Ballarat School of Mines - Establishment

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Established in 1870, the Ballarat school is the oldest School of Mines in Australia. The following history was published in 1920.

'Ballarat has helped to influence the life and destinies of Australia in many ways, the recital of which would perhaps prove tedious to the citizens of less favoured localities! However, it can be said, without much fear of contradiction, that only less known thought Australia than its fame as a gold field is the reputation won for it by its School of Mines, ...

Ballarat was still quite a new place when the School was founded, but a very prosperous and popular place all the same, with a go-ahead lot of citizens brim full of the spirit of enterprise which seems to animate mining populations generally. Money was plentiful, and they launched out into ventures, which later, were to develop and take the place of the gold mines, while what is more to the point, they understood the value of education. The old digging days were passing away. So far as Ballarat itself was concerned the day of the cradle and tin dish had already passed into an antiquity "as dead and distant as the age of the Tubal Caon," said Sir Redmond Barry on declaring the School open. Mining had become a serious business, and the mining engineer, the metallurgist, and the geologist had become a power in the land. In these circumstances the suggestions to found a School of Mines met with ready acceptance.


The late Mr James M. Bickett had the honor of bringing forward the proposition at a meeting of the Ballarat Mining Board in October, 1869. It was agreed to, and the Government, having been approached for assistance, granted a lease of the old Supreme Court buildings at a nominal rental. A modest sum, including 100 pounds from the Borough Council of Ballarat West, was subscribed by a number of sympathisers, and on the 26th October, 1870, the inaugural address was delivered by Sir Redmond Barry, the first President of the School. Classes were commenced on the 23rd January, 1871.

The students at first were mostly adults. They were chiefly men employed at the mines, who had the wisdom and energy to devote their spare time to study, and, though their attendance was somewhat irregular, they made very good progress. Old prints which have been preserved show them at work at furnaces, big bearded men of the old-fashioned type of miner.

It is interesting to note that among those who gave evidence and encouragement was Sir Roderick Murchison, who many years before had advised Cornish miners to emigrate to Australia to search for gold, and who in 1848 was in possession of gold ore sent from this country. Sir Roderick sent a parcel of books for the library, and gave useful advice as to the curriculum which should be adopted.

The Museum, which now contains a most valuable collection of minerals, was one of the first things attended to, and the reports presented to the Council from time to time speak of additions being made from all parts of the world. New equipment was constantly being added to the School, a good deal of assay work was done, and some specimens were sent from the East Indies for examination as far back as 1873. By this time there was a difficulty in providing accommodation for the students who wished to enroll, and the number of instructors had grown from two to four.

Plan of the Ballarat School of Mines, 1881, Federation University Historical Collection (Cat.No.941)

In 1882 the first building was being erected on what was then part of the gaol reserve. A little more than ten years afterwards a building formerly serving as a Methodist Church was absorbed, while later on, the demand for accommodation increasing, the attack upon the gaol was renewed. The School continued to grow in reputation and size, and became the science centre of the district, and in 1889 a large new building was opened by Sir Alexander Peacock. Students came from over seas as well as from all the States of Australia, and after going through their courses they took with them the name and fame of the old School to all parts of the globe. School of Mines boys have played a great part in developing the mining fields of Western Australia, South Australia, and Africa, while old students who have made a name in their profession are constantly dropping in to see how the old place is getting along.

It was not to be expected, however, that the Ballarat School would be left without rivals, its very success inspiring competition. Mining Schools were started in other parts of Australia, and, at the same time, Victoria ceased to hold first place as a mining state. On the other hand there was a great advance in manufacturing, and the demand for technically trained men became a great and as insistent as ever it had been for trained mining men. The Council was quick to adapt the school to the new conditions, and the result is seen in the institution, which is one of Ballarat's proudest possession. Instruction is given in all branches of technical work, and the classes are filled with students who are building up for Ballarat a reputation as an industrial centre, which promises to equal that which it formerly held as a mining town.

Students of the Ballarat School of Mines, c1900. Federation University Historical Collection (Cat.No.272.2)

Owing to its bracing climate, its abundant opportunities for recreations, and its accessibility, Ballarat as a city is an ideal place for educational purposed, and is yearly becoming more and more appreciated throughout the State. The chairman of one of Ballarat's biggests industries claims that the workman can do twice the day's work here that he can do in Melbourne. He was a little enthusiastic over it, perhaps, but it is a well-known fact that the healthy and invigorating Ballarat climate is conducive to both physical and mental activity, and the records of the School provide ample proof of it.

One of the most interesting and successful branches of the School of Mines and Industries - if the name be enlarged with the enlargement of its scope - is the Technical Art School. "The City of Statues" has from its earliest days been a stronghold of art. Art schools have flourished here, and in 1905 the Education Department came to the conclusion that the best thing to do with them was to place them under the management of the School of Mines Council. A magnificent new Technical Art School was built at a cost of some 12,000 pounds on the site of the old Supreme Court building, and was formally opened on the 23rd July, 1915. The results have not only been justified but surpassed all anticipations. The most comprehensive list of subjects is taught, and this list is constantly added to. Students have flocked to the art School, which may be said to occupy a unique position in Australia, and its record of success is really astonishing. Its students supply art teachers for the newer schools that are being built, and many occupy leading positions in important business houses. So well is its reputation known that orders are constantly being received, not only from Victoria, but from other States, for honor boards and challenge shields to be designed and made.

The most recent addition to the School of Mines and Industries is the Junior Technical School, for which a new building is now being erected on a portion of the gaol site, transferred to the School of Mines Council by the Government. At the present moment temporary quarters are being occupied. Some students after passing through the Junior School go straight to employment, continuing perhaps to attend the evening trade classes, while others move on to the senior School.

In a review of the work of the School of Mines mention must be made of a series of industrial research carried out under supervision of the Principal. One in particular, regarding the suitability of the local ores for the manufacture of pigments attracted much attention, while the experiments on the manufacture of white pottery from Victorian clays were considered of sufficient importance by the Federal Advisory Council of Science and Industry to warrant the appointment of a special investigator. The results of these have been most encouraging, and may have far-reaching consequences.

The vocational training of returned soldiers also should not be overlooked. The work was taken in hand from the first, before the Repatriation Department gave assistance, and now with the help of the department of the School has become one of the largest vocational training centres in Victoria outside of Melbourne. The soldiers, trained in a variety of occupations, have made remarkable progress, and already considerable numbers have found employment in local workshops and factories.

To sum up, the School is divided into the following departments, each well staffed and equipped: - The School of Mines, Science, and Engineering; the Technical Art School, the Boys' Junior Technical School, the Girl's Preparatory Technical Classes, Trade Classes, and the Commercial School. The School of Mines, Science and Engineering, comprises the following branches: - Mining, Metallurgy, Geology, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Applied Chemistry, and Pharmacy. Battery treatments, Cyanide Testing, Smelting, Assays, and Clay Testing from a regular part of the School's work. Students gaining qualifications obtain concession in their courses at the university, should they proceed there to continue their studies. The Technical Art school curriculum includes training in all branches of Pictorial and Applied Art, an Architectural Diploma Course, a Draughtman's Course, Technical Art Teachers' Course, Photography, Ticket Writing, Art Metal Work, Woodcarving, Needlework, and Leather work. The Trade Classes give instruction in Telephone Mechanics, Telegraphy, Carpentry, Cabinet Making, Plumbing, Blacksmithing, Fitting, Electric Wiring, and Printing. Numerous Scholarships are offered every year, and altogether students will find few places to equal the Ballarat School of Mines and Industries as a training place for their life's work. One of the fist in the continent to be established, its Jubilee finds it still in the front rank, keeping pace with the times, and offering to the youths of this country the means of taking advantage of Australia's teeming opportunities.

References

The Ballarat School of Mines and Industries Jubilee Booklet, 1920. University of Ballarat Historical Collection [Cat. No. 317].


--C.K.Gervasoni 12:19, 11 March 2011 (EST)

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