Dr Jonathan Richards, a noted Queensland historian, passed on this discovery from the Queensland State Archives. The letter appears among the inward correspondence of the Colonial Secretary's Office in 1893.
A Mrs Arnold wanted to be provided with the employment of the cleaning job at the Junction Park State School, so she wrote a letter. It may seem odd that the letter ended up in the Colonial Secretary's Office, sent on from the Department of Public Instruction.
The file heading is “Requests that the cleaning of the Junction Park School, may be given her”. Was approval was granted? It is uncertain, the heading may simply state what Mrs Arnold requested in the document. The notations on the letter within the Department of Public Instruction indicates that action was sort from the Minister for Public Instruction, Walter Horatio Wilson, whose instruction, as deciphered with some trouble, seems to be “cancel (?) alter (?) arrange” and is unclear as to an intent.
What James Dempsey, the Head Teacher, thought of this over-arching leap beyond his station on a trivial matter, one wonders. No doubt Dempsey would have needed the approval for having the position of a cleaner, but it was well within his authority to appoint whoever he wished to the position, or, at the very least, had the authority of the School Committee to make the appointment. Bureaucracy went mad in the late nineteenth century with Weber in the wings?
However, an informative answer was:
In 1859 the Colonial Secretary’s area of control was defined as, for all intents and purposes, all matters affecting the Colony that were not the responsibility of the Colonial Treasurer or the Attorney-General. There were a large number of sub-departments under the control of the Colonial Secretary. Each had a degree of autonomy, and was capable of creating and preserving their records. Each had an identifiable sub-departmental head, either an individual or a board, who was required to refer all major decisions, including monetary decisions to the Colonial Secretary.
Among the functions under the Colonial Secretary’s control were education, defence, immigration, livestock, land, public works, law enforcement (including courts of summary jurisdiction presided over by police magistrates), the registration of births, deaths and marriages, communication, health and welfare, and miscellaneous matters including the botanic gardens and the meteorological observatory.(1)
One cannot help but feel there is more to this story but the evidence is lost to time.
Reading Mrs Arnold's letter is a delight for the Queensland social historian, although obviously not for her. Her plea is heart-felt. The departmental notations don't appear to be sufficient to know what ended up of Mrs Arnold's request. I hope that she did find the income/job she needed. What strikes me about these correspondences is that, with telling the wider story, it tells us a lot.
- Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Queensland Government, Brief guide: Colonial Secretary’s correspondence 1859–1903, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 sourced on 24 May 2017