This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Burgmann College at the Australian National University, Canberra. There is a strong connection between ANU’s Burgmann and Sydney University’s St Paul’s through the Right Reverend Ernest Burgmann CMG (1885–1967) after whom that college in named. Burgmann Anglican School was established in 1999 in Gungahlin and Forde ACT which is also named after Ernest Burgmann.
Ernest Henry Burgmann was a scholarship student at St Paul’s between 1909 and 1911 and studied BA whilst in residence and graduated MA in 1914. He took an interesting path to Sydney University from his home at Lansdowne near Taree on the NSW Mid North Coast. The son of a dairy farmer and timber cutter Ernest found that his Christian faith would develop him into a Church of England minister while running a timber-getting business with his cousin. He completed a Licentiate from the Australian College of Theology in 1907 before returning to school in Taree in order to matriculate to the University. After College he was ordained priest on 12 October 1912 and spent 1914-15 in London as curate at Wimbledon. In 1916 he returned to NSW as the first (?) rector of St James’ Church of England in Wyong.
Burgmann was appointed Warden of St John’s Theological College Armidale in 1918. In this role he was instrumental in transferring St John’s to Morpeth in 1925. During the Depression he supported the unemployed and the evicted, and wrote for newspapers and magazines on the Church’s responsibility for the welfare of the nation. Interestingly, his Pauline connections were among his closest supporters. Together with Revd Roy Lee, his vice-warden at St John’s (at Pauls 1917-22) and Revd A P Elkin (at Paul’s 1912–14) (later Professor A P Elkin CMG, Fellow 1935-66, Chairman of Council 1963-66) they founded the Morpeth Review, a quarterly designed for those ‘on the borderland of institutional religion’.
In 1934 Burgmann was called to be Bishop of Goulburn (which became Canberra and Goulburn from 1950). World War II catapulted Burgmann into new prominence as president of the Australia-Soviet Friendship League. He forged a mutually respectful friendship with H V Evatt PC QC (at the time Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Attorney-General) who appointed him to the Australian delegation at the 1948 United Nations Assembly in Paris. Burgmann was active in the campaign against Prime Minister Menzies’ attempt in 1951 to ban the Communist Party of Australia. He became known as the ‘Red Bishop’!
Bishop Burgmann was a social and church critic throughout his life, and a pastor for the underprivileged. He died in Canberra in 1967.
For his detailed ADB bio CLICK HERE
A university residential college for ANU
Discussion about opening a ‘church sponsored’ residential college at ANU began in 1963. It was hoped that such a college would bring ‘an element of theology’ to the university. An ‘Inter-Church Committee for the Establishment of an Afficiliated College at ANU’ to continue the discussion and fundraising. This included the debate about the name and in 1966 Burgmann was adopted. Regularly attending the committee meetings were other Paulines including Rt Revd David Garnsey (at Paul’s 1927-29) who was Bishop of Gippsland and Rt Revd Felix Arnott CMG (Warden of Paul’s 1946-63) who was Coadjutor Bishop of Melbourne.
The college opened in 1971 still not quite complete. The vision to accommodate 200 students was quickly completed and the college flourished. A 110 room postgraduate village was opened in 2004 and included a multi-denominational chapel, café, tutorial rooms, computer room, and music room.
Burgmann College today has 230 fully catered undergraduates and a village community of 120 postgraduates, in a learning community that is based on ‘shared learning’ amongst residents. Academic support is both received and given by all, Burgmann College is noted for having live-in staff unlike most of the other ANU residential colleges. In that sense there are many similarities to Paul’s especially its postgraduate community.
The vision the founders had for the college was of a community where young people of all faiths could live and study together, in a spirit of diversity, individual growth and mutual respect.
For more about Burgmann College see The Place to Be, Burgmann College 1971-2001 (available in St Paul’s College Library).
And an Anglican school for the ACT
Burgmann Anglican School filled an educational gap for the fast-growing Gungahlin area north of Canberra. In a similar vein to the college there was some discussion about names. In the 1980s a nearby Anglican school was establish and named after another Pauline Rt Revd Lewis Bostock Radford (Warden 1909-1917). “Bugmann’s belief that the Christian gospel is a statement of the need for justice and truth in the world made him a very suitable choice as the patron for the new Anglican school in Canberra” which now carries his name.
Burgmann Anglican School opened in a small building on a large parcel of land in 1999 with 24 K-4 students. Today it boasts 1500 student from K to 12 studying in two modern campuses in north Canberra. For more about Burgmann Anglican School see Grace Commitment Wisdom, Burgmann Anglican School’s first 20 years (available in St Paul’s College Library).
In 1944 Burgmann said “capture our imagination”. He is remembered in these two educational institutions for his contributions to Australia and his vision for a better nation, perhaps nurtured when he was a young man here at Paul’s.