In 1996, Reverend John Leaver formed the Association of Ecumenical Schools of Victoria Inc with four foundation schools. In 2000 the Association was closed and replaced by Victorian Ecumenical System of Schools Ltd (VESS). In 2019 the System became known as Ecumenical Schools Australia which better reflects the membership and direction of the network.
‘Ecumenical’ generally refers to a collaborative spirit between different Christian churches. While the members of Ecumenical Schools Australia are very different in their denominations and levels of faith practice, ‘Ecumenical’ captures well the way member schools interact with one another.
Our representation of ecumenism means that member schools:
- represent a number of different Christian faith traditions;
- within and/or between schools, promote co-operation between different denominations and faith traditions.
Ecumenical Schools Australia members fall into three categories:
- Multi-denominational schools formed by the co-operation of different churches (such as the first Association school, Highview College, Maryborough, which was formed jointly by Anglican, Catholic, Uniting and Church of Christ congregations)
- Denominational schools, affiliated with a particular church such as Anglican, Uniting, Christian Science or Baptist.
- Schools which have no church affiliation but subscribe to Christian values.
All member schools have a commitment to co-operation in a Christian spirit which binds them together and makes them “ecumenical”; generally having liberal Christian faith traditions, and welcoming students from other faith backgrounds or with no religious connection.
Founding members were:
- Highview College, Maryborough
- Christian Community College, Portland (now Bayview College) – left in 2013
- Newhaven College, Newhaven
- Cranbourne Christian Community College, Cranbourne (now Casey Grammar School)
Since 1996, the following schools have become members of VESS:
Bacchus Marsh Grammar School, Bacchus Marsh
Braemar College, Woodend
Ballarat Grammar, Wendouree
Ballarat Clarendon College, Ballarat
Goulburn Valley Grammar School, Shepparton
Gippsland Grammar School, Sale and Bairnsdale
Westbourne Grammar School, Truganina and Newport
The Hamilton & Alexandra College, Hamilton
Peninsula Grammar, Mount Eliza
The Geelong College, Newtown
Balcombe Grammar School, Mount Martha
Huntingtower School, Mount Waverley
St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School, Warragul and Traralgon
River Nile School (Associate Member)
Currently there are 18 members educating over 17,700 local students, plus many early childhood and international students.
Membership of Ecumenical Schools Australia is growing and enquiries from schools regarding prospective membership are welcomed.
Collectively, Ecumenical Schools Australia members have a stronger voice than they do individually. Member schools are able to take comfort in the knowledge that they are part of a group representing over 17,700 local students, over 3,000 staff, and many regions of Australia.