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November 13, 2008

Homeschooling Expands “Down Under”

In September of 2008, ten international homeschool leaders joined HSLDA’s annual National Homeschool Leadership Conference. The following is an update from Terry Harding, who presented his work with the Australian Christian Academy at the conference. This update describes the history, current practice and legal climate, and projected future of homeschooling in Australia.

History of Education in Australia

Australia is a nation of 22 million people. It covers a land area equivalent to the United States. The Australian indigenous people inhabited the continent prior to English settlement in 1788.

The first formal education in Australia commenced in 1788 in three homes. Later, education became the domain of the Christian church, with the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches seeking to establish their denominational education systems. From 1872 to the 1880s, the governments of what are now the six Australian States established “compulsory, free and secular” Education Acts, and since then, governments and government schooling has grown to become the dominant factor in Australian education.

Reasons for Homeschooling

With the rise of an aggressive atheism on the Australian educational landscape in the 1960s–1980s, home education has experienced a significant resurgence. Research (Harding, 1997) has demonstrated that parents have chosen to educate their children at home for the following reasons: (i) religious reasons; (ii) parenting reasons, in that parents wanted to create close bonds with their children; (iii) social reasons, as parents wanted to promote positive socialisation in their children’s lives; (iv) academic reasons, as parents sought to secure their children’s academic success; (v) practical reasons where private schooling was unattainable, or for travelling families and (vi) for the special educational or health needs of children, which would be best met by home education.

Home Education in Practice

Australian home educators choose one of three methods of home education (Barratt-Peacock, 1997; Harding, 2006a, Thomas, 1998). They can use a structured program similar to what is used in schools, or they use an eclectic approach, accessing books and courses from a variety of sources, or some use a natural learning/unschooling approach, with little formal structure. The key factor common to each method is that parents are practicing their chosen form of education with their own children, in their own homes.

Australian home educators practice either homeschooling, where the education is the total responsibility of the parents, with little or no structured outside help; or government or non-government distance education, where a structured program is provided to the family, with some teacher assistance provided on a for-fee basis.

It is difficult to determine the numbers of home educated children in Australia, and estimates range from 20,000 to 60,000 children. Governments tend to underestimate the numbers, whilst some home educators seem to take the opposite approach.

The Australian Christian Academy was the first official homeschooling support institution appearing on the modern Australian homeschooling terrain. Commencing from six families in October 1982, it now supports over 4,000 children and their families, and remains the largest quantifiable home education group in Australia, supporting both homeschool and distance education families.

Legal Climate

Home education has flourished during the 1970s to the present, despite oppressive legislation and practices from the governments of all six states and two territories. These laws usually require homeschooled children to be registered and monitored by the state. While many families are happy to comply with such laws, many others have practiced civil disobedience with respect to homeschooling laws. In Queensland, for example, it was estimated (Queensland Government, 2003) that 85% of home educators did not comply with state requirements of registration and monitoring of students. Despite these draconian laws, most Australian home educators are practicing home education in freedom in remote areas, regional towns and in suburban and urban centres.

Moving Forward

Research (Harding, 2006b) has demonstrated that home educated graduates are gaining entrance into universities and colleges and that, as adults, they are expressing satisfaction with their childhood educational experiences.

Home education in Australia is still a growing phenomenon. It is creating its own infrastructure, with all states having their own official networks. In 2007, the first National Home Education Conference was held in all capital cities. Based on the growth of Australian home education, the success of its graduates and the establishment of good support networks, one could easily expect Australian home education to continue to flourish well into the 21st century.

As a leader in the Australian homeschooling movement, Terry Harding personally believes that the modern home education movement is God’s way of restoring people to the power of family and deepened relationships, in an era when many have strayed from what it means to be human.


Barratt-Peacock, J. (1997). The why and how of Australian home education. Unpublished doctoral thesis, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria.

Harding, T.J.A. (1997). Why Australian Christian Academy families in Queensland choose to home school: Implications for policy development. Unpublished thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland.

Harding, T. J. A. (2006a). A study of Victorian home educators: Home school law reform. Paper presented at the Home Education Symposium: “Feel at Home with Education”, The Camberwell Centre, Melbourne, Australia.

Harding, T. J. A. (2006b). Australian Christian Academy graduates and tertiary entrance: A survey of post schooling study pathways of 438 home educated graduates. Brisbane, Australian Christian Academy.

Harding, T. J. A., & Farrell, A. (2003). Home schooling and legislated education. Australian and New Zealand Educational Law Association, 8(1&2), 125-133.

McColl, A. (2005). Home schooling: The graduates speak. Unpublished Masters Dissertation, Christian Heritage College, Brisbane.

Queensland Government, (2003). Home School Review, Brisbane: Education Queensland.

Thomas, A. (1998). Educating children at home. London: Cassell Education.

 Other Resources

For more information about homeschooling in Australia >>

You can provide financial support to the homeschooling movement in countries like Australia by donating to the Home School Foundation’s International Homeschooling Fund.