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Attic treasure sheds new light on NMITs history

10 Aug 2012

A recent donation to the Archive Centre at NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) has helped illuminate the institution's 100 year history.

Dr Paul Scofield donated three boxes of written material relating to NMIT's precursor, Collingwood Technical School, as well a school blazer and tie. Dr Scofield accumulated the material in 1987 during research for his Education Degree. Since then his research material and report have been gathering dust in his attic.

“I knew the material was important,” Dr Scofield said. “I just didn't know the best place for it to go.”

NMIT's history stretches back to the foundation of Collingwood Technical School in 1912. In 1987 the secondary part of the school (then known as Collingwood College of TAFE) closed, but the TAFE part survived, and is today continuing to offer courses as one of the institute's seven campuses across northern Melbourne.

Paul explains how he came to have the material. “In 1987 I was a metalwork teacher at the Collingwood Secondary School while also studying a Bachelor of Education at Latrobe University. The course had a unit called the History and Politics of Education. I saw the opportunity to use the history of Collingwood Technical School for the unit's assessment.”

It proved to be fortuitous timing, as the campus was at an important juncture in its history - celebrating its 75th anniversary on one hand, but with the school part of the campus likely to close after failed attempts to amalgamate with other local secondary schools.

Paul's research took him to the rarely visited 'dungeon' where the school records were housed. The dungeon was below ground level on Johnston Street, with its thick doors, solid walls and dim lighting giving rise to its name. “The dungeon was an Aladdin's Cave to the historian, filled with records going back to the school's foundation, as well as photos, trophies and newspaper articles - it was a fantastic resource.”

Paul has a strong affection for the college, not only having worked there, but having studied at the campus for two and a half years during his teacher training. He also gained an appreciation of TAFE from his original training as a fitter and turner and subsequent work as a teacher. Dr Schofield's studies culminated into two higher degrees, both of which focused on the history of technical education and referenced Collingwood Technical School.

“Collingwood was a very popular school with a good reputation,” Paul says. “In the post-war era it was overflowing with students - there was a trade shortage and the school prepared you for an apprenticeship and a career in a trade. There was lots of employment in the manufacturing industry in the inner suburbs, so there was a good match between the trade-focused school and the local industry.”

Paul made photocopies of some of the material he uncovered, including handwritten minutes from the school council dating back to the school's opening, prospectuses and copies of the school magazine, Turawan. His history of the school, “A History of Collingwood Technical School 1912 to 1987”, was used in the school's 75th celebrations and donated to the college library and local Carringbush public library.

For the next 25 years Dr Scofield's source material sat in his attic, as did the school blazer and tie he had rescued from the closing school. It is feared that during this time the original material he based his research on was lost.

In June 2012 Paul got a call out of the blue. “Someone from NMIT rang. They had heard that I had written a history of the school. I offered NMIT's Archive Centre everything I had - I wanted the material to go to good use, I'm glad it's made its way back home.”

Paul hopes the material will be utilised and viewed. “I'd like for some of the items to be on permanent display and be made available to researchers. Basically I'd just like the material to be used and not just left in a box.”

For further information on NMIT's Archive Centre call Ann Rizio on 03 9269 8836 or email annrizio@nmit.edu.au . The centre is located in Building Q, Yarra Bend Road, Fairfield, 3078.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or jamesgardener@nmit.vic.edu.au

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.