Our history - landing

Our history

TAFE NSW plays a vital role in training the workforce of the future. As we continue to innovate, and respond to changing community and industry skills needs, we are writing the next chapter of the proud 130-year history of an organisation with roots embedded in Australia’s heritage.

Highlights of our history

1830s: Founded in 1833, the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts was at the forefront in New South Wales, with the first technical class, mechanical drawing. A similar institute, the Sydney Technical College, opened in Newcastle in 1835.

1850s: During the 1850s, the gold rush further stimulated the growth of Australia’s eastern colonies so that, by the 1870s, the diversification of industries and the demand for skilled labour remained high.

1883: The NSW State Government assumed responsibility for Sydney Technical College This date is often quoted as the year that TAFE NSW, although not yet known by this name, was born.

1890s: Sydney Technical College moved from its premises in the centre of the city to a new campus at Ultimo.

1949: The Technical Education and New South Wales University of Technology Act was the first time a piece of NSW legislation to directly acknowledge the existence of a technical education system.

1950s and 1960s: This decade saw unprecedented demand for technical education to meet the workforce needs of Australia’s post-WWII industrial and economic boom.

1970s: The establishment of the Technical and Further Education Commission (TAFEC) and the provision of Commonwealth funding had a historic effect. Technical education would now be known by a new name – TAFE – and be recognised as a distinct educational body with its own administrative structure. A policy of regionalisation was brought into play with community colleges further expanding across NSW to meet training needs.

2016: The NSW Government released its Vision for TAFE NSW. This gave us the foundations for establishing our own vision, One TAFE NSW learning for jobs and brighter futures, and purpose to skill the workforce for the future.

2017: TAFE NSW returned to a more centralised model, bringing together 130 campuses across the state, allowing us to get better results for our students and employers, and to continue our proud tradition delivering the highest quality education and training.

Further reading: Bradford, T. (2010) ‘Second Chance Not Second Best. A History of TAFE NSW 1949-1997.’ PhD Thesis, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney.