Though it came into existence in 1918, the PMSA’s story began in 1899...
Two of the current PMSA schools had been established, as private ventures, prior to the creation of the PMSA:
- The Brisbane High School for Girls (Somerville House) was established in 1899 by Miss Eliza Fewings, at Wickham Terrace, Brisbane; and
- In 1902, Mr Arthur Rudd established a school for boys at Clayfield, that was to become the Brisbane Boys’ College.
In 1917, the co-Principals of the Brisbane High School for Girls were concerned that future maintenance of their growing school was likely to be too costly for continuing private ownership, so that when the Methodist Church proposed a transfer of the school to them, the co-Principals, Misses Harker and Jarrett, agreed to consider the proposal. Coincidentally, the Presbyterian Church was considering the possibility of purchasing Mr Rudd’s school “Clayfield College”.
From these events, an idea was conceived of a joint venture whereby the two schools might be purchased by the two churches and ownership and control would be vested in an independent council. A council comprising eight members of the two churches was established to investigate the proposal. In due course, a constitution was drawn up and the Presbyterian and Methodist Schools Association was born. The Association was established as a Body Corporate in 1918 by Letters Patent under ‘The Religious Educational and Charitable Institutions Act of 1861 of the State of Queensland’. A Council of the Association, comprising twelve members elected by the churches, was appointed, and on 1 July 1918 a formal transfer of ownership took place.
The inaugural ceremony was held in the Brisbane Exhibition Hall on 22 July 1918 and chaired by the Queensland Governor, Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams. The official statement from the Association, in part, said:
The education of our young people is to us a matter of vital concern and we felt we ought to be doing more than we have done to surround them with influences which would help to strengthen their Christian faith and to form in them Christian character. We seek no assistance ... from anyone save from those who think with us and are friends of education and of the Christian way.
The Association continued to accept further responsibility for Christian education throughout the rest of the century. Brisbane Boys’ College was relocated to its current home at Toowong, and Clayfield College was establishes in 1931. Blackheath and Thornborough Colleges at Charters Towers, and Moreton Bay College at Wynnum, were added to the original schools, but were subsequently transferred to other groups. Since 1977, Brisbane Boys’ College, Clayfield College and Somerville House remain under the PMSA’s control.
Church Union in 1977 altered the Association’s structure. The newly formed Uniting Church (comprising the former Congregational and Methodist Churches and elements of the Presbyterian Church) and the continuing Presbyterian Church became the two constituent churches of the Association, which retained its original name even though the former Methodist Church ceased to exist.
A detailed history of the Association is given in the book ‘For the Good of the Community’ written by Dr Noel Quirke to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Association.
The composition of the Council has changed over time. In its early years, members of the clergy tended to predominate but, more recently, lay members have been in the majority. Following governance changes in recent years, the Council now consists of fifteen members - six members nominated by each of the two churches, along with up to three members nominated by the Council itself. The Council conducts much of its governance operations through a committee structure, with responsibility for the operation of the schools delegate to the School Councils.
In 2002, the PMSA joined with Moreton Bay College in establishing the Moreton Bay Boys College, at Manly. In 2007, governance of this new college was handed over to Moreton Bay College, in recognition of the close relationship between these two schools, and the college continues to grow.
In 2004, the Association acquired the Sunshine Coast Grammar School, which was established in 1997. The current Principal, Mrs Maria Woods, was appointed in 2012 and the school has grown rapidly under the PMSA’s guidance.
The Association and its schools have made a major contribution to Christian education in Queensland. That the original venture, begun in 1918, has been so successful is largely because of the dedication of those men and women who have served its cause so faithfully and well over so many years. This dedication continues, giving confidence for the continued success of the Association’s work and its schools.