Two hundred years ago the first official Catholic school opened in Australia. Since then Catholic education has grown to the point that it now educates around 770,000 primary and secondary school students, in more than 1,750 schools, with nearly 100,000 staff. These are sponsored by dioceses and parishes, religious institutes and public juridic persons, and groups of parents.
Six thousand Catholic catechists participate in the religious education of 200,000 children in government schools and parishes. Over the last few years, hundreds of Church sponsored early learning centres have been established, educating many thousands of preschoolers.
Around 50,000 tertiary students are now enrolled in our two Catholic universities with their several campuses. It is an extraordinary achievement!
Catholic schools are a jewel in the crown of the Catholic Church in Australia, with few parallels in other countries. Alongside families and parishes, they are the Church’s principal meeting point with young people. They are integral to the Church’s mission of transmitting faith to the next generation. It is there that many young people encounter Christ, intensify their knowledge and love of God, and are formed as future contributors to Australian society. We hope all of our students will emerge from our schools with a deepened sense of the sacred and greater appreciation of the true, the good and the beautiful.
In this bicentenary year more than one in five Australian students attends a Catholic school and many others a Catholic preschool, college or university. There are Catholic schools in most towns and suburbs, and university campuses in most capital cities. The students come from diverse backgrounds and beliefs. They are no longer all from poorer families, as so many were in the first century and a half of Catholic education.
Taken from: 200 Years Young - A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of Australia to the leaders, staff, students and families of Catholic education in Australia