Our History

Development of a System of Catholic Schools in Greater Sydney

Kelvin Canavan fms

This is an edited version of a talk given to the Australian Catholic Historical Society at St Patrick’s Church Hill, Sydney on 18 March 2018. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the reintroduction of direct government funding to Catholic schools in NSW. The 1968 grants were the first since 1882.

While the coming of ‘State Aid’ in the 1960s has been thoroughly researched and publicised, this talk adopted a broad brush approach to what Kelvin Canavan witnessed, initially as a young teacher, then as an Inspector of Schools, as Director of Primary Education and Deputy Director of Schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney.


The NSW Colonial government paid the salaries of approved teachers in Catholic and other Church schools until the Public Instruction Act of 1880 sponsored by Sir Henry Parkes, ceased funding for all Church schools, effective 31 December 1882. Most of the teachers in Catholic schools were subsequently reassigned to public schools.

To continue Catholic schooling, Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests were” found” in Europe (Ireland and France in particular) and Australia and for the next eighty years Catholic schools continued with these pioneering Religious women and men with support from a small band of lay teachers including Marjory Cantwell, my mother.

Let me jump ahead to the 1960s. Catholic schools, parish primary and regional secondary, were stand alone, relatively independent, with zero government funding.

In Sydney WWII immigration resulted in large (and some very large) classes. Still demands exceeded supply and between 1965 and 1971 there was a significant decline in the proportion of students attending Catholic schools. Accelerating retention rates in secondary schools exacerbated the problem. Increased school fees and parish assessments helped a little.

Table 1

Students in Catholic Schools

% of all students enrolled in Australian schools

1961 1965 1971 2017
19.6%% 19.5% 17.6% 20%

ABS Schools, Australia

These were precarious times and questions being canvassed included: are Catholic schools justifying themselves? should we focus on primary  OR secondary schools? should we think more about Catholic children in State schools?

The Wyndham scheme extended secondary schooling from five to six years and required among other things, enhanced knowledge and laboratories for the teaching of a Science Curriculum. Principals of all Catholic schools were Religious.  Payment of lay teachers’ salaries was a continuing struggle as principals and parish priests negotiated salaries or in-kind payments with individual teachers. A $1 million overdraft with the Commonwealth Bank was another concern.

As an individual, I was involved in Catholic schooling in Sydney, so let me take a personal tone. After completing a one-year teacher training program at the Marist Scholasticate, I was appointed in 1960 to Parramatta Marist to teach sixty boys in fourth class. The training program was recognized by the Council of Public Instruction of Victoria. In my second year I began a BA degree as an evening student at the University of Sydney. At Parramatta, I was also responsible for the school canteen, (staffed by the mothers of the students) the profits from which helped pay salaries for three lay teachers. The annual fete and various concerts were also important fund raisers as were the raffles and bottle drives. With the help of parents, the 18 classrooms were repainted during Saturday working bees. Each year many students were turned away as class sizes at Parramatta were limited to 60. Subsequently, I also taught at Marist Brothers Dundas and Eastwood and then came a very different kind of involvement.

In 1968 Cardinal Gilroy approved my appointment as Inspector of Schools, at the age of only 31 and I was to spend the next 40 years in the management and leadership of Catholic schools in this Archdiocese.

1965 – 1975

During my very early years in the Sydney Catholic Education Office (CEO) I  witnessed four developments that permanently changed the structure, organisation and face of Catholic schooling, but not the mission.  Namely:

  • Financial control of schools by the Archdiocese.
  • Employment of lay principals by the Archdiocese.
  • Government financial assistance for Catholic Schools.
  • Establishment of administrative and accountability structures to utilise government funding for systemic schools.

Each, in turn, contributed to the emerging central administration of the Greater Sydney Catholic school system, which as early as 1975 was beginning to exhibit characteristics of a bureaucracy.

Let me explain each of these four developments.

Financial Control of Schools by the Archdiocese

In response to a desperate situation and serious questioning about the survival of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, Cardinal Gilroy established the Catholic Building and Finance Commission (CBFC) early in 1965. This body took immediate financial control of income and expenditure of all Parish primary and Regional secondary schools in the Archdiocese. The Cardinal chaired the meetings which lasted one hour! At the fifth meeting of the CBFC held on 26 May, 1965, Cardinal Gilroy is reported in the Minutes as saying:

“It is my intention that all decisions on matters relating to education which result in financial demands on parishes, and/or in the construction of new buildings, shall be made by the Commission, and recommended to me, so that I may give the required authority”. (Minutes of Meeting, 1965-1968.)

Parishes, schools and Religious Congregations were informed of this decision to centralise income and expenditure. There was no consultation. Twenty five years later a dissertation on these changes was entitled: You’ve Taken Our Schools.¹  Another early decision of the CBFC was to establish a scale of tuition fees for Parish and Regional schools from the start of 1966. Fees collected by schools were to be remitted to the CBFC where they were banked in a common account from which salaries for lay teachers and stipends for Religious were paid. Principals were pleased to be relieved of the responsibility of ensuring sufficient cash was available for the weekly pay envelopes for teachers.

Procedures for Capital Works and Building Loan repayments were put in place. Expenditure was tightly controlled and proposals for additional buildings were submitted to the CBFC and parish priests and principals could not proceed without formal authorisation from the CBFC.

Geoffrey Davey, a retired engineer was Executive Commissioner until June 1967 when he stepped down to begin studies for the priesthood. He was replaced by Bernie McBride who served as Executive Secretary of the CBFC from 1967 until 1986. An annual budget for the school system was approved by the CBFC and the Diocesan Director of Schools, Fr John Slowey would be informed as to the number of teachers to be employed. Subsequently, the Sydney CEO began establishing staffing levels for each school. The new authority, the CBFC was separate from the CEO and eventually located on a different site. Each Director reported independently to the Archbishop and communication between the two was minimal and confusion about responsibilities soon characterised the emerging school system. I was appointed to the CBFC in 1977. By that time the financial urgency had passed and meetings were less frequent. I am not aware of any evidence that Cardinal Gilroy and his advisors foresaw the inevitable consequences of the implementation of this policy decision to centralise the finances of the System. Their immediate priority was the very survival of the schools. The first seeds for the development of a System of schools in Greater Sydney had been sown.

Employment of Lay Principals by the Archdiocese

Traditionally principals were appointed to Catholic schools by the relevant Religious Congregation which would also notify the Archbishop of Sydney. For many decades all principals were Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests. In 1972 the Provincial of the De La Salle Brothers informed the parish priest at St Vincent’s, Ashfield that the Congregation was no longer in a position to appoint a Brother as principal. This took both parish and Archdiocese by surprise. There were no established procedures to engage a lay principal. It was not on our radar. In 1973 a similar situation arose at St Bernadette’s primary, Dundas Valley and more were to follow. Two obvious questions were “Where will we find a lay principal?” and “Who will be the employer?”

While some preliminary discussions considered School Boards, the Sydney CEO soon emerged as the employer of lay principals and subsequently of teachers and support staff. Salary scales and conditions of employment were progressively developed for lay principals and teachers. The first Award for male teachers in Catholic schools in NSW (effective 1 January 1970) set salaries at 80% of that for NSW government school teachers, with full parity to be phased in over four years. The Award for female teachers was 70% of that paid to government school teachers. Equal pay for female teachers was to be phased in over the same four year period. From 1 January 1974 male and female salary differences ceased and salaries for Catholic school teachers were similar to those paid to government school teachers. ² A Superannuation scheme was established a decade later. Ambrose Roddy and Tom Daly were central to the development of this Award. Fortnightly teacher pay cheques were delivered to selected schools by couriers on motor bikes and school secretaries would collect their satchels. Concurrently, stipends for religious were regularised, with significant increases phased in over three years, including the equalisation of stipends for female and male religious. Cost of living was the underlying principle. Gerry Gleeson as Chairman of the NSW Public Service Board played the dominant role in the systemisation of stipends.

For the 1976 school year 22 new lay primary principals had to be found. At this stage the demand for lay principals was clearly ahead of supply. Within the decade 102 lay principals had been appointed in the Sydney Archdiocese. Leadership development programs were quickly implemented, assisted by an innovations program grant from the new Australian Schools Commission. Communication to parents that a lay principal was to be appointed to replace Sister was challenging. Initially parents were slow to accept the concept of lay leadership in their schools. “This is unthinkable … it will never work!” To help smooth the transition at the Parish level I would attend a meeting of parents to explain the change – sometimes with the relevant Congregational Leader, generally in the Parish Church on Sunday evenings. There were some fiery exchanges. History, however, shows the transition to lay leadership was quickly accepted by parents and had nil impact on school enrolments. Seeds for a future school System continued to be sown.

Government Financial Assistance for Catholic Schools

The NSW Budget 1967-1968 contained a modest allocation for a direct payment to non-government primary schools based on enrolments. The Expenditure allocation was listed as $900,000 for the Financial Year and initial per capita grants of $6 per student were made in the first half of 1968. ³  This was the first financial support Catholic schools had received from a NSW Government since 1882 (excluding “Free milk”, access to Government Stores and modest assistance with interest payments on approved building projects). After decades of waiting, a little State Aid had arrived and suddenly the future looked brighter.

Primary student grants for 1968-1969 were $24 and for the 1969-1970 financial year were $30 and for 1970-1971 the grant was $36 rising to $75 for 1973-1974. Further grants for primary students in non-government schools had been foreshadowed by Premier Askin. “Reasonable aid to independent schools is now a generally accepted principle … The burden on the taxpayer as children leave the independent schools and enrol at State schools is immeasurably heavier than if they had been assisted to stay at the independent schools. … Our view on State Aid, briefly, is that parents who elect to send their children to independent schools must be prepared to pay a reasonable share of the cost, but under today’s conditions it is too much to expect them to pay all the costs.”4

Table 2

NSW Government Student Grants to Non-Government Schools 1967 – 1974 *

Primary Secondary **  
1967-1968 $12 $18 i
1968-1969 24 28 i
1969-1970 30 34 ii
1970-1971 36 42 iii
1971-1972 50 59 iv
1972-1973 61 71 v
1973-1974 75 88 vi

* Slight variations in published amounts explained by financial/calendar differences.

** Means-tested secondary student allowances initially paid to parents. Students in senior classes attracted higher allowances.

i  Financial Statement, RW Askin 25 September 1968 p.11

ii NSW Hansard, 30 September 1969, p.1385

iii   NSW Hansard, 17 September 1970 p.6075

iv    NSW Hansard, 29 September 1971, p.1641

v    NSW Hansard, 27 September 1972, p.1111

vi     NSW Hansard, 25 September 1973, p.1221

At the secondary school level initial grants (scholarships/allowances) were paid to parents of eligible students in non-government schools in 1963-1964. These were means-tested and restricted to those in the third and subsequent years. The program was extended in 1964-1965 to include eligible students in all secondary classes. In 1968 these allowances were increased from $18 to $28 a year. The means-test for secondary school allowances to parents was progressively phased out as a prelude to paying allowances direct to the schools. When this occurred all systemic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney were directed to forward the government cheques to the CBFC which had responsibility for paying salaries and stipends. This procedure continued until August 1983 when Premier Wran, following a request from Archbishop Clancy, the recently appointed Archbishop of Sydney, instructed NSW Treasury to stop sending cheques to schools and to send a consolidated payment direct to the appropriate systemic authority.

The gradually increasing per capita grants could be seen, in part, as a response of the major political parties to the relentless campaign conducted by Catholic parents. In Sydney the Federation of Parents and Friends’ Associations employed a variety of strategies culminating in a series of public meetings. For example, on 7 August 1968 some 700 parents with children in Catholic schools in Sydney gathered in the Lewisham Town Hall. This was the first of eight public meetings called to demand government financial assistance for Catholic schools. The Lewisham meeting was successful and more meetings followed at Manly, Rockdale, Miranda, St Marys (near Penrith), Lane Cove and Eastwood. Most of the venues were packed to overflowing and parents put considerable pressure on political leaders, who had little option but to attend. Parents were very specific in their questions. They demanded justice and they wanted it immediately. Patience had long gone.

I well remember the meeting in the Odeon Theatre, Rowe Street, Eastwood on Sunday evening, 20 April 1969. Some 2,000 packed the venue and those unable to get in were asked to remain on the footpath until all ten Members of Parliament had arrived. The function was brilliantly stage-managed and the State and Federal MPs faced a passionate and well informed audience calling for specific commitments to future funding: “How much and when?” MPs had nowhere to hide. Preselected parents were given prepared questions and sat in designated seats. When the MC invited questions they immediately queued at the two microphones effectively excluding all others. After the function most MPs accepted the invitation to join the organisers for supper in the Catholic Presbytery in Hillview Avenue. More politicking occurred until midnight. I came away believing that the major parties were heading down the road of accepting the legitimacy of the demands by parents for some direct financial support for their schools. There was an increasing confidence among Catholic parents that their demands for financial assistance were being heard. The Sydney Town Hall meeting six weeks later confirmed this belief.

Gough Whitlam, Leader of the Federal Opposition, spoke at 7 of the 8 public meetings. His message was always the same:

“If a Labor Government is elected we will establish immediately an Interim Australian Schools Commission to examine the need of all Australian schools and if elected a Labor Government will fund all schools “according to need”.

The eighth and final Sydney meeting was held 1 June 1969, a wet Sunday evening, when 5,000 crowded into the Sydney Town Hall and the lower hall (days before Health and Safety Regulations for public buildings). Proceedings were broadcast live on Radio 2SM. There was extensive coverage on television and in the press, including some scuffles with anti State Aid protestors. The meeting concluded with a motion asking Commonwealth and State governments to each provide $50 to every student in a non-government primary and secondary school and that this amount be increased progressively. While these amounts were modest they certainly consolidated recent gains and were not likely to be opposed. Central to the motion was ‘that this amount be increased progressively’.

At the Federal level the secondary Science facilities program began in 1964 to be followed in 1969 by secondary school Library grants. Direct per capita grants commenced in 1970. 6

Table 3

Commonwealth Government Student Grants to Non-Government Schools 1970 – 1973

Primary Secondary
1970 $35 $50
1971 35 50
1972 50 68
1973 62 104

The campaign for school funding had had a long history. In 1962, for example, parents in Goulburn had drawn attention to their needs, when protesting against the financial impossibility of the upgrading of toilets demanded by Inspectors, they sought to enrol their children in local government schools. Catholic bishops, various parent organisations, clergy and parishioners, with the support of Religious Congregations, kept the needs of their schools before politicians. It was a long struggle, with countless magnificent campaigners. And I recall the particular contributions of Mrs Monica Turner (Federation of Sydney Parents and Friends’ Associations), Mrs Margaret Slatttery (Australian Parents’ Council) and Archbishop James Carroll. Sadly but gratefully, I had the opportunity to attend the funerals of these great campaigners. By 1970, major political parties had agreed in principle to financial assistance to non-government schools. There was disagreement however as to the method of distribution (ie “per capita” or “according to need”).

The Liberal/Country Party policy was to fund schools on a “per capita” basis with all students attracting the same level of support. For the electorate these two terms differentiated the policies of the major parties. Following the election of a Labor government on 2 December 1972 an Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission was established and immediately asked to “examine the position of government and non-government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia, to make recommendations on the immediate financial needs of these schools” and report by end of May 1973. The report, Schools in Australia, May 1973, identified a difficulty for Catholic systemic schools “which cannot be said to have governing bodies in the accepted sense”. “The Committee suggests …. the establishment by Catholic education authorities in each State of a Board of Trustees for Catholic systemic schools” to which the Australian government would pay the grants. This body would be legally responsible for ensuring government monies “were used for the purposes intended”. 7

The Whitlam government lost no time implementing the directions of the Schools in Australia report (Karmel Report) and immediately National, State and Diocesan structures needed to be established as a prerequisite for Catholic systemic schools to access forthcoming grants. Catholic authorities were well placed to establish the required administrative and accountability structures in order to access the new Schools in Australia programs. Following the historic Conference on the Administration of Catholic Education, held in Armidale in August 1972, an expert committee was convened and reported in August 1973. In essence the committee recommended the establishment of a National Catholic Education Commission, State Commissions and appropriate Diocesan Catholic Education Offices. That these recommendations closely paralled the Schools in Australia report could be explained by common membership – Fr Frank Martin, Director CEO Melbourne and Dr Peter Tannock, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Western Australia who served on both bodies.

While recommending increased funding the Report was explicit ‘the (Schools) Commission should not be involved in the detailed operation of schools or school systems’ (14.9). The Catholic Education Commissions in each State readily accepted a request to distribute Federal recurrent grants to Catholic systemic schools “according to need”. This was a game changer, the equivalent of delegating key responsibilities from a government department in Canberra to Catholic education authorities across Australia. The Federal budget allocation for Catholic systemic schools for 1973-1974 was $63m! The Allocation for 1974-1975 remained at $63m. For 1975-1976 supplementation was introduced to assist with wage and other cost increases. These new arrangements, while restricting the direct involvement of the Commonwealth government in Catholic schools, increased significantly in a permanent manner, the responsibilities and spheres of influence of the NSW CEC, the Sydney CEO and CBFC.

The early 1970s in some ways, marked the end of the State Aid campaign, apart from the Defence of Government Schools, (D.O.G.S) challenge in the High Court. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, phase one of the campaign. In the decades ahead the campaign in Greater Sydney continued. An ongoing challenge was the education and support of the electorate on the justice issue of financial assistance to non- government schools and the rights of parents to choose the schools for their children. And we needed to nullify the continuing campaigns of the NSW Teachers’ Federation, the NSW Parents and Citizens’ Association and from the early 1990s, the Greens political party. In some ways these three organisations gave the Catholic Education Commission and the Catholic Education Office a ready platform to explain the “true facts” of government financial assistance. Messages were clear and concise, professionally printed and widely distributed. Effective use was made of the print and electronic media and prior to Federal and State elections, the distribution of a statement comparing policies of the major parties was a priority.

Much use was made of school functions, in particular at the blessing and opening of new facilities, to explain to parents and MPs some particular aspects of government financial assistance to Catholic schools. The continuing contribution of parents including responsibility for loan repayments would be detailed along with Commonwealth and State contributions. As Executive Director I viewed these gatherings as an opportunity to cement community support for our schools. Building and maintaining relationships with major political parties was another on-going priority. It was important that we did not take government financial assistance for granted. Seeds for the development of a school System continued to be sown and for the decades ahead annual grants from government kept pace with rising costs.

Table 4

Combined Commonwealth and State Government Grants for Students in Catholic Systemic Schools in NSW 1979 – 2017

Primary Secondary
1979 $479 $745
1989 1,568 2,390
1999 3,358 4,631
2005 5,261 7,056
2006 5,580 7,312
2007 6,212 7,947
2017 10,689 12,280

Source:  CEO, Sydney Archives/Catholic Schools NSW

Note: Slight variations in published amounts explained by  financial/calendar year differences.

Establishment of Administrative and Accountability Structures to Utilise Government Funding for Systemic Schools

Let us consider again how this embryonic but now flourishing system had begun. Prior to 1965 Catholic schools in Sydney were relatively independent. Each raised its own funds and any lay teachers were paid by the principal or parish priest. The demands for administrative structures at an Archdiocesan level were minimal. Periodically a Priest Inspector would make a visit generally for a half day. These visits were circumscribed by the Catholic Schools Report Book which contained a four-page pro-forma for the Inspectors to complete and sign. The principals were given duplicate copies of the written reports, which remained the property of the Parish. Following the establishment of the CBFC in 1965 as outlined earlier, financial controls and administrative procedures were developed and gradually implemented.

And now let me indulge in a little personal reminiscing. When I was appointed to the Sydney Catholic Education Office in 1968 as an Inspector of Schools, the staff occupied four small rooms at the end of the Housie Hall, Cusa House, 175 Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Fr John Slowey had been Diocesan Director of Schools since 1954. At the same time, he was Chaplain to the Sisters of St Joseph, Mount Street, North Sydney where he was also assisting with the development of the Catholic Teachers’ College. From memory, the CEO and CBFC had a total staff of about 12-15, mostly priests, religious and semi-retired laymen and two young secretaries, Kay Renshaw and Christine Langton, with Florence Hull, as the office manager. Most of us worked part-time and on a voluntary basis. Housie regulars would begin taking up ‘their’ seats during the afternoon and were happy to assist stuffing envelopes for the occasional mailing to schools. I sold Lesson Registers, Student Report Forms and poetry anthologies – pre copyright legislation – to cover my running costs, primarily the car provided by the Marist Brothers.

At this time the CEO had a limited mandate:

  • Religious Education Curriculum and knowledge of Catechism
  • Primary Final examination for Year 6 students
  • Catholic Teachers’ Conference in May
  • Circulars for Schools (occasional)
  • Major Catholic gatherings including St Patrick’s Day & Corpus Christi.

Survival was the key and reporting and accountability minimal. There was little System administrative experience or culture at diocesan level. The major asset was good will and a commitment to support the schools.

The development of the Sydney CEO/CBFC quickened with the election of the Whitlam Government and establishment of the Australian Schools Commission. Overnight, fledgling CEOs and CECs were engaging staff to manage and deliver a plethora of new well-funded programs. Field and program specialist staff, including psychologists and social workers for the Disadvantaged Schools Program, Special Education, Innovation and Library specialists were employed. With strong support from the Dominican Sisters, a Hearing Impaired Program was established and the Child Migrant Program (ESL) was continued. Staff were also employed for Curriculum support, Teacher Development and Education Centres, Human Resources, Industrial Relations, Capital Works and the Leadership Development of Principals. Payroll Clerks, Accountants and Auditors were appointed.

The introduction of new national catechetical texts and related pedagogical developments required the employment of Religious Education specialists and the provision of major professional development programs. Catholic schools were now part of a developing network or System characterised by increasing government financial support with a sense of confidence and excitement – particularly in staff rooms. A rapidly expanding organisation of this size was a new phenomenon for the Archdiocese and staff were on a steep learning curve. Providing leadership programs for principals resulted in senior CEO staff becoming familiar with the rudiments of leadership and management best practice. And thanks to Monsignor John Slowey, in 1978 I attended an eight week intensive management residential course at the Australian Administrative Staff College, Mt Eliza Victoria.

More appropriate accommodation had to be found and in 1973 the CEO/CBFC moved to St Benedict’s Broadway into spaces formerly occupied by the Marist Brothers school and now by the University of Notre Dame. This meant that we had 20-30 rooms across three floors of the building. The parish primary school and the parish occupied the rest of the building. A staff of perhaps 40-50 lay, religious and clergy received Award wages or stipends.

The growth in the staffing level at the CEO and the corresponding expansion of centralised activities was facilitated by the availability of Commonwealth funds for use by diocesan education authorities to administer their school Systems according to government program guidelines. The early 1970s were hectic times as we scrambled to develop sufficient infrastructure to start accessing available funds and providing new programs as well as satisfying the accountability requirements of the Commonwealth. The bureaucratic seeds were germinating fast. There was no turning back.

1980 – 1985

Brother Walter Simmons, cfc was appointed Diocesan Director of Schools in 1982 and I was appointed the Deputy Director and Spokesman without any advertising of either position. Following the establishment within the Archdiocese of five pastoral regions, each under the care of an auxillary bishop, the Catholic Education Office at Broadway was decentralised and five regional CEOs were established in January 1982. Regional Directors were appointed and staff drawn from the existing office. This development helped mitigate the impact of any unintended consequences of forming a bureaucracy. The new Regional CEOs were closer to schools and parishes and positively received.

While there was much excitement and growing confidence among Catholic School System Leadership personnel, by the early 1980s there was also a developing awareness that our major goal as Catholic educators was not primarily the effective implementation of Commonwealth programs. In a prophetic talk to the CEO staff in 1982, Fr Cyril Hally SSC, an eminent anthropologist reminded us that ‘as an evangeliser the CEO must begin by being evangelised itself’. 10 Hally continued ‘in these days, a bureaucracy is needed to support and conduct a large organisation. When that organisation is directed to the spreading of the Kingdom of God, that must also be the goal of the bureaucracy. If the school has a vocation, so does the CEO. If there is a vocation, then there must be a distinctive spirituality. And for those who work in this bureaucracy the spirituality must be worked out and lived within that ministry. We should not seek a ministry’ he said ‘that ignores the workplace’. “The evangelisation of the CEO bureaucracy” became part of the CEO’s lexicon for decades.

Working in the CEO was not immediately attractive to many experienced Religious principals who were still to be convinced that the arrival of the CEO was necessarily a good thing. School leadership was more valued, particularly at the secondary level. This created early problems in the recruitment of CEO leadership personnel. However, the role and function of the CEO continued to expand and in April 1983 more suitable accommodation was found in the St Martha’s complex, Renwick Street, Leichhardt which the Archdiocese had purchased earlier from the Sisters of St Joseph. With extended responsibilities the school system required a different leadership structure and in 1983 Archbishop Clancy established the Sydney Archdiocesan Catholic Schools (SACS) Board, with Archbishop Carroll as the first Chairman. This was a more representative body than CBFC. A Catholic Schools Finance Office (CSFO) replaced the CBFC. The CEO and CSFO reported to the SACS Board. Bishop Geoffrey Robinson was appointed SACS Board Chairman in 1986 and presided over a major restructure of the school System. He served until 2004.

By 1985 the staff employed in the CEO and CSFO – had grown to about 200 women and men, most of whom were full-time professionals and moved over time from Cusa House to St Benedict’s to St Martha’s and into five regional offices. The CEO was now influencing most aspects of Catholic schooling in Greater Sydney ranging from the establishment of new schools to the distribution of resources, to the employment and appraisal of principals and teachers: finally to the development of curriculum and religious education materials and the implementation of programs to meet particular student needs.

1985 – 1986

The movement to coordinate Parish and Regional schools begun in 1965, was to continue inexorably and by 1985 the Archdiocese of Sydney had a highly centralised System of 264 Parish and Regional schools, educating 110 688 students. Archdiocesan authorities were responsible in 1985 for the distribution to these schools of student grants from governments, exceeding $A152 million, up from zer0 dollars in 1967. 11 The rapid growth of the CEO and CBFC/CSFO bureaucracy was a response to the four developments described in this paper. The growth had been accompanied by some System discontinuity and conflict as the new bureaucracy struggled to clarify responsibilities and mutual expectations.

As a means of improving the quality of Catholic schooling in the Archdiocese, there was a pressing need to clarify the complementary roles of the principals and the Catholic System authorities and to move towards a consensus of the roles, services, structures and goals of the SACS Board, the CEO and CSFO. After all, the System had grown up like topsy. To this end the Archdiocese supported a doctoral study that surveyed 256 systemic school principals and all 124 CEO professional staff. 12 The doctoral study in 1985 reported:

Across the 161 survey items the Sydney Catholic Education Office was perceived positively by principals and CEO staff. The importance of the 40 services provided to schools by the CEO in 1985 was accepted unequivocally by principals and CEO staff. There were clear indications that both groups favoured some increased emphasis on these services.  There was nil support for discontinuing any services. 13

Principals and CEO staff however, expressed significant dissatisfaction with role conflict and ambiguity linked to the existence of the two Catholic education authorities, namely the Sydney CEO and the CSFO (known earlier as CBFC). Previous research by Brothers Ambrose Payne fsc and Robert Goodwin fms had reported on the presence of conflict and ambiguity. At the same time the Senate of Priests, the Catholic Primary Principals’ Association and the Catholic Secondary Principals’ Association all sought clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the CSFO and the CEO Sydney. There was confusion about who was responsible for what. 14

In 1986, Archbishop Clancy, responded to the role conflict and ambiguity problem when he accepted the recommendation from the SACS Board for a restructured administration that saw the amalgamation of the CEO and the CSFO. Press advertisements appeared for a new position, the Executive Director of Schools. Advertising this leadership position with a contract requiring regular performance appraisal was a first for the Archdicoese. In December 1986 following interviews in the Cathedral presbytery Brother Kelvin Canavan was appointed to this position with a five-year contract. His doctoral study of 1985 was to provide helpful background to restructure the administration. This appointment in Sydney coincided with the formation of the new dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay and the subsequent establishment of separate administrative arrangements and CEOs. The three offices operated independently from December 1986.

The development of the Sydney CEO, and its acceptance by its major clients, within 20 years, would indicate that this complex organisation now exhibited the characteristics of a rational bureaucracy including the structures and mechanisms to provide for its own survival and regeneration. 15

What had generally been a large number of struggling poor schools isolated from each other, existing mainly on heroism and good will, slowly became a recognisable, cohesive and integrated System of schools. Another chapter in the history of Catholic schooling in Greater Sydney had begun.

ENDNOTES

  1.  Luttrell, John (1992). You’ve Taken Our Schools: The Role and Development of the
    Catholic Education Office, Sydney. M.Ed (Hons) thesis University of Sydney.
  2. Teachers (Assistant Masters and Mistresses in Non-Governmental Schools) (State)
    Award from 1970. NSW Industrial Gazette, [Vol. 178] 30 September 1970
  3. NSW Budget Papers 1967-1968, p.144
  4. Policy speech, RW Askin 9 February 1968 p.10
  5. NSW Hansard, JB Renshaw, 25 September 1963, p.5300
    Financial Statement, RW Askin 25 September 1968, p.11
  6. Commonwealth payments to or for the States 1970-1971. Canberra 1970 p.36
    Commonwealth payments to or for the States 1972-1973. Canberra 1972 p.53
    Commonwealth payments to or for the States 1973-1974. Canberra 1973 p.44
  7. Schools in Australia, Report of the Interim Committee for Australian Schools
    Commission (1973) 13.19 p.136
  8. Schools in Australia (1973) 14.9 p.141
  9. Payments to or for the States on the occasion of the Budget 1973-1974. Canberra 1973
    p.44
    Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities on the occasion of
    the Budget 1974-1975. Budget Paper 7. Canberra 1974 p.50
    Payments to or for the States and Local Government Authorities on the occasion of
    the Budget 1975-1976. Budget Paper 7. Canberra 1975 p.44
  10. Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN) 15, 1976
  11. Canavan, Kelvin (1986), Perceptions and Expectations of Roles, Services, Structures
    and Goals of the Sydney Catholic Education Office held by Principals and CEO Staff,
    Ed.D. dissertation, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, UMI 86-14594, 1986.
    p.28
  12. Canavan p.252
  13. Canavan p.260
  14. Canavan pp.24-26, 256-258, 275
  15. Canavan pp.45 and 260