Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Brodribb (1836–1923)

by Anthony R. Delves

This article was published:

Thomas Brodribb (1836-1923), educationist, was born on 11 September 1836 at Bristol, England, the second child of Uriah Brodribb, public servant, and his wife Ann, née Harrill. At 21 he passed the public service examination and became a third-class clerk in the Education Department of the Privy Council Office. During his seven years in that department he graduated M.A. at the University of London and became an associate of King's College. He also gave public lectures and was an examiner at the City of London College, the Polytechnic Evening Classes and the West London Youths' Institute.

Probably because of William Brodribb's urgings he decided to migrate to Melbourne and arrived in the True Briton on 21 December 1864. Two weeks later he lodged his first application for an inspectorship but was unsuccessful. He taught privately, then at Ballarat College from 27 August 1866 to 30 June 1867 and for one week at Wesley College. On 12 August he became headmaster of St Arnaud Common School and taught there, at Kildare and at Christ Church Common School, Geelong, until 22 March 1869. During this period he took an M.A. at the University of Melbourne. On 22 March 1869 the Board of Education appointed him an inspector of schools and his position was confirmed after the 1872 Act. He was called to the Bar on 9 December 1874, although he seems never to have practised. Retrenched after 'Black Wednesday' on 8 January 1878, he was reappointed on 25 March. In 1879 he became a senior inspector and a member of the Board of Examiners. He was appointed assistant inspector-general on 21 November 1883, inspector-general on 24 April 1889 and secretary of Public Instruction on 1 January 1892. As a senior officer in the Education Department he was a consistent proponent of technical education and of the New Education Movement. On 1 January 1894 he was forced to resign, for he was obviously in violent disagreement with his minister, Richard Baker, over the financial stringencies which caused much retrenchment, the closing of the Training College and the virtual collapse of the technical colleges.

After retirement Brodribb continued to lead an active life. As a justice of the peace from 1892 he often sat on the bench at the Kew Court of Petty Sessions. In 1902-09 he was treasurer of the Imperial Federation League. As president of the Australian Health Society in 1905-22 he published Save the Babies (Melbourne, 1919); with Dr John Springthorpe in 1891 he had published Manual of Health and Temperance, which ran to several revised editions. An enthusiastic supporter of the cadet movement, he became an honorary lieutenant-colonel and wrote Military Training for Our Schoolboys (Melbourne, 1909). At Kew in 1916 he published The Brodribb Genealogy. He died at his home, Hallatrow, Kew, on 26 February 1923. On 17 November 1875 he had married Emily Jane, daughter of F. P. Stevens; they had three sons and one daughter.

A window dedicated to Brodribb and his wife is in Holy Trinity Church, Kew.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Schoolmaster, May 1894
  • Education Gazette (Victoria), 22 Mar 1923
  • Board of Education, special case files no 144, 1866-94
  • Minister for Public Instruction (Victoria), Annual Report, 1873-95
  • Brodribb letters (Victorian Education Department).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anthony R. Delves, 'Brodribb, Thomas (1836–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 September, 1836
Bristol, Gloucestershire, England


26 February, 1923 (aged 86)
Kew, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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