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New South Wales - Organisation

Department of Justice and Public Instruction (1873 - 1881)

Care Provider and Government Department

The Department of Justice and Public Instruction oversaw industrial schools and reformatory schools, in addition to ordinary public schools. It was replaced by the Department of Public Instruction in 1881.


During the early years of the settlement of the Colony of New South Wales, the Governors provided support to schools. By the 1820s the Churches became organised and the State withdrew to a considerable degree until 1848 when state elementary schools were established. In 1848 education was placed under the control of two boards: the Board of National Education and the Denominational School Board. These two boards functioned concurrently until 1866 when the Public Schools Act replaced them with the Council of Education.

The Department of Justice and Public Instruction was created in 1873. With the passing of the Public Instruction Act all business of an educational nature was transferred to the control of the Department of Public Instruction. The Public Instruction Act repealed the Public Schools Act 1866, dissolved the Council of Education and provided for the cessation of all aid to Denominational Schools from 31 December 1882. In 1889, technical education was transferred to the control of the Minister for Public Instruction, being administered through the Technical Education Branch of the Department. Under the Technical Education and New South Wales University of Technology Act, 1949 a separate Department of Technical Education was established.

In 1957 the Department was renamed the Department of Education. In 1990, the name changed to the Department of School Education. In 1998, the Department was amalgamated with the Department of Technical and Further Education to become the Department of Education and Training.


 1873 - 1881 Department of Justice and Public Instruction
       1880 - 1915 Department of Public Instruction
             1915 - 1989 Department of Education
                   1989 - 1997 Department of School Education
                         1997 - 2011 Department of Education and Training
                               2011 - Department of Education and Communities

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Online Resources

Sources used to compile this entry: Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry