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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kane, Benjamin Francis (1834–1872)

by A. M. Badcock

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Benjamin Francis Kane (1834-1872), educationist, was born in Kent, England, son of Benjamin Kane of the Royal Ordnance Department, Plymouth, and his wife Caroline, née Plow. He migrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1849 to complete his education and to become an assistant master at Launceston Church Grammar School under his brother Rev. Henry Kane. He also edited a newspaper in Launceston before moving to Victoria, where on 10 February 1852 he was appointed to the Colonial Secretary's Office. On 15 March he was chosen from sixteen applicants as secretary and clerk in the new Board of National Education; his salary of £200 was raised in June to £300. Although by 1861 the National Board was educating only 14,000 children in its 187 schools compared with the rival Denominational Board's 77,500 children in 484 schools, Kane had responsible duties for his age and limited experience. He had become acting-inspector for National schools in 1853 and was responsible for setting up the emergency tent schools in gold-mining districts. Next year he became chief inspector and in 1855 a member of the Board for Teacher Training. As the gold fever waned friction between the two systems became more evident. The Denominational Board complained in 1861 that while the National Board was teaching only 20 per cent of the colony's children it was receiving 30 per cent of government funds. Kane, whose salary was £200 less than that of his counterpart in the Denominational Board, made out a case for equal pay to officers of the two boards, but without success. In 1862 the rival boards were abolished under Richard Heales's Education Act. Richard Budd, head of the Denominational Board, was appointed inspector-general of the Common Schools Board at a salary of £1000 and Kane became secretary at £700. In 1872 he conducted a survey which revealed that religious instruction, the issue in dispute throughout the period, was being given in only 14 per cent of the schools under the Common Schools Board.

A bachelor, Kane boarded at Jolimont. With six friends, including Marcus Clarke and Frederick Haddon, he founded the Yorick Club in May 1868. Described as a 'highly popular and enthusiastic Yoricker', he was the club's first honorary treasurer and succeeded Clarke as secretary in October. In 1869 he was Clarke's best man. He died aged 38 at Jolimont on 8 December 1872 of acute hepatitis. After a service conducted by Rev. Henry Handfield he was buried in the Anglican section of the Melbourne cemetery. Three weeks later the Common Schools Board was displaced by the Department of Education under ministerial control.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Mackinnon (ed), The Marcus Clarke Memorial Volume (Melb, 1884)
  • The Yorick Club: Its Origin and Development (Melb, 1911)
  • Government Gazette (Victoria), 10 Oct 1862
  • Examiner (Launceston), 21 Nov 1857
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 14, 28 Dec 1862
  • Age (Melbourne), 1 Oct, 9, 10 Dec 1872
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9, 24 Dec 1872
  • National Board of Education minutes, 1851-61 (Public Record Office Victoria)
  • Public Service Office lists, 1851, 1862, 1873 (Public Record Office Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

A. M. Badcock, 'Kane, Benjamin Francis (1834–1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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