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Melbourne Polytechnic in the 1930s


Despite momentous world events such as the Great Depression and outbreak of the World War II, the 1930s witnessed increased demand for vocational education, particularly in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

The Depression resulted in cuts to maintenance grants for Collingwood Technical School and teachers were required to take a pay-cut including the Principal who lost 20% out of his pay packet. Nonetheless, many instructors worked as volunteers to assist unemployed youth and adults to become more proficient in the technical areas of their trade.

Mr. Matthew Richmond, foundation Principal of Collingwood Technical School from 1912, retires in 1930. It was a tribute to his accomplishments and the deep affection in which he was held that 434 people attended his farewell function, at which he was presented with a motor car and other gifts, many made by the teachers of the school.

Despite tough times, Collingwood Tech continued to grow and The Argus reported on February 6th 1936, that there were 1271 night students and 837 day pupils; enrolments were so high that many applicants were turned away.

It was becoming clear in the 1930s, that given the growth of the northern suburbs of Melbourne, a technical school would be needed to serve that area. Up until then students had to attend Collingwood or Brunswick Technical Schools or other schools further away. As result, the mid-1930s saw a renewed push for a new technical school and the foundation of Preston Technical School in 1937.


1931: Former footwear factory refurbished to accommodate boot and shoe trades, plumbing and sheet metal at Collingwood.

1934: Development of Collingwood Tech electroplating department initially part of the electrical fitting department, commenced.

1935: Collingwood Tech Junior school enrolment of 788 is the biggest of any metropolitan technical school. Total enrolment 1,769.

1935: Preston Council allocates 6 ½ acres in St Georges Road (then known as Frank Street), valued at £7,000, towards establishing a technical school in Preston; Northcote City Council also donated money.

1937: Federal and state grants made available for Youth Employment Scheme. Classes offered at Collingwood in bricklaying, cabinet-making, electrical fitting, machine shop practice and electroplating.

February 2, 1937: Preston Technical School opens with an initial enrolment of 385 boys and 21 teachers with 3 clerical staff (female) at a cost of £30,000 (Preston Leader 4 Feb, 1937).

Student Enrolments

By 1939 Collingwood Technical School had 630 secondary and 1692 post secondary enrolments