Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit will normally be offered in either intensive or online modes.  When offered as a fully online unit, involving 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks, you will have the flexibility to work through four modules at your own pace. Synchronous tutorial sessions and asynchronous forum discussions will provide support for your learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

What does it mean to be Catholic in Australia? If you are an employee or a member of an Australian Catholic organisation, this question inevitably arises. This is particularly true if you are a teacher in a Catholic school or engaged in some form of lay or ordained ministry in Catholic parishes. This unit approaches the issue of Catholic identity through the lens of history. It will help you explore significant aspects of the history of Catholicism in Australia, including the development of Catholic education systems and the intersection of Catholicism and politics in Australia at crucial times, such as during the controversy over conscription during the First World War and the split in the Australian Labor Party in the 1950s. The unit will also consider some of the profound changes which took place in Australian Catholic parishes and schools in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). 

This unit will enable you to hone your skills in critical reflection and further develop your ability to analyse historical evidence and evaluate differing viewpoints. Overall, the aim of this unit is to encourage you to develop a mature understanding of Australian Catholic history and identity, a sound appreciation of the legacies of the past, and the ability to apply insights from past experience to the challenges of today.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss and evaluate major events and themes in Australian Catholic history. (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO2 - Critically analyse primary and secondary sources and reflect on them as historical evidence. (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Undertake an extended research task involving locating primary source material on as aspect of Australian Catholic history and analyzing its relevance to today. (GA4, GA5, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • The study of Australian Catholic history: sources and different interpretations
  • The foundation of the Catholic Church in Australia: Benedictine, Irish and Roman influences
  • The development of Catholic schools and religious congregations
  • The Church and Indigenous Australians
  • Sectarianism before and after World War I and the controversy over military conscription.
  • World War II, anti-communism and the ALP schism
  • Post-war migration and shifts in spirituality
  • The impact of the Second Vatican Council on Australian Catholicism
  • Change and continuity in the Catholic Church in the late twentieth-century

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit will normally be offered in either intensive or online modes. 

Underlying the teaching and learning strategy are constructivist and andragogical principles which emphasise that students are active, adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. The focus is therefore on student-centred learning, with consideration of how the learning content applies to the students themselves and their contemporary context.

As an intensive unit over four days, lectures will be interspersed with group discussions, videos and other learning activities which will encourage you to relate your learning to your own context, share your insights with other students, and listen to their perspectives. 

When offered as a fully online unit, involving 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks, you will have the flexibility to work through four modules at your own pace. Synchronous tutorial sessions and asynchronous forum discussions will provide support for your learning.

In both modes, primary sources, the raw material of history, will be a particular focus so that you can hone your ability to analyse evidence as well as critique different interpretations of historical developments. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is designed to help you develop skills in historical research and demonstrate your achievement of the unit learning outcomes. Such skills include the ability to analyze historical sources and different interpretations of historical developments; to ask questions and explore possible answers; to critically evaluate the significance of certain developments; to concisely and fluently convey the results of research and reflection; and to develop and defend a valid argument.

The first assessment task will provide an opportunity for you to receive feedback on your skills in historical research early in the unit. The second will help you prepare for the third, a research essay which will enable you to demonstrate that you have met all the unit learning outcomes.   

For the research essay, you will be able to choose, in consultation with the lecturer, a topic of interest to you and relevant to your life situation.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short written task, such as a forum post, in which you set in context and evaluate a primary source from the nineteenth century. This will be due early in the unit to provide the opportunity for timely feedback.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Oral or written presentation (10 minutes or 2000 words) outlining a research proposal and annotated bibliography.

The purpose of this task is to provide you with an opportunity to develop a solid foundation for your final assignment.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay (3000 words) which demonstrates that you have met all the unit learning outcomes.  


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Boland, T. P. James Duhig. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1986.

Breward, Ian. History of the Churches in Australasia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Campion, Edmund. Australian Catholics. Melbourne: Viking, 1987.

Duncan, B. F. Crusade or Conspiracy: Catholics and the Anti-Communist Struggle in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2001.

Massam, Katharine. Sacred Threads: Catholic Spirituality in Australia 1922-1962. Sydney: University of NSW Press, 1996.

Niall, Brenda. Mannix. Melbourne: Text Publishing Company, 2015.

O'Farrell, Patrick James. The Catholic Church and Community: An Australian History. 3rd. rev. ed. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1992.

Ormerod, Neil, Ormond Rush, David Pascoe, Clare Johnson and Joel Hodge (eds).Vatican II: Reception and Implementation in the Australian Church. Melbourne: Garratt Publishing, 2012.

O'Sullivan, Dominic. Faith, Politics and Reconciliation: Catholicism and the Politics of Indigeneity. Adelaide: ATF, 2005.

Turner, Naomi. Catholics in Australia: A Social History. 2 vols. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1992.

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