1.1 From the Murray to the Sea

The resources of the Awakenings Religious Education Curriculum are provided to support and enliven learning and teaching in Religious Education throughout the Diocese of   Ballarat. In particular, they are designed for use by religious educators in the Catholic primary schools and secondary colleges located and operated within the diocese.

With its various landscapes and ecological systems, its economies of agriculture, manufacturing and service provision, its communities of indigenous, settlement, post-war and recent Australians, the land of this diocese extends across Western Victoria from the Murray River to the Southern Ocean.

It is in this land, in communities large and small, isolated and yet connected, that Catholic organizations find their place and their mission, sometimes in seasons of growth and sometimes in seasons of decline.

From their first days in this land, Catholics have been involved in schooling.

Well before Ballarat became the focal point of a vast Western Victorian diocese…schools run by Catholic teachers were providing the rudiments of learning to Catholic children. Some of these schools were little more than shacks with dirt floors and hardly enough furniture for the children to sit and write on the handful of slates available. Some were portable, made of canvas or calico, so they could follow the gold-seeking population from one goldfield to another. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   (Blee, 2004, p. 9)

Much has changed since the first Catholic schools were established on the rich soil along the coast, on the goldfields of Central Victoria, and in the irrigation areas of the north. Catholic schools no longer educate the majority of Catholic children, they no longer rely solely on the financial support of Catholic people and the generosity of religious sisters and brothers, and they no longer understand themselves to be the means of advancement for Catholic children in a sometimes hostile society.

Yet Catholic schools are still central to the mission and work of the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat today, and to the life-quality of students and their families. Inspired and governed by the message and person of Jesus Christ, and committed to the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual development of each person, they provide education of the highest quality to their communities. In line with the self-understanding of the Church, they are welcoming to all who share their educational philosophy. Through their distinctive educational style, Catholic schools make an irreplaceable contribution to the intellectual, ethical and spiritual well-being of their own community and of Australian society.