When did Schools of Arts arrive in Australia?

Q&A #3

Dr Roger Morris, AM

President, AMISA

Quite quickly is the short answer.

This was clearly an idea whose time had come. Beginning in Scotland, soon separate bodies with purpose built premises, called Mechanics’ Institutes or Schools of Arts, were being founded with the goal of providing scientific and technological education for skilled manual workers.

The Institutes/Schools movement may well have been one of the most successful examples of British educational imperialism, spreading throughout the English-speaking world very quickly. The impulse for greater rationality, the passion for science, the desire for moral improvement, and the thirst for useful knowledge turned out to be as powerful in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA as they were in the United Kingdom.

  • The first School of Arts in Australia was the Van Diemen’s Land Mechanics’ Institute, which opened in Hobart in 1828. However, it only operated for a few years before becoming defunct.
  • The Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts was founded in 1833. Its double-barreled name is perhaps a result of dual Scottish origins; the Edinburgh School of Arts and the Glasgow [and London] Mechanics’ Institute[s].
  • In 1835, the Newcastle School was formed and in 1861 so was the Wollongong School.
  • In 1839, Melbourne followed suit. The Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute later changing its name and to become the Melbourne Athenaeum.
  • The South Australian Literary and Scientific Society was formed in London in 1834 and opened in Adelaide in 1836.
  • The north Brisbane School of Arts was founded in 1849.
  • While in the West, the Swan River Mechanics’ Institute commenced operations in 1851.

What is the founding date of your School/Institute?