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New South Wales - Organisation

Department of Education (1915 - 1989)

State Government of New South Wales

Government Department

The Department of Education (formerly known as the Department of Public Instruction) was established in 1915. It was responsible for the welfare of all children held in reformatories, industrial schools, training institutions and training vessels. After 1916, children who truanted from school could be detained in such institutions, and truancy schools were created for that purpose. The Department of Education retained authority for these institutions until 1956, when they were transferred to the Child Welfare Department. Records of Public Schools and Aboriginal Schools are valuable sources for people tracing their past, and are readily accessible via the State Records Office.


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 The Public Instruction Act repealed the Public Schools Act 1866, dissolved the Council of Education and provided for the cessation of all aid to Denominational Schools from 31 December 1882.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.


 c. 1848 - 1866 Board of National Education
 1848 - 1866 Denominational School Board
       1866 - 1880 Council of Education
       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