The privilege of education: the importation of Anglo-American ideas for 'native education' in Interwar Australia

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The question of 'native education' took on urgent meaning in interwar Britain in the context of imperial expansion in Africa and the colonial administrative policy of indirect rule. Historians have noted the articulation of 'native education' as embedded in Anglo-American protestant evangelism and humanitarianism. In particular, missionaries and philanthropic groups, in England and America, drew connections between educating 'black Africa' and 'negro America'. This article explores the impact of this thinking on the ground in Australia and, in particular, the efforts of educators, Mary Montgomerie Bennett and Rod and Mysie Schenk, at Mt Margaret, a protestant mission on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, to translate some of these ideas in their education program. It situates these efforts in the context of the imperial humanitarian moment and their enthusiasm for developments in native education emerging from the British colonial office and the Phelps Stokes Commission, an American funded philanthropic investigation into the question in the 1920s. It also situates their efforts in the context of the Australian policy framework. Despite the relevance of these transnational ideas concerning 'native education' and their philosophical and ideological underpinnings, native education was not a priority in Australia. In this context, their efforts, born of settler colonialist expansion, were both symptomatic and exceptional, at once an expression of a Christian evangelical civilising mission and liberatory and progressive. These tensions are central to my exploration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory of Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Education
  • Native
  • Australia
  • Anglo-American
  • British


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