Info

education system, for which they received no state aid at all until 1963. In 1866 in South Australia, the highly educated romantic Fr Julian Tenison Woods, and the practical, courageous Mary MacKillop, who was beatified in 1995, founded the Sisters of St Joseph. A teaching order, the Josephites had, at the time of MacKillop's death in 1909, almost a thousand teaching sisters and they modelled the way Catholics could build an education system without state aid. By 1901 there were 100,000 pupils in Catholic schools. This heroic campaign intensified Catholic identity, which was compounded with Irish anti-British feeling and galvanised the sectarian divide between Catholic and Protestant, a prominent feature of Australian social life until Vatican II. Nineteenth-century Australian Catholics were a minority sub-culture: alienated, defensive, introspective and clericalised; but cohesive, focused on the papacy, certain that to be Christian one had to be Roman, and, though depressed economically, better off than they had been before coming to Australia. It was a sub-culture which nurtured Australia's most notorious bush ranger, Ned Kelly, and a number of rebels in the Eureka Stockade in 1854, but it helped the poor Irish convicts and immigrants to survive more than to rebel.

Legislating for a Christian nation The majority of the Australian population in the second half of the nineteenth century were Protestants who believed in the separation of church and state. They also believed, however, that the prosperity ofthe nation and the freedoms of its people depended on the morality and values of the Christian religion, and that the practice of righteousness should have the force of law behind it.

Protestant Christians argued that sabbath observance had made Britain great and free, and that Australia should follow Britain and not the Continent. In 1889, the New South Wales Council of Churches was formed, representing the six major Protestant denominations (Anglicans, Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists). Similar councils were formed in the next decade in other colonies. Their chief task was to protect the Christian Sunday. Colonial legislatures did resist Protestant pressure to ban Sunday concerts, newspapers and public transport, but these concessions apart, the legislative brakes were kept on the secularisation of the sabbath until 1966.

Protestants were also eager for legislative restraints on the liquor industry. The Anglican rector Francis Bertie Boyce urged on the government the principle of 'local option', where residents could keep alcohol out of their community by a majority vote. This was actually achieved in 1882 in an act which also prohibited Sunday Trading. Temperance campaigners believed that

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment