History of Collingwood Technical School - Essay
History of Collingwood Technical School
Cassie May, 2017
Since the 1850s, the site of the former Collingwood Technical School has played a significant role in the development of the local community. The story of the suburb of Collingwood and its challenging beginning runs parallel to the success of the school and its 93 years of service. Over decades, the precinct between Johnston, Wellington and Perry Streets has been used to nurture, educate and inspire. The Collingwood Arts Precinct will build upon this experience, and will reinvigorate the location for the next generation of creative industries.
From Smith Street , the land slopes eastwards down to Wellington Street, where it levels out towards the Yarra River. Known in the nineteenth century as the ‘Flat’, the area was a natural marsh, prone to severe flooding from stormwater and sewers flowing from the heights of Eastern Hill . It became home to the poor and working class and a place of industrial development; the noxious and hazardous kind including abattoirs, fellmongers, wool scourers, tanneries, breweries, flour mills, and soap and candle works. It was a source of cheap labour [including] unskilled workers, unemployed craftsmen and increasing numbers of adolescents and women. The Collingwood Council encouraged the establishment of factories in order to exploit the availability of labour, to assist commerce and to increase land values and municipal revenue .
In 1853, a bluestone 'Police Court,' was built at 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood. Designed by Government Architect, Peter Kerr (1820 – 1912), it was a single story and imposing courthouse, set back from the road . A decade later, the Court House Hotel (modified yet still standing) was built next door . In 1860, Council Chambers, including the Town Clerk Office, were built on the east side of the courthouse. Council opened a free public library in these rooms which was available to readers in the evening, while the Police Court Office was located at the back of the building.
In July 1871, the Collingwood Artisans’ School of Design was established for ‘the Industrial Youth of all classes, the Committee sparing no trouble or expense in providing the best Masters and Drawings possible to procure, so as to make the instruction given in the School of real utility to the Youth attending ’. Classes were held on Tuesday evenings in the Johnston Street courthouse from 7.30pm to 9pm. For two shillings per quarter, technical drawing subjects on offer included Architecture, Practical Geometry, Landscape and Elementary Free Hand. The Australian Impressionist artist Tom Roberts, began his formal artistic training there in 1873  and women were later admitted in 1879. In 1881, the Collingwood Working Men's Club shared the premises  and after the new and imposing Collingwood Town Hall opened in May 1887, the school, Council Chambers and court function moved to Hoddle Street.
The depression of the 1890s had lasting effect on the Australian economy until the early twentieth century. Along with failing banks, major unemployment, strikes and economic hardship, investment in education became less of a priority for the State Government. A Royal Commission on Technical Education (1899 - 1901)  acknowledged that ‘the need for trained intelligence in every branch of industry must rapidly be recognised by the people of Victoria...to bring the work of the schools into closer relation with the requirements of everyday life ’. At the request of the Education department [of Victoria], Collingwood Council ceded...a large block of land between Johnston and Perry Streets. On the site remained [the] former...bluestone courthouse and the Collingwood Council Chambers .
After the reforming Education Act of 1910 , Collingwood Technical School No. 22 officially opened in the Johnston Street buildings on 30 July, 1912 . Matthew Richmond  was appointed as its first Principal, as he had previously taught at the Working Men’s College (now Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, RMIT) with fellow teacher and future Principal, Alexander Strang. When Strang arrived one evening about 7 o’clock, he was amused to find no students to teach and asked Richmond what he was going to do about it. Taking a large bell to the front gate in Johnston Street, ‘he rang vigorously, and to the assembled crowd expounded the advantage to be derived...from a course of study in the local technical school .’ The commotion worked; by August of 1912, fifty-seven students had enrolled in evening classes .
The School Prospectus warned; ‘parents, don’t let your boy drift as soon as he has left the primary school. He will acquire habits that will ruin his life...It is your duty to set him on the right track and give him a chance to develop his powers. The course of work at our school will enable you to judge what line of work he will make most progress in. Our school will teach subjects to make boys practical and employable; we will give them an education in English and Mathematics; they will learn what it is to be a good citizen of this great country of ours. Do not delay. Your boys’ future depends on the choices you will make for them .’
Initially, Collingwood Technical School offered three-year courses for boys at night over two or three evenings per week in carpentry, plumbing, turning and fitting, bricklaying, and plastering . Later, courses in electrical wiring and electrical mechanical engineering were also introduced. The school emblem, which was probably designed by Richmond (c1914) represented the trades on offer and consisted of a gear wheel and try square, a pair of calipers, an artist's palette and the monogram ‘C.T.S.’ The black and white colours stand for purity (white) and the darkness of ignorance (black), and also refer to the local Collingwood Australian Rules Football Team.
In 1913 the opening of the Junior Day School was an important development for the community. The average school leaving age for children at the time was twelve. Students were able to stay in the general education system for an additional two years and gain preparatory training for technical related employment. They could then, for example, ‘enter intelligently, upon an apprenticeship in any of the Government Workshops, such as the Railway Department, the Naval Department, and the various Workshops of the Commonwealth Government, where there [were] good opportunities for promotion in many Professional Divisions ’.
Almost immediately after the outbreak of the World War I (1914-1918), many servicemen returned to Australia either physically or mentally unfit to return to their previous occupations. The school expanded its educational program when the State War Council established a Returned Soldier's Training Scheme. Noting the potential issues of rehabilitating those who were disabled or suffered from ‘shell shock’ and ‘neurasthenia’ , the school council was aware that few of the potential students would be normal, and any attempt to train them successfully required the best educational skills available . Via the Soldier’s Employment Bureau, a small selection of fourteen candidates were chosen for instruction in basic carpentry, including toy making and other forms of wood work. Tasks included wood turning and lathe skills for the construction of picket gates, and office and verandah chairs. The program was successful and by 1916, complaints were made...that due to overcrowding at the school, more funds were required for carpentry classes and...work on some of the buildings in relation to space, light and ventilation  was required. As a busy ‘school for technical work in science, art and trade ’, in 1923 a new dedicated building was opened by the Premier of Victoria, Sir Alexander James Peacock (1861-1933), with an Art Deco façade still extant in Perry Street, Collingwood, today.
In 1928, the Collingwood Technical School Council purchased a boot factory that adjoined the school grounds. The suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy had been central to footware manufacture in Victoria since the 1860s, and the boot and shoe department became the largest at the school. It was also strongly supported by local industry via significant donations of equipment. With an enrollment of 220 boys, ‘the large work shop [was] equipped with £5,000 worth of machinery, which was presented to the school by the British United Shoe Machinery Company, and every phase of boot and shoe manufacture, with the exception of stitching, which [was] generally done by girls, [was] taught. The display of samples of the work of the boys was of a high class, a tribute to the excellence of the instruction and the intelligence of the students 
During the early years of the Great Depression , staff at the Collingwood Technical School wanted to help address the plight of unemployed youth. Absorbing a wage cut themselves and with no extra funding, in 1931 additional classes in machine shop practice were implemented . It was not until 1937 that a federal government program was initiated to assist those aged between 18 and 25 who had missed opportunities for 'normal' employment or who had been educationally disadvantaged due to the economic hardships of 1929-1934. The school received a significant grant of £11,000 to participate in the Youth Employment Scheme which included classes in bricklaying, cabinetmaking, electrical fitting, machine shop practice and electroplating.
Electroplating became a speciality trade at the school in 1934  when it was introduced via the dedication of part time Electrical Trades teacher, George Thomas. He approached an electroplating firm by the name of Quinton in North Melbourne with the proposition of working Saturday mornings without payment. In return for his labour he requested to be taught the basics of the trade...Thomas was able to impart his newly acquired knowledge to the unemployed youth .
In 1937 the renowned 5.25 inch Coltech Centre Lathe was produced. Designed by teachers and manufactured by students, it was a valuable training machine that also found applications in ammunition manufacture for the duration of World War II (1939-1945). As part of the Australian Defence program, the lathe was produced in substantial numbers with component parts...made at many technical Schools in Victoria. It was enlarged to 6 inch and twelve were used by the Ammunition Factory at Footscray, to ream dies for the making of bullet cartridge cases 
The imposing modern building on Johnston Street was designed by the Public Works Department Chief Architect, Percy Everett in 1938 . Beneath a towered archway, the entrance lead into a new layout and order within the school, expanding facilities for the 1,400 pupils. Seven classrooms were dedicated to mathematics, science, drawing and modelling at the front of the building, with workshops at the rear. Unfortunately, the building was constructed over the football ground, leaving a small quadrangle as the only playground remaining for the 500 day pupils in attendance .’
In 1939, 150 students were trained under a Youth Employment Scheme, but with the outbreak of World War II in September, the need for these classes rapidly disappeared, both because of enlistments and the heavy demands for labour required by the war effort . Students manufactured objects for the Australian Defence Department including Morse code key and buzzer sets, prior to the program being rolled into the Defence Training Scheme. The relatively new process of chrome plating  achieved at the school, drew the attention of the Munitions Laboratories in Maribyrnong, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Department of Civil Aviation. Under the direction of the Head of the Department, Fred Beringer, thousands of gauges in use by the Australian Army were reconditioned via this method and training was provided to Australian and American Army Air Services . From 1940-1945 classes were then conducted for personnel and in the engineering workshop, trainees continued production of the Coltech Lathe .
In June 1943, a fire ravaged the school and destroyed the older building that housed the Boot and Shoe, Building, Plumbing and Sheetmetal Departments . The loss of machinery donated by the British United Shoe Machinery Company of Australia ended instruction for some time for the 230 apprentices, who came from all parts of Melbourne to attend night classes . An alternative location was utilised in a small Trades Hall on Palmerston Street, close by in the suburb of Carlton. A new three-story building replaced the site in 1946 and houses on Wellington Street were compulsorily acquired to make room for the new footwear department. ‘The school [was] a model factory, with enormous window space, with walls faced with cream tiles to a height of seven feet, with light reflecting upper walls and ceilings fitted with fluorescent light fixtures .’ In 1955 a new wing, including an Assembly Hall, was added to the rear of the main Johnston Street building as the original one had also been destroyed in the fire. Called the W.J. McKenzie Hall after principal McKenzie (1950-1955), it was later demolished to make way for the construction of a new performing arts and rehearsal building for Circus Oz. An intriguing closed doorway on the first floor and architectural detail, including the lettering ‘Assembly Hall’ still remains today.
The school expanded its frontage on Johnston Street in 1957 with the purchase of two shops known as the Tonini Property. Down on the corner of Wellington Street, it was rumoured that the Ivanhoe Hotel (1873 - 1980) had held dubious connections to the infamous Collingwood figure John Wren . The building facade was updated in 1911, and in 1950, had been fictionalised in the Frank Hardy novel Power Without Glory. The hotel later became ‘The Tote’  in 1980 and has endured as an important live venue for alternative music.
In the decades after World War II Collingwood remained a centre of the footwear, clothing and brewing industries, though many...residents followed jobs out to relocated factories on Melbourne's outer fringes. Collingwood's population fell in the 1960s to its lowest point in 100 years . The vacancies in the Collingwood and Fitzroy area were then filled partly by the expansion of industry, but largely by European migrants . The construction of medium and high-rise flats replaced whole blocks of Victorian era dwellings in the inner city and the widening of Hoddle Street and construction in the 1970s of the F19 freeway from Doncaster to North Carlton, running along Alexandra Parade, effectively divided Clifton Hill from Collingwood. From the 1970s middle-class professionals and university students began to move in, valuing its proximity to the city. They renovated cottages, transformed hotels into bistros and warehouses into studios and apartments . Collingwood Technical College became a TAFE (Technical and Further Education college), and continued its focus on industry aligned trades. It benefited from additional enrollments from migrant children, particularly in the Secondary School. Computer studies were introduced, and in 1978 Lisa Howden became the first female plumbing apprentice in Victoria.
A surprising and significant feature on the former Collingwood Technical College building is the large two storey mural by New York street artist, Keith Haring (1958-1990). In the 1980s, he was a cool and alternative rising star in the international art world and was invited to Australia in 1984 for the inaugural art project to launch the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) . The location was chosen for its authenticity; Haring commented that ‘Collingwood has a great community feel about it. Though its supposed to be a poor area, its nothing like the poverty I have seen in New York .’ Teachers and volunteer students wrangled a scissor lift to lay down the yellow background with paint brushes and rollers, and then Haring created his characteristic red dynamic figures and computer brain caterpillar in one day. A small wooden door with his signature and an iconic ‘crawling baby’ motif went missing from the site, soon after it was painted . The work on Johnston Street is one of only 31 known remaining Haring murals in the world. The original paint used by teachers was not of high quality and overtime, it faded away. In 2013, the mural was restored by conservators to its original vibrancy.
Due to a variety of reasons, including lower enrollments and funding cuts, by 1987, it was time for the Collingwood College of TAFE to close. It amalgamated with Preston College to form the Northern Metropolitan College of TAFE (NMCOT) and classes continued in the Johnston Street site until 2005, when its lifespan as an educational facility ended. The buildings sat empty and in disrepair for more than a decade while the Victorian State Government formulated a renewal plan, including a permanent home for Circus Oz in 2013.
The former Collingwood Technical School site will now have a new identity as an independent Contemporary Arts Precinct (CAP)  for small and medium creative organisations. Operating as a social enterprise, it will be a cross-disciplinary cultural precinct providing secure customised space for arts practitioners. Continuing the tradition of service to the community, the heritage buildings will house the next generation of thinkers and makers, and will become a permanent home for the arts in Collingwood.
Essay by Cassie May, 2017
 Smith Street is the boundary between Collingwood and Fitzroy and has been in existence since the 1840s. The cable tram line, installed in 1885, consolidated its position as a premier suburban shopping strip including the Foy & Gibson department stores established in 1870 (connected by underground tunnel) and G.J. Coles's first variety store in 1914.
 Eastern Hill refers to the hill area between the suburbs of East Melbourne and Fitzroy, Melbourne.
 Schofield, P., An Essay On A History of Collingwood Technical School 1912 - 1987, Bachelor of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, September, 1987, p. 8.
 Built in 1853 the ‘Police Court’ is no longer in existence. Other notable buildings by Kerr still prominent in Melbourne include Customs House, Government Post Office (GPO) and the Parliament of Victoria. The Court House Hotel (c1860s) is located at 31-33 Johnston Street, Collingwood, behind the former Gregory’s Shops and office façade.
 Collingwood became a municipality in October 1855 when the East Collingwood Council was first elected. East Collingwood was the second metropolitan municipal council established (after South Melbourne) and the first outside the Corporation of Melbourne boundaries. Council dropped the 'East' and was proclaimed a town in 1873 and a city in 1876.
 Printed sheet advertising the establishment of the Collingwood Artisans’ School of Design in July, 1871. Collection of the State Library of Victoria.
 Tom Roberts (1856-1931) moved to Collingwood from Dorchester, England, in 1869 with his widowed mother and two siblings. They lived nearby in Dight Street, Collingwood.
 Collingwood Working Men’s Club, The Leader, Melbourne, 25 July 1891, pp.37-38. The club shared space with Collingwood Technical School until at least 1917. It then moved to a single storey building across the road at 64 Johnston Street, Collingwood, which was demolished in 2016.
 Fink Commission, Royal Commission on Technical Education, et al. Final Report On Technical Education: Continuation Schools in Great Britain and Europe, Establishment of Continuation Schools in Victoria; Survey of Technical Education in Great Britain, Europe, America, Japan, Etc.; Technical Education in Victoria - Report and Recommendations, Robt. S. Brain, Government Printer, Victoria, 1901.
 ibid, p.21.
 Education, The Argus, Melbourne, 17 March 1913, p.11.
 Collingwood Technical School, The Leader, Melbourne, 3 August 1912, p.47. Acting on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Technical Education (1899-1901), the Education Act No. 2301 of 1910 allowed for the establishment of district high schools, higher elementary schools and technical schools, administered by a dedicated Technical Branch of the Education Department.
 Opened by the Hon. A.A. Billson, Minister of Public Instruction, 30 July 1912, at 3pm. Evening classes commenced on 15 July 1912.
 Matthew Richmond (1865-1941) was Principal at Collingwood Technical School from 11 March 1912 - 6 June, 1930.
 Harrison, I., The Collingwood Technical School 1912-1945, Bachelor of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, October 1979, p.7.
 Prospectus 1913, Collingwood Technical School, Du Rieu & Co Printers, Collingwood, 1913, p.9. The firm Du Rieu & Co, at 9 Johnston Street, also called the Magpie Press, was the school printer from 1912-1972.
 G. Eraclides, V. Achia, Book History of NMIT Version 7 – with Edits, Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), Melbourne, 1 July 2015, pp. 8-9.
 Prospectus 1913, op.cit., p.9.
 Shell Shock is a phrase that came into use with the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) to describe the symptoms of what is now known to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Neurasthenia is a psychopathological term, no longer used as a medical diagnosis. It refers to an apparent condition with symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety thought to have resulted from exhaustion of the central nervous system.
 Repatriation, The Age, Melbourne, 13 February 1918, p.10.
 Technical Instruction. Collingwood Technical School. An Inspector's Criticism, The Age, Melbourne,12 February 1916, p.12.
 Prospectus 1919, Collingwood Technical School, Du Rieu & Co Printers, Collingwood, 1913, p.1.
 Technical Education, The Age, Melbourne, 14 December 1933, p.7.
 The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that lasted from 1929 and throughout the 1930s.
 Harrison, I., op.cit., p. 23.
 Electroplating is the process of plating one metal onto another by the process of hydrolysis. It is most commonly used for decorative purposes or to prevent corrosion of a metal. There are different types of electroplating such as copper plating, silver plating, and chromium plating.
 Harrison, I., op.cit., p. 25
 Scott, I.D, COLTECH: a story of technical education in Collingwood, 1870-1987, Collingwood College of TAFE, Melbourne, November 1988, pp. 46-47.
 Lovell Chen Architects and Heritage Consultants, Statement of Heritage Impact: Former Collingwood Technical School, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood. Prepared for Arts Victoria, July 2011, Melbourne, 2011. The 1938 building was designed by Everett in the style of Dudok Modernism; Willem Marinus Dudok (1884 - 1974), one of The Netherlands' most influential Modernist architects.
 Technical School Extensions, The Age, Melbourne, 13 July 1938, p.15.
 Scott, I.D, op.cit., p.46.
 Chrome plating is a technique of electroplating a thin layer of chromium onto a metal object.
 Harrison, I., op.cit., p. 30.
 ibid, p. 28.
 ibid, p.61.
 Big Fire, Riverine Herald, Victoria, 5 June 1943, p.5.
 Scott, I.D, op.cit., p. 56. The building is now home to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, Victoria.
 John Wren (1871-1953), was born in Collingwood and is noted for his gambling 'totaliser' (1893-1906) concealed at the rear of a teashop at 148 (formerly 136) Johnston Street, Collingwood. For more information see: James Griffin, John Wren (1871–1953), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, Canberra, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wren-john-9198/text16247, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 28 May 2017.
 The ‘Tote’ comes from the term ‘tote board’ or ‘totalisator’, referring to an automated display system which runs parimutuel betting; calculating and displaying payoff odds and producing tickets based on incoming bets. Daniel Healy had a grain store on the site before building Healy’s Hotel (1870-1873). It then operated as the Ivanhoe Hotel (1873 - 1980) and became The Tote in 1980. The pub closed briefly in 2009 and again in early 2010, due to stricter state government licensing laws for late-night live music venues. The Tote has endured as an important venue for live alternative music.
 Barnard, J, Collingwood, eMelbourne the city past & present, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, July 2008, accessed online 28 May 2017:
 Scofield, P., An Essay On: A History of Collingwood Technical School 1912-1987, Bachelor of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, September 1987, p.25.
 Barnard, J., op cit, viewed on 28 May 2017: http://www.emelbourne.net.au/biogs/EM00375b.htm
 CCA is now ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) in Sturt Street, Melbourne.
 Bellamy, L., Collingwood Tech’s Wall of Renown, The Melbourne Times, Melbourne, 14 March 1984, p. 3.
 The missing panel from the Keith Haring mural at Collingwood Technical College was anonymously handed in to Arts Victoria in 2013.