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BBI’s beginnings can be traced back to 1969, at which time Fr Neil Brown, Fr Peter Neville, and Fr David Walker founded the Catholic Correspondence Centre (CCC) to respond to the need to make serious theological study and reflection more available to Catholic people in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. In the early 1980s, the CCC became part of the Centre for Christian Spirituality at Randwick.

The Centre for Christian Spirituality was founded to assist clergy, religious and laity integrate the changes that were happening in the Church by forming leaders in this area. For ten years it ran a one year full time program to achieve this. It then turned its attention to extending the work of the CCC by offering distance education to teachers in Catholic Schools. This began by educating them to the Bachelor of Divinity degree of the Melbourne College of Divinity, and then by becoming first an associate member, then a full member of the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD).

Recognising that the academic program had outgrown its resources, in January 2002, the Centre for Christian Spirituality gifted its academic programs and relationship to the SCD, together with its library, to the Diocese of Broken Bay. As part of this move, the name was changed to The Broken Bay Institute. With this change, BBI transitioned from a mostly distance (correspondence mode) theological provider, to a provider of seminars (many in rural and regional Australia) and online education in a relatively short time.

As BBI developed, so too did its profile in the context of New South Wales and increasingly over other parts of Australia. Over time, BBI began delivering theological education in seminar/distance hybrid modes to increasing numbers of Catholic Education Offices across Eastern Australia. With the goal of better facilitating the Institute’s ongoing growth and outreach, BBI decided to move from accreditation through SCD to the University of Newcastle (UoN), a ‘top 10’ University. This move took place in 2009 and has proven to be very successful, enabling BBI to extend considerably its potential student body. Not only does BBI continue to provide a broad range of Theology programs, it now has students from a diverse range of degrees within the University who study theology as elective courses.

BBI now provides online and face-to-face theological education to a broad range of students in a variety of locations. These include those preparing for ministry, school teachers, interested lay persons, undergraduate and postgraduate students in a variety of degrees at the UoN which range from the arts to engineering and, of course, students studying theology for interest and personal faith development. It provides such education online to students around the nation and across the globe, face-to-face on UoN campuses, and by way of seminars in a host of Australian locations which incorporate regional and urban sites in four States and the Northern Territory.

The year 2009 also marked an extraordinary moment for Catholic adult faith education in Australia when BBI partnered with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to deliver its first eConference on The Year of Saint Paul. The response was overwhelming with over 20,000 people from parishes and Catholic agencies all over Australia, coming together via web streaming for the event. Seven eConferences later, and delivery to every Diocese in Australia as well as up to 30 countries has seen the eConferences become an important fixture of the Australian Church’s adult faith education calendar.

By 2012, The Broken Bay Institute had expanded beyond the resources of the Diocese of Broken Bay. Considering its increasing national and international profile, and to facilitate its ongoing capacity for growth, Bishop Walker decided, with the unanimous support of the BBI Council, the Consultors of the Diocese, and the Finance Committee of the Diocese of Broken Bay, to establish BBI as a Company Limited by Guarantee. This structure will provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that it will continue to provide quality theological education in the Australian and international contexts.

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