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Buntine, Walter Murray (1866–1953)

by E. L. French

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Walter Murray Buntine (1866-1953), schoolmaster, was born on 1 August 1866 at Meadowbank near Rosedale, Victoria, second son of Robert Buntine, grazier, and his wife Jessie, née Murray. He entered Scotch College, Melbourne, in 1884 and the University of Melbourne in 1886 (B.A., 1892; M.A., 1906), supporting himself by private coaching and taking a post in 1889 at Rev. E. J. Barnett's school in East St Kilda. On 11 July 1894 he married according to the Presbyterian form Bertha Florence, daughter of Richard Gibbs, barrister.

Observing the excessive number and precarious existence of private schools in the district, Buntine purchased the goodwill first of St Kilda Grammar School and, in 1896, of Caulfield Grammar School, taking his pupils to Barnett's premises. In 1905 he bought the present site and built new premises, which were opened in 1909. Caulfield Grammar School became a public company in 1931 and Buntine retired the next year.

His prime task had been the defence of private schools in competition with church schools and the state. Their best safeguard, Buntine believed, was the Incorporated Association of Secondary Teachers of Victoria (from 1922 Incorporated Association of Registered Teachers of Victoria) of which he was president in 1914, 1926 and 1931. Fearful of state control, yet uneasy about unregulated private enterprise, he urged a policy of public supervision, arguing for the Registration of Teachers and Schools Act of 1905, and campaigning for the clause in the Education Act of 1910 creating the Council of Public Education.

Unfamiliar with educational ideas, Buntine depended greatly in his own school on his headmaster F. H. J. Archer and the able W. S. Morcom (1890-1966), and turned his attention to the external conditions affecting schooling. Concerned for the child of average ability, he used his membership of the Council of the University of Melbourne in 1933-37, the Schools Board in 1919-22 and 1926-33, and the Standing Committee of Convocation in 1926-33 to ensure appropriate standards in public examinations. He was a member of the University Extension Board in 1912-21, the faculty of education in 1926-34, and the Council of Public Education in 1935-38, and in 1935 represented the State government and the university at the Fifth International Congress on Family Education in Geneva.

Buntine had grown up as a Presbyterian. Whether he was confirmed in the Anglican Church is uncertain, but he was a member of the councils of Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School in 1914-27 and of St Hilda's Deaconess and Missionary Training Home. He was a lay reader of the Melbourne Diocese in 1920-49, and first president of the Victorian branch of the Church Missionary Society, to which he donated £1000 for a scholarship in memory of his eldest son Lieutenant W. H. C. Buntine, M.C. With a group of Evangelicals Buntine helped to found Ridley College in 1909; he was first secretary of its council in 1909-22 and a member until 1953. In 1924-50 he was one of the two London representatives on the Commonwealth Council of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Australia and in 1938 he was elected a life governor. His publications include Caulfield Grammar School Jubilee 1881-1931 (Melbourne, 1931).

Survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter, he died on 26 January 1953 and was buried in Box Hill cemetery after an Anglican service. The Buntine oration, endowed by his family, is delivered biennially at the conference of the Australian College of Education. A portrait by Rollo Thompson is at Caulfield Grammar School. His son Lieutenant-Colonel Martyn Arnold Buntine (1898-1975) became headmaster of Camberwell Grammar School, Hale School, Perth, and Geelong College.

Select Bibliography

  • L. L. Nash, Forward Flows the Time (Melb, 1960)
  • P. H. Karmel, Some Economic Aspects of Education (Melb, 1962)
  • K. Cole, A History of the Church Missionary Society of Australia (Melb, 1971)
  • Parliamentary Papers (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1894-95, 2 (3), 55-65
  • Dioceses of Melbourne and Wangaratta, Yearbook, 1914-53
  • Argus (Melbourne), 20 Apr 1893, 27 Jan 1953
  • Incorporated Association of Secondary (Registered) Teachers of Victoria minutes, 1907-29 (Elizabeth St, Melbourne)
  • W. H. Buntine file (Caulfield Grammar School Archives)
  • Council, and Convocation, and Schools Board minutes (Universtiy of Melbourne Archives)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

E. L. French, 'Buntine, Walter Murray (1866–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buntine-walter-murray-5423/text9197, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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