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New South Wales - Organisation

Department of Public Instruction (1880 - 1915)

  • Department of Public Instruction, Sydney

    Department of Public Instruction, Sydney, c. 1880 - c. 1915, courtesy of Museums of History New South Wales.

Government Department

The Department of Public Instruction controlled reformatories, industrial schools and training vessels from 1881, until the responsibility for such institutions were transferred to the Child Welfare Department in 1923. The Public Instruction Department was created by the Public Instruction Act 1880. This Act removed government funding from religious schools and made it compulsory for all children aged between seven and fourteen to attend school. After the Child Welfare Department was created in 1923 the Department of Public Instruction's main involvement with child welfare was with reporting truancy. Children convicted of truancy could be removed and placed in special institutions.


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 The Public Instruction Act repealed the Public Schools Act 1866, dissolved the Council of Education and provided for the cessation of all aid to Denominational Schools from 31 December 1882.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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Department of Public Instruction, Sydney
Department of Public Instruction, Sydney
c. 1880 - c. 1915
New South Wales
Museums of History New South Wales


Prepared by: Naomi Parry