1910 to 1975


Written by Mr. Harry Powell, July, 1975, for the purpose of an Historical Lecture to the Institute of Special Education, Burwood.

It was not until 1913 that the State Education Department “took over” the payment and training of the teachers. From reading the reports, it can be seen that the Department transferred all existing teachers on to the Departmental list, and in the Headmaster’s Report for the year ended 30th June 1913, Mr. W. D. Cook writes of the smooth change-over and mentions that the main alterations demanded by the District Inspector were for additional time to be “devoted to drill and physical exercises, and needlework has been included in the school curriculum”. There were 94 pupils on the Roll at that date: “75 are under instruction on the oral, and 19 on the manual system”.

From 1913 until 1927 the school class work continued to be carried out in the same area as had been used since 1866. In 1926 the Board of Management offered the Education Department some of the St. Kilda Road land for the construction of classrooms at the expense of the Department. This allowed the Board to use the whole of the Bluestone building for residential purposes, although the Department still uses some of the areas in the old building for teaching purposes.

Since 1913 the following dates are notable:

1913 The Education Department assumed responsibility for Education, leaving the Committee the responsibility for maintaining the home and caring for the general welfare of the deaf child.

1927 The building by the Education Department of the present schoolrooms.

1949 The alteration of the Corporate Name from Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution to the Victorian School for Deaf Children, the ‘Dumb’ was dropped from the name and significantly was the first institution of it’s like in the world to drop the word Dumb from its title.

1950 The establishment in Elgar Road, Burwood, of the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten for the Deaf, as the first residential and daily pre-school centre for deaf children in Australia.

1957 The W. D. Cook Pre-school Centre was opened, built by the Board of Management – the first pre-school unit in Australia for hereditary deaf children.

1958 The acceptance by the Education Department of the responsibility of staffing the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten for the Deaf.

1960 The celebration of the Centenary of the commencement of deaf education in Victoria.

1962 The 100th.Annual Meeting was held.

1963 A new wing of 3 classrooms was added at the Kindergarten.

1963 and 1964 The modernisation of dormitory areas was completed.

1966 – 1967 Weekly bus services from Geelong and Gippsland were established.

1970 Policy Investigation Project carried out under the direction of Dr. Pierre Gorman.

1971 The “H. P. Green Wing” was built by the Education Department.

1973 New wing of classrooms opened at the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten for the Deaf, Burwood. Provision of private home weekend care for Boarders.

1973-4 Introduction of Medical, Welfare and Guidance Services.

1974 Provision of private-home care for deaf State Wards.

In Dr. Watkin’s history he refers briefly to the founders and “great names” of the first 50 years – Rose, Moss, Cook and Jones. The “great names” of the years 1910 – 1975 would have to include the following:

W. D. Cook 1882 – 1927
Mr. Delafield Cook’s continuous service spanned 45 years. He was Headmaster from 1882 – 1927, and was a brilliant man of many talents.

Mr. John Adcock – 1903 – 1930
Mr. Adcock was the first “Superintendent and Secretary” when the Board appointed him in 1903. He gave 27 years service in this position and the glowing tributes which were paid to him, both during his life-time and upon his death in 1930, show that he managed the administrative side of the “institution’s’’ work successfully.

J. H. Burchett. M.B.E. – 1912 – 1950
From a “student teacher” in 1912, Mr. Burchett was appointed Head Master in 1927 and retired in 1950.

G.E. Hansford – 1943 – 1956
Mr. Hansford was appointed Superintendent and Secretary just as the “school” was being transferred to Marysville for a short period during the war, while the St. Kilda Road building
became R.A.A.F. Headquarters.
Mr. Hansford was the “founder” with Mr. Burchett, of the Burwood Kindergarten. At the same time he was responsible for the Board building three new wings onto the old bluestone building to cope with the record enrolment of those years and to modernise the resident children’s living conditions.

A. R. Cook – 1920 – 1966
Mr. Rodin Cook was Mr. Delafield Cook’s son and between them they gave 91 years of teaching service. On Mr. Burchett’s retirement, Mr. Cook became Headmaster and he retired in 1966.

H. P. Green – 1929 – 1970
Mr. Green only served as Headmaster for 4 years as he retired shortly before his death, but he was always a dedicated teacher and a very faithful “lieutenant” to both Mr. Burchett and Mr. Cook.

Mrs. Thelma Spicer. M.B.E. – 1934 – 1975
Mrs. Spicer joined the Education Department staff when she was Miss Thelma Brook, as a junior teacher. Following her war service in the W.R.A.A.F. and a year’s study at Central Institute for the Deaf, St. Louis, U.S.A., she was appointed by the Board of Management as the first Directress of the Princess Elizabeth Kindergarten for the Deaf when it opened in 1950, and was re-appointed to the Education Department as Principal when the Department agreed to “take-over” the financial responsibility of paying and training Pre-school teachers of deaf children in 1958.

The Reynolds Family – 1877 – 1991
No history of the deaf people of Victoria could be written without mentioning the Reynolds Family.
Mr. Cornelius Reynolds was a student at the “Institution” from 1877-1888 and he was on the staff from 1916 until his death in 1936.
His son, Mr. Ernest A. Reynolds, M.B.E., has been associated with the school all of his life. Before he became a member of staff of the Adult Deaf Society in the 1930’s he gave honorary services to the school and continued to do so until his retirement from the Society in 1970. He was the Superintendent of the Adult Deaf Society for 28 years.
His son, Mr. Brian Reynolds, joined the Education Department staff at St. Kilda Road in 1951, and was appointed Headmaster of Ewing House, Ballarat in 1963. He returned to the School as Assistant Principal in 1968 and was appointed Principal in 1970. He retired 1991.

Others
Under the rather plain title of “others” we have to be careful that we do not offend anyone, but
teachers who gave long and dedicated service to the children in their care include:
Mrs. Rose Jeffrey, Miss Ethel Saunders and Miss Gwen Reeves who all gave over 40 years continuously in the classrooms; Miss Eileen Standley and Miss Phyllis Barrett who both gave over 30 years. There are a number of teachers today who commenced at St. Kilda Road and who are now in other deaf schools and services, who have joined the “over-20-years” group.
No doubt some of the young teachers in training and service today will find their names recorded when the 150 years anniversary was reached in 2010!!

Board of Management
This brief account of the 115 years service given to the deaf children of Victoria has referred rarely to the people who have given, and continue to give, quiet honorary service which entails many hours of sometimes daily attention to the administration of the physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing of deaf children.
Long years of service on the Board of Management are taken for granted, although Rabbi Jacob Danglow C.M.G., O.B.E., set the record with 45 years from 1912 – 1957.

Two of the present members are “third generation men”, as Mr. Alan Watkin (1947 – 1975) is the grandson of Dr. Edwin Watkin (1884-1916) and the son of Mr. Stanley Watkin (1934-1954), who served as Hon. Treasurer and Vice-President for many years. Mr. Alan Watkin served as President from 1969-1973 and has been largely responsible for the recent introduction of our welfare and health services.

The other “third generation family” is the Lonies. Mr. A. M. Lonie joined the Board in 1934, his son Mr. Frank Lonie, M.B.E., served from 1940 until 1972, during which he was President from 1954 – 1969.

When he retired, his son, Mr. Ian Lonie was elected and continues to serve as the school’s Honorary Solicitor as his father and grandfather did before him.

Mr. Charles Hocking has had a close association with the School since his son, Richard, was enrolled as a pupil in 1948. He was an office-bearer of the Parents Association for many years before his appointment to the Board in 1958, when he also was appointed Hon.Treasurer. He was elected as President in 1973.

Conclusion
One hundred and fifteen years of continuous service to deaf children must have had “low-points” as well as “high-points” if we were to consider the school’s progress on a graph. It was the foresight of a small band of men and women in the late 1850’s which led to the commencement of instruction and care for Victorian deaf children.

In these last few years the Board has endeavoured to continue to assist the Education Department and the parents of deaf children and, perhaps three matters stand out:
(a) The formation of the Nelson and Brook Educational Trusts in 1972 which give deaf children the opportunity of additional education and scholarships which were not available to them in former years.
(b) The formation in 1974 of the Deafness Foundation (Victoria) and the Australian Deafness Council, which both are a direct result of the Board’s Policy Investigation Project headed by Dr. Pierre Gorman in 1970.
(c) The visit to Australia in September, 1974, of Professor Armin Lowe of Heidelberg, West Germany, who gave several public lectures and visited schools in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra. One of the major reasons the Board invited Professor Lowe to Melbourne was to give advice on the latest auditory training equipment for deaf children and his recommendations are now being implemented.

Victorian School for Deaf Children – Utmost for the Highest
UTMOST FOR THE HIGHEST – Goethe a famous German poet said “the highest cannot be spoken, it must be enacted.”  This is a perfect motto for the Victorian School for Deaf Children as we have always strove to attain the highest by action, rather than word.

This paper has not pretended to be an “official history”, as the School’s publication “Utmost for the Highest” written by Mr. Burchett and published in 1963 is the “Official History” of the first 100 years. The records of the school are remarkable as not only does it have every Annual Report, Minutes and complete Registers of every child from 1860 – 1975, but there are also the school books of the original pupil, Lucy Lewis.

In conclusion, tributes should be paid and appreciation expressed to the Commonwealth and State Governments for their co-operation in all of the various facets of the School’s Administration and the Victorian public for the extreme generosity which has enabled the Board of Management to carry out its task.