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Site, school, community: Educating modern girls at the J.H. Boyd Domestic College, South Melbourne, 1930s-1980s

Kate Darian-Smith (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Nikki Henningham (eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to examine the development of vocational education for girls, focusing on how curriculum and pedagogy developed to accommodate changing expectations of the role of women in the workplace and the home in mid-twentieth century Australia. As well as describing how pedagogical changes were implemented through curriculum, it examines the way a modern approach to girls’ education was reflected in the built environment of the school site and through its interactions with its changing community.


The paper takes a case study approach, focusing on the example of the J.H. Boyd Domestic College which functioned as a single-sex school for girls from 1932 until its closure in 1985. Oral history testimony, private archives, photographs and government school records provide the material from which an understanding of the school is reconstructed.


This detailed examination of the history of J.H. Boyd Domestic College highlights the highly integrated nature of the school's environment with the surrounding community, which strengthened links between the girls and their community. It also demonstrates how important the school's buildings and facilities were to contemporary ideas about the teaching of girls in a vocational setting.


This is the first history of J.H. Boyd Domestic College to examine the intersections of gendered, classed ideas about pedagogy with ideas about the appropriate built environment for the teaching of domestic science. The contextualized approach sheds new light on domestic science education in Victoria and the unusually high quality of the learning spaces available for girls’ education.



The authors acknowledge support from The Australian Research Council (2011-2013) and The City of Melbourne (2012).


Darian-Smith, K. and Henningham, N. (2014), "Site, school, community: Educating modern girls at the J.H. Boyd Domestic College, South Melbourne, 1930s-1980s", History of Education Review, Vol. 43 No. 2, pp. 152-171.



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