government funds for schooling.
With Bishop Henschke’s encouragement, Parents and Friends Associations were set up in schools in the Wagga Diocese during the early 1960s. Some of the men prominent in this Association were Messrs John Hewitt, Brian Allen, Ray Storrier, Brian Gallagher and Alan Taylor, who was to become the first President of the yet to be formed Australian Parents Council.
In the Newcastle/Maitland area a group of Catholic laymen under the leadership of Mr Peter Murray formed the Hunter Valley Federation.
On the South Coast of NSW various small groups came together for the same purpose: Dr Bill Feneley, Mr John O’Driscoll and Mr Gino Fogliati from the Bulli/Thirroul area, Mr Brian O’Neill of Nowra and Messrs David Nelson, Alan Hogan and Vince Tobin of Wollongong.
They produced the Illawarra Education Journal, a forerunner of the AEF Journal, which was so influential when the NSWAEF was formed in August 1962, almost simultaneously with the APC.
Dr Bill Feneley, with seven children in local Catholic schools, was incensed to learn that the only government assistance available for his children was ‘one-third of a pint of milk per day’. His enthusiasm and drive and his gift for enthusing others to the cause were instrumental in organising a sound financial gift system from hundreds of supporters which helped fund the commencement of the yet to be formed state and national parents’ bodies.
These three groups – Wagga, Hunter Valley and Illawarra were ready additional springboards for action in NSW when the Goulburn ‘closure’ of Catholic schools took place and the whole matter of the struggle for educational justice took on state and national dimensions.
These NSW groups formed the nucleus of the NSWAEF which in November 1974 became the NSW Parents’ Council (NSWPC). Its setting up on 25th August 1962 was authorised by a provisional Committee of eighteen persons appointed at the Goulburn meeting of 25th August 1962 which in turn had been authorised by the momentous Lilac Time Hall meeting of July 1962.