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Until the 1870's children of Mackay picked up the "three R's" from their parents or, if their social status warranted it, from Governesses.  The "upper crust" also sent their children back to England to finish their education.

Then in 1871 a state school was opened in Alfred Street under headmaster Mr. J.R. Norris.  There were 41 boys and girls enrolled the first day.  In the second week, the number rose to 78, growing rapidly until Mr. Norris obtained assistance from two pupil teachers.  The Education Department then appointed as assistant teacher, Mr. W.G. Hodges.

By the 1880's it became necessary to split the school into boys; and girls; and infants' departments when the enrolment reached 650.  New buildings across the road where the Entertainment Centre now stands, accommodated the girls and infants under headmistress, Miss Large.

Mr Norris retired in 1915 after a record term spanning 48 years.  In 1996 Mackay Central State School celebrated it's 125th Anniversary.

In 1883, a Mr. George Perkins took up an appointment at Te Kowai, a little country school near Racecourse Mill.  A graduate of Cambridge, he later took over a private school in Mackay and re-organised it to prepare students for entrance to university.  A School of Arts was formed in Mackay in 1892 which later developed into a technical school in 1902, and Mr. Perkins was appointed director.

In 1912 a new brick building was opened in Alfred Street for the school which today still stands as part of the Mackay TAFE complex.  The technical school then also incorporated the first high school, and in 1960, when a new high school was opened in Milton Street, the two became separate identities.

There are now five state high schools in the Mackay district and 36 or more state primary schools in Mackay, Pioneer Valley and Eungella.

Catholic education began in Mackay in 1871 when the Sisters of St. Joseph opened a convent school in River Street.  The sisters left nine years later and the Sisters of Mercy took over.

St. Mary's in South Mackay, the second convent school, opened in 1924, St. Francis Xavier in West Mackay in 1935, and St. Josephs in north Mackay in 1937.  Emmanuel at Mount Pleasant opened in 1983.

District convent schools include St. Johns at Walkerston and St. Annes at Sarina.

Other private schools include the Whitsunday Anglican School at Beaconsfield (1988), seventh Day Adventist School (now Carlisle College) in Milton Street (1951), and Mackay Christian College, North Mackay (1988).

The Christian Brothers College opened in 1929.  A new building replaced the old one in Gregory Street in 1987 and then became St. Patrick's College, a co-ed school incorporating Our Lady of Mercy, the senior girls' college established in 1968.

The Technical and Further Education (TAFE) college which began in 1912 as the Technical School in the original building in Alfred Street, now has expanded to include the whole block from Sydney to Wood Street, and Alfred to Shakespeare street.

As well as technical education, Mackay tertiary students are well catered for in the academic field.

Queensland University established a resource centre in 1963 with its library named after a prominent Mackay barrister, William Amiet.  In 1991 ownership transferred to James Cook University with Mr. Gordon Noscov as executive officer. 

In 1987 Rockhampton's Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education established a branch campus in Mackay, using the facilities at the TAFE, moving to Dunkheld Gardens two years later.  In 1990 the facility became known as the University of Central Queensland, and a new campus was built on Boundary Road near the Ooralea Racecourse.

The Mackay conservatorium of Music was established in 1989, offering Diploma and Associate Diploma courses, both full time and part-time, as well as a Music School for age children.

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Mackay Historical Society

Mackay Historical Society and Museum Incorporated 2001-2006.
created 12 August 2004.
last updated 09 August, 2006 .
Site maintained by Glen Hall