Preston Technical School and College (NMIT)

Now Melbourne Polytechnic (Preston Campus) 

Preston Land Beginnings – 1838

Land in Preston was originally surveyed in 1837 and in the following years twelve allotments were offered for sale.  Joseph Theophilus Mitchell purchased lot 144 of Jika Jika comprising 312 acres between Bell Street and Murray Road.  His allotment was bordered on the western side by Merri Creek, the Coburg Cemetery and Pentridge Stockade.  Mitchell paid £405.12.0 for the land known locally as Shepherd’s Run, possibly because it was leased throughout the 1850s by Timothy Shepherd.  It was on this half a square mile of farmland, in a house built by timber split on the property that Ann Eliza Young, Timothy’s granddaughter, became the first white child born in Preston.

Preston 1850s

In 1859 a subsequent subdivision took place due to a land requirement order made by the Commissioner of Sewers and Water Supply for the transportation of water from Yan Yean Reservoir into Melbourne. In 1871 Mitchell’s block was divided into four allotments which were transferred, most likely, on his death to his four sons. A year later this largely unutilised land was sold to Francis Bell who in turn divided the large block into 107 smaller parcels in 1874. These formed areas around Bruce, Cramer, Elizabeth, Mary, and Jessie Streets as well as Gilbert Road. Many blocks were bought by farmers but not all sold immediately. Most notably was the parcel to the west of St Georges Road. This land was absorbed by the Preston Shire and offered sixty years later by the council for the construction of the Preston Technical School.

Educating Preston

Preston struggled to educate its children in the 1890s Depression when it became necessary for the Shire Council to retrench expenditure and place the two schools of North and South Preston under the management of a single head teacher, Henry C. Hanna. Education was left largely to Church and private schools although, the Preston Grammar School closing during the decade was an indicator of how desperate things had become. Despite the hard times a surprising number of Preston students excelled and went on to higher education and professional careers. Most of the academic achievers received primary schooling in Preston but sought their secondary and tertiary education elsewhere.  Most popular schools of choice for these outstanding students were the King’s College, the Presbyterian Ladies, Carlton, and Scotch Colleges.  One young woman from a Preston family of high achievers, Bella Wilkinson, became a doctor and made her Yorkshire tailor father proud. By 1896 a Preparatory High School connected to the All Saints Church was opened in Preston, a sign that things were looking up. By the time of the Great War many state schools were being established around Melbourne. West Preston received its own State School, a three-storey, eight classroom brick building. The school had over 200 pupils enrolled at its opening in 1915.

Technical Education in Preston

For many years since its opening in 1912, Collingwood Technical School in Johnston Street was the most northern institution where young people could receive a technical education. This was despite early advocacy by the Director of Education Frank Tate, for a second facility to be built in Preston.  In the early 1930s however, the pressure on an overcrowded Collingwood resurfaced the idea for a Preston Technical College. The vacant Shepherd’s Run land in St Georges Road was offered by the Preston Shire council and Northcote City Council also came to the party contributing funds. By 1936 building was underway and Preston Technical School at an estimated cost of 40,000 pounds opened in 1937. Under the first headmaster Mr Joseph Aberdeen, an entrance examination was held at the district's state schools for the 200 placements at the new Tech. Combined with students transferred from Collingwood there were 385 male students and 21 staff but within three years even this new facility was too small and classes were spilling over into temporary buildings.

World War II halted plans for expansion until 1945 when they were re-invigorated by the post-War expansion. By 1947 a workshop block teaching trades in carpentry, machining, plumbing and gas-fitting had been added. Principal Aberdeen transferred to Footscray Technical School in 1947 and was succeeded by Mr C. H. Beanland. By 1949 women who had taken on various work in technical trades during the war started demanding a formal qualification. It took seven years however for the Girl’s Technical School to be opened in Cramer Street with a capacity for up to 500 students. There was also demand for a diploma school to offer tertiary courses in science and engineering. At the start of the 1950s Preston Technical College was the largest of its kind in Victoria with almost 900 male enrolments. Three decades of rising demand and growth later, that number had risen to 17,000. In 1988 Collingwood, Preston and a third facility in Parkville, all by then operating as TAFE colleges, amalgamated and became the Northern Metropolitan College of TAFE. The new institution expanded its campuses to include Heidelberg, Greensborough and Epping and by 1999 changed its name to the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).

See attachments below for School magazine 1961 and 1962. 

(1937, December 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 13.

(1951, May 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 3.

(1951, July 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 7.

Carroll, Brian & Rule, Ian (1985). Preston: an Illustrated History. Preston: City of Preston.

Forster, Harley W. (1968). Preston Lands and People. Melbourne: Cheshire.

Pogorelske, Paulyne (2003). TAFE Triumphs: NMIT Experience. Melbourne: NMIT.