Perth Technical School

Technical education began in Western Australia in May 1900 when the Perth Technical School began operations in the Perth city centre. Classes began in the Old Perth Boys School building at 139 St Georges Terrace and expanded next door to 137 St Georges Terrace when a new building was constructed in 1909-1910.

historical photos of 137 and 139 St Georges Terrace

The Perth Technical School, which would be renamed The Perth Technical College in 1929, offered voluntary classes for trade apprentices and others possessing an occupational qualification. The school also provided university courses under licence from the University of Adelaide until the University of Western Australia was established in 1914.

The early fortunes of technical education in Western Australia ebbed and flowed. During the Great Depression years, staffing issues and overcrowding had been major problems. By 1943 it was expected demand for technical training would dramatically increase in the post-war period and so the idea of creating an institute of technology began to be promoted to handle the expected influx of students as it was clear that Perth Technical College, along with other technical institutions, would struggle to meet that demand. As expected, by 1956 space issues had reached crisis point. Thus the idea of creating the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) was born.

It wasn’t until the late 1950s that things started to happen. It was during this period that some of the key drivers of WAIT, Dr Thomas Logan (TL) Robertson and Dr Haydn Stanley Williams, ensured the important groundwork between the State and Commonwealth was progressing. These three men, who would later be commemorated in the naming of key buildings on campus, worked tirelessly to make the dream of WAIT a reality. A key figure in State politics at this time was (later Sir) Charles Court. Court was minister for industrial development and had been tasked with the ambitious development projects promised by the newly elected Liberal-Country Party Coalition. Robertson had taken the initiative before the election and privately met with Court. Robertson convinced Court that the massive mining and infrastructure projects planned by the State government would require a wide base of skilled and professional personnel to complete, and the best way to do this would be to invest in a new technical institution.

Finally, in June 1960, the State Government approved the establishment of the new institute. One hurdle had been overcome – the next was finding a place to build.

Returning to our educational roots

Curtin has returned to its educational roots in recent years with its occupation of the former Perth Technical College buildings at 137 and 139 St Georges Terrace, Perth.

139 St Georges Terrace

In 2016, under a lease agreement with the National Trust of Australia (WA), Curtin transformed the Old Perth Boys School building at 139 St Georges Terrace into a contemporary hub for industry, community and alumni engagement in the heart of the Perth CBD. The reworking of this historic site has carefully preserved and honoured its mid-19th Century architecture.

You can read more about the past and current uses of Perth’s oldest educational landmark.

137 St Georges Terrace

In 2018, Curtin began transforming the former Perth Technical College building into a modern learning space, offering a convenient city location for its professional learning and continuing education programs, including select postgraduate programs.

You can read more about the history of this gothic-style Federation building and learn more about the educational programs now offered at this city site.