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The two World Wars seriously disrupted the social of economic life of Victoria. Technical Colleges and schools assisted people to readjust at the conclusion of war service by providing ex-soldiers with industrial retraining courses. [1]

The development of the Commonwealth repatriation system occurred at the end of World War I. At the beginning of the war in 1914, the Australian government announced plans for soldiers' pensions which were to be funded by taxation. After the Boer War, the Australian government had claimed that any compensation for war service was a British responsibility. Australia's experience during World War I however was widely regarded to have achieved a coming-of-age for the nation. There existed therefore a mood much more receptive to the notion of providing care for returned servicemen. A combination of government initiatives, pressure from the Returned Soldiers Sailor and Airmen's Imperial League Association ( the forerunner of the Returned Servicemen's League) and private philanthropy led to a comprehensive system of support for ex-servicemen.[2]

The term repatriation was broadened from meaning the process of returning servicemen to their homeland to indicate the administrative system of governmental support for war veterans. In looking after ex-servicemen with incapacitating diseases and conditions due to their war experiences, the Repatriation Department set up a number of institutions. They administered directly a number of general and specialist hospitals. For example the Australian General Hospital at Heidelberg became the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital after World War II. Tuberculosis and mental illness were treated in specialist hospitals. The Caulfield Repatriation Hospital was engaged in rehabilitation for those who were temporarily incapacitated. Care for totally and permanently incapacitated servicemen was provided in a number of institutions conducted by Red Cross staff as Anzac Hostels. These existed in each capital city: the Victorian example was set up in a large nineteenth century mansions called Kamesburgh in Brighton.[3]

After the Great War it was believed that one-third of the men aged between 18 and 45 returned to Victoria suffering from some form of psychic or physical disability. Immediately the Councils of three technical schools responded with the provision of industrially relevant courses for them. In 1917 the Federal Government passed the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act, and formed a Repatriation Department to organise industrial retraining as a joint venture between the Commonwealth Government and Victorian Technical Schools. Instructors taught industrial crash courses. Forty hours of class time per week for six months brought the trainee to an estimated 40 percent efficiency compared to a fully trained tradesman, The Repatriation Department then subsidised the trainee for one year's work in industry to enable him to reach 100 percent efficiency. [4]

The peak year of Repatriation Training was 1919. The scheme enabled at least 3,000 ex-soldiers to earn a wage as skilled tradesmen and resume their places in Victorian society, despite their wounds. [5]

Repatriation in Ballarat

On 02 September 1916 the Ballarat Star recorded:

Free Instruction for Soldiers - The Council of the Ballarat School of Mines in February last adopted a resolution to the effect that applications from returned soldiers for free instruction at the School would be favorably considered. This matter was further discussed at the Council meeting held last week, at Colonel Bolton's suggestion, Major Lazurus, secretary of the Ballarat branch of the returned Soldiers' Association, was asked to co-operate with a sub-committee of the council in carrying out the proposal. Major Lazarus has enthusiastically accepted the offer, and has written to the general committee in Melbourne, with a view to leading other technical institutions to follow the local school's lead.

The Ballarat School of Mines was highly involved with Repatriation Classes for returned soldiers in 1918.

The School has continued to take an active part in connection with the vocational training of Returned Soldiers. About two years ago the Council offered free instruction to Returned Soldiers, and a considerable number of men availed themselves of this opportunity. During the present year, however, the Repatriation Department has taken over the responsibility of this work, and has authorised the establishment of classes in Turning and Fitting, Woodworking, Electroplate Work, Electric Wiring, and Commercial subjects. Recently fifty-two returned men were approved by the Vocational Training Committee, and were subsequently allotted to the various classes by the Principal (Mr Copland). It is anticipated that the instructors will be appointed and the equipment and material provided at an early date. [6]

The following year Returned Soldiers’ classes attracted the larger share of public interest, with the normal work of the School proceeding with characteristic effort and development. By 1919 it is being reported:

Although the Returned Soldiers' classes have naturally attracted the larger share of public interest, the normal work of the School has proceeded with characteristic effort and development. The extent of its activities may be partly realised by the fact that during this period approximately 1100 students have received specialised training in a wide range of technical science, art and industry.[7]
The establishment of these [repatriation] classes has undoubtedly been the greatest development in the School’s activities during the past year. It compels special consideration owing to its place in a great national undertaking, and to the fact that this Institution was the first to carry through successfully a decentralised scheme of vocational training. The classes were opened early in the year, the Principal (Mr M. Copland) having been appointed as Supervisor by the Repatriation Department. Although considerable difficulty was at first experienced in obtaining the necessary equipment and staff, the scheme has steadily developed under Mr Copland’s vigorous and tactful administration, until it becomes one of the largest and most successful organisations of its Kind in the State." [8]
Returned Soldiers' Classes - Altogether 206 returned soldiers have passed through the Vocational Classes, and there are at the present time 150 men being trained. The classes in which there men are being trained are as follows: Commercial, Motor Mechanics, Turning and Fitting, Plastering, Boot repairing, Painting, Woodwork, Bricklaying, Elector-plate, Electric Wiring. [9]

The repatriation classes at the Ballarat School of Mines were closed in 1922 having fulfilled their purpose. "Since their inception, in October, 1918, over four hundred ex-service men have been trained in these classes and, with very few exceptions, have been placed in regular employment. The part of the Ballarat School of Mines and Industries has taken in this national movement will endure among the School’s best traditions, coupled with the name of the late Principal (Mr Maurice Copland), by whose courageous and self-sacrificing efforts the success of the undertaking at this centre was mainly due."[10]

Repatriation in Daylesford

DAYLESFORD SOLDIERS'CLUB. BUILDING PURCHASED. ...:The Hon. D. McLeod, M.L.A., on being asked to speak, said ... That day the Council of Daylesford School of Mines had accepted a tender for the removal of the old Council Chambers (recently given by the Borough Council) and their re-erection on the school property for the purpose of affording accommodation for the vocational training of returned soldiers. Twenty of these would be taken as a start and it was anticipated that within a short time there would be fifty. We should show, by providing some common centre where our boys could meet in social reunion, that our interest in them did not cease with our cheering. ... Mr Verey spoke re the vocational classes to be established in connection with the local School of Mines. ...[11]

Also See

Returned Soldiers' and Sailors' League of Australia


  1. McMahon, John, 'The Strong Providers of Early Technical and Further Education' IN Victorian TAFE Papers, No. 4., April 1986, pp 20.
  2., accessed 05 October 2015.
  3., accessed 05 October 2015.
  4. McMahon, John, 'The Strong Providers of Early Technical and Further Education' IN Victorian TAFE Papers, No. 4., April 1986, pp 20.
  5. McMahon, John, 'The Strong Providers of Early Technical and Further Education' IN Victorian TAFE Papers, No. 4., April 1986, pp 20.
  6. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1918."
  7. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1919.
  8. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1919.
  9. Ballarat School of Mines Students' Magazine, 1920.
  10. Ballarat School of Mines Annual Report, 1922.
  11. Daylesford Advocate, 8 October 1918.

--Cgervasoni (talk) 15:46, 2 February 2015 (AEDT)