As the second world war was coming to an end, Bishop O'Collins, the Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, went looking for a group of priests or brothers to open a boarding school for boys in the west of his diocese. He was concerned that country people who were so important in the life of the church and the nation should have the benefit of a good education, and that there would be sufficient school places to cope with the increase numbers of people attracted to the land by post-war settlement schemes and migration. He invited the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) (www.misacor.org.au), centered in Sydney but with a seminary in Melbourne since 1939, to begin the school. They had begun a boys' boarding school in Toowoomba in 1931, and agreed to come to the Western District. The bishop chose Hamilton as its site. It was difficult to obtain a suitable property with so many post-war regulations, but in 1947 the MSC purchased about 900 acres of the Monivae property. They were not able to move into the old homestead until June of 1948.
Architects drew up a succession of plans for grand buildings on the site, but it soon became clear that this was not a good location for a school. Though problems with getting the phone reconnected were soon sorted out, there was no sewerage; water came only from a large underground tank, electricity from an old and ailing generator. The town was not growing in that direction, so the prospects for improvement were dim. The property would never support a large boarding school. A period of inaction followed, with the priests assigned to Monivae helping in the parishes of the district and neighbouring dioceses, and the property bringing in some income through agistment fees. Finally, in October 1951, the MSC arranged an exchange of land with Mr. Bob Strachan. He took the Monivae property apart from the hundred acres round the homestead and gave land on Ballarat Road for the school.
It would still take a long time to build the planned boarding school on Ballarat Road, and the need for Catholic secondary education for boys was becoming more urgent. So it was decided to open a small day school at Monivae while the main school was being built. This was planned for 1953, but further difficulties meant that it began with two classes in 1954.
The Beginnings 1954
Classes began on Tuesday, 2 February, 1954. There were thirty-eight students, eighteen in Form 1 and twenty in Form 2. Fr Bob Hyland, himself a Western District man, was the non-teaching Rector, and there were three priests teaching in the temporary weatherboard structure. The Spectator reported as follows: ‘There is something appealing in a small intimate schoolhouse, consisting of three schoolrooms, one of which is the science department. This is the meat in the sandwich made up by the regular classrooms, one on either side. In its truly rural setting the school is itself an incentive to think and to work. In the modern style it is ‘all windows' and from one side there is a splendid panorama of smooth fields - from the other the sight of tall, sighing pines behind which is the old Monivae mansion in its rugged bluestone beauty. The rooms are bright and airy, simply but adequately furnished, and with efficiency the keynote. The whole unit is compact, bright and entirely pleasing despite its almost severe simplicity'. The teachers did not share the reporter's enthusiasm for the rooms that were oppressively hot in summer and cold in winter, and also chafed at being isolated out of town with poor transport. But they were all men of learning, Fr. Mooney in science and history and a gifted sportsman, Fr O'Carrigan the dramatist and artist, Fr McMahon a gifted musician who was in charge of the school. All three found scope for their talents, and an outlet from the grind of daily classes and nighttime preparation, in the various town organizations of music, drama, history and sport. Three MSC brothers cared for the property.
The boys also found ways of lightening the academic load. Monivae was out in the bush, so some things were different from other schools. One of the favourite sports was snake hunting along the banks of the Muddy Creek, until some parents got wind of what was going on. There was organized sport too, but it was different; there was a half-pitch laid down for cricket practice, but there was not place for a proper cricket match, so there were baseball games. On the football field, if you won the toss you could choose to kick up hill or down. Then there was marbles on the avenue, and a sort of hybrid hockey game with pinecones and sticks - and not much chance of being sued under public liability in those days. In organized sport, the boys were successful in football right from the start, winning the Under 14 premiership in their first year. And from the beginning also, the boys were making a name for themselves in the town in drama and public speaking. Each of the priests teaching in the first years made their contribution to the life of the city. Fr McMahon conducted many an evening programme for the music society, and wrote the music for Hamilton Ho; Fr O'Carrigan directed school dramatic performances yearly in the Hamilton festival; Fr Mooney was active in the historical society and in sport.
In 1955, Monivae continued as a day school with fifty-seven boys in Forms 1 to 3, but in 1956 it moved to the new boarding school on Ballarat Road.
The Boarding School 1956
While classes continued at the small bush school at Monivae, the biggest construction project that Hamilton had yet seen was going ahead at the eastern end of town on Ballarat Road. Mr. Hanley surveyed the property, Mr. Lionel Sam Miguel of Melbourne designed a building to cater for two hundred boarders, a three-storey main block, with wings swept back on the east and west sides. Bob Strachan was the builder, Stan Mentz the foreman, and excavation commenced in October 1953 on a project that was expected to take at least two years. The change of site had taken place because of the lack of service at Old Monivae, but the new site was as yet also unserviced, as the city was just developing in this direction. Water, power and sewerage were connected just in time for the opening in 1956. The supply of bricks was a major problem, and for a time Frank Borbiro led a group of men who formed a co-operative Glenthompson Brick Company to keep the kilns operating, until the Glenthompson Brick Company took over the works again.
The foundation stone was laid in October 1954. On Saturday 16 the Spectator gave a preview of the event and described progress on the building, ‘the biggest ever to have been undertaken in Hamilton. Great masses of concrete, in horizontal and perpendicular formations, are still the most striking features.' Brickwork on the basement was nearly complete, the concrete floor of the ground floor and central staircase up to the first floor had been poured, formwork was being prepared for the upper floor. It was just about ready at the eastern end of the main block where all the supporting columns were in place, the western end, where the next day's ceremony was to take place, was still clear.
On Sunday, buses left regularly from Stachan's corner. Before the ceremony began, the visitors could listen to music provided by the Hamilton City Band. Heavy rain began to fall shortly before two o'clock, but it cleared in time for the ceremony performed by Bishop O'Collins of Ballarat. He spoke of the need for an educated farming community, which could read and form sound judgments, for ‘the farming community is the backbone of the county'. Many local dignitaries and clergy and representatives of state and religious educational institutions attended. Fr Bob Hyland the first Principal thanked them all, and thanked the local people for their continued neighbourly support. He was very happy with the team of architect and builders, and grateful for support from the press. The mayor then welcomed the visiting dignitaries and spoke of the importance of education. The shire president spoke in similar vein. The Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart expressed the hope that ‘the college will be true to its title, the sacred Heart College, and educate our young people to be Fortes in Fide, strong in the faith'.
While reporting on all this, the journalist from the Spectator was keen to find out when the new college would open. The sub-architect replied that it was expected to open in 1956, but would give not indication of the date of completion. ‘We could finish it very rapidly if Hamilton could produce the necessary labour, especially carpenters' The architect thought it might take longer. In fact, school commenced on 14 February 1956 with sixty-five boarders and forty-six day students in Years 7 to 10, but one could hardly say that the building was ready. One of the priests on the staff at that time described the openings day:
‘The move from old Monivae was made on Saturday, 11 February. On the previous Sunday a church notice asked for help from any man with a truck. Chevron Motors lent a Chevrolet utility; Messrs Albert Watt and Charlie Annett brought their trucks and Strachans gave another for Bro. Dalton to drive. Everything moveable apart from the chapel furniture went over on the Saturday. The rest, except Fr Hyland's room, moved on Sunday. As Fr Hyland was the first to celebrate Mass in the old Monivae, it was fitting that he should be the first in the new Monivae. On Sunday morning, 12 February, he took Bro. Cronin over and celebrated the first Mass in the new building...The Fathers spent their first night in the new College on 11......There were rooms to go into but there were not doors or windows; the taps gave not water' the electricity was not on; the sewerage had not been finally connected. On Sunday morning there was nowhere to wash, etc. so we piled into the old Chev sedan and utility and went across to old Monivae again to wash and say Mass. The doors were put up during the second week of classes. The water was turned on on Monday 13, as was the sewerage. Electricity for the classrooms and staff rooms arrived on Tuesday; there was none in the locker room for about two weeks. The wick lamps from old Monivae were brought into service.
He then described Opening Day:
‘Monivae has never been so open since. The embarrassment of the first day is difficult to forget. The College looked only half built, and was. The front wall reached only to the lower edge of the dormitory windows. There were not windows in the back wall at all. The workmen were going like steam to get the dormitory floor down, and then they did not quite complete it. A slapped-up wall of canite packing pieces divided the dormitory with part-walls from the dormitory without walls. The wind blew this down during the first week; the canite was too soft to hurt anyone. There were no real linings on the verandas; all the walls expect the front one consisted of one brick only; there was no front door and the vestibule was plain cement, as were the front steps. At least this was swept for the incoming parents and boys. There was no floor in the corridor leading to the Rector's and Bursar's offices; some building planks kept people from tripping over the exposed floor joists. Somehow everyone survived the first night and classes began the next day.'
Inspectors came to visit the new school. One wonders how the approval of the Health Department was given in March. Mr Wolfe from the Council of Education visited in June, and approved the school for full secondary registration. He described the accommodation as ample, the buildings as massive and imposing but not yet complete. ‘As there is a full staff of trained and experienced teachers, classroom teaching is carried out in a brisk, confident and purposeful manner with good use of illustrative material. Pupils are responsive and take an active part in the development of the lessons.' The students had been threatened with dire consequences if behavior during his visit was less than perfect, and it seems they took notice. Politicians also visited. Mr. John Cain, opposition leader, toured the classrooms in April, the Member for Dundas Mr. W McDonald came in June and was reported in the Spectator as being ‘very much impressed with the style of the building and with the scope of the activities that will be offered by the Sacred Heart Fathers when it is completed'.
These are the remarks of some of the students in that first year. John Roberts said to me ‘I don't know what would have happened to us if it hadn't been for Monivae....three quarters would not have gone to any college.' (The district inspector wrote in the Spectator of June 1956 about his concern for education in the district, where of the 322 pupils who left state secondary schools in 1955, 129 had completed only Form 2, only 28 finished Form 6, ‘these figures are devastating and tragic.') Peter Annett said in an interview in the Spectator, ‘I always remember the dormitory at Monivae....one high hall with beds everywhere. I didn't think it was rugged at the time. I enjoyed it...my recollections of Monivae are all extraordinarily positive. "The priests" were wonderful men in my opinion, in many respects well ahead of their time...a couple of them were skilled musicians, one of them was an artist/playwright...It was rare in those days for priests to be significantly involved in the wide community. However, Monivae's priests were an exception.' In an earlier edition, Peter Borbiro recalled the cold and the crowded rows of beds and the three flights of stairs to the bathrooms and showers - but also ‘the boisterous behaviour and happy chatter that said we enjoyed it'. In another Spectator interview Bryan Roberts said, ‘The MSCs were the greatest influence on my life. Without them I wouldn't have received the education I did. They were men who gave a great example to the students in their commitment to religion - and their commitment to us.' And he wrote in the college paper, ‘My abiding memories of Monivae College are of order, discipline, study, sport, peace, religious practice, affection and loving commitment'.
Monivae was established primarily to be a boarding school for Catholic boys of the Western District. Within a few years, there were also boys from overseas, coming from the mission areas of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in the Pacific, from Nauru and Papua New Guinea, as well as from the mission in Northern Australia. Among the aboriginal students were the Dodson boys from Broome, Paddy the school captain in 1966 and Mick the vice-captain in 1969, who were to be so important in the life of aboriginal people in modern Australia. In the 1970s, numbers of boarders from Melbourne began to enroll, sometimes to give a boy struggling with city living a new start in the country. Later again, there was a small but steady enrolment from Asian countries. Students of other faiths were also accepted gradually, and by the 1070s there was a substantial non-Catholic enrolment.
But the biggest change to the school population occurred with the attendance of the first female student, Maria Annett, a Maryknoll student who attended some science classes at Monivae in 1969. For the next four years, all the senior Maryknoll students attended their classes at Monivae, and by 1977 Monivae was fully co-educational, the junior school being situated at old Maryknoll, and Years 9 to 12 at Ballarat Road. This brought an immense change to the school, not the least in its sporting tradition, for the extremely successful football teams of the late 1960s and the 1970s had to cede dominance to the netball teams of the 1990; Monivae won the Australasian Schools Netball Championships in 1997 and 1998.
Teachers and Courses
In its early years, all of Monive's teachers were priests, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and its ancillary staff were brothers of the same order; a total of twenty-four members at one time. The courses offered were very traditional, both the secular subjects and the teaching of religion and the practices of Catholic religious worship. Over fifty years, all of this has changed markedly. Now a small religious community continues to live a spirituality based on the love in the Heart of Jesus, an understanding they share with a large staff of lay teachers and ancillary helpers. The teaching and practices of religion changed markedly under the influence of the Second Vatican Council, and in secular subjects there is a tremendous diversity, catering as a modern school must for so many levels of ability and interest. Since 1996 the school has been under the guidance of a lay Principal, the first being a past student Peter Gurry. The current Principal, Mark McGinnity is assisted by a Board of Directors appointed by the religious congregation, giving the parents and the other community representatives a role in guiding the policies of the college. The current Board Chairman is Mr Laurie Cogger, a past student of Monivae.
Monivae is proud of its cadet corps, a feature of the school since 1963, when Fr Prentice introduced it. He gave his reasons as follows ‘ From my experience here and elsewhere teaching in schools in the country, I thought country students needed organisation, discipline, self-control, lesson of team work, acceptance of responsibilities and duties, even thought they be arduous and unpopular. It was for this purpose I started the Cadets at Monivae. There was never any intention of introducing any militaristic aspirations or unnecessary regimentation'. The unit developed skills in leadership and co-operation, always emphasized skills in living in the bush more than many units did, and was self-sufficient enough to survive periods of government neglect and some political disfavour. It trained the cadets to live and navigate in the bush with minimal impact on the environment, even to the extent of solo overnight camping for the more experienced. The older cadets were taught specialist skills in platoons for medic, pioneers, intelligence and communications. Monivae has developed and maintained a programme of cadet activities for a full day each month, with non-cadets involved in an ‘alternative education' day. Drill is not neglected; the unit and the band have contributed to city celebrations, particularly Anzac Day, and have their annual Cadet Ceremonial day.
2000 and Beyond
The appointment of Bernard Neal as Principal in 1999 placed Monivae in a strong position to move into the next decade. In the year 2000 Monivae undertook a comprehensive review and developed a five-year strategic plan. It was during this process that the college established its direction. The total school community was involved in the process with input from people external to the college. The plan became the blue print for the future and had a twice-yearly monitoring process and was evaluated annually.
As part of the very strategic approach Monivae had taken in insuring that the college always delivers a quality education in quality facilities to its students, a master plan was developed in 2003. This plan identified the necessary current and future upgrades to the facilities. The college then approached the Monivae Foundation with a view to raising capital to implement the master plan. A capital appeal was developed and implemented in July 2003 with an ambitious target of $3.5 million. Despite not reaching the target, the appeal has raised $2.5 million providing valuable infrastructure to allow the school to continue to best educate its students.
2004 was a busy year with not only the important day-to-day management of Monivae with the core role of educating the students and the capital appeal, but also to celebrate the golden jubilee. Monivae was keen to insure that the celebrations were unique and emphasised that Monivae is always a leader in whatever it does. The elements of the celebrations showcased the talent of the current students. The majority of the celebrations had been implemented by staff that were more than willing to give of their time and to demonstrate to all people who have been or are associated with the college that they are ‘Proud to be Monivae'.Monivae is an MSC school that recognises the importance of balanced human development and one that strives to help young people recognise and achieve their full potential and to live their life in an atmosphere of care and respect for others.
With the resignation of Monivae's longest serving Principal, Bernard Neal in 2009, current Principal Mark McGinnity was appointed heralding change that Monivae had not seen for a decade. Mr. McGinnity's appointment and the development of a new strategic plan by the Board, will enable the College to continue to achieve the original goals set out for it by the MSC's some 56 years ago.