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The vision for a college to bridge the gap between church based education programs and those of The traditional theological college was formed in the mind of Rev. Dr M. A. Wells, a man who during 40 years as a minister, exercised a unique church planting role in the foothills of Perth’s southern suburbs. In 1978 the vision was realised with the establishment of the West Australian Bible College (WABC), initially operating from the Gosnells Baptist Church. At first the response was small – three full-time and seven part-time students. As the college gained wider acceptance these numbers grew. Enquiries from country students for residential courses and the need to establish the independence of the college led to the purchase of and relocation to the 1.1 hectare site in Wattle Grove in mid-1981.
A significant milestone along the way was the appointment of the foundation Principal, Rev. Dr David Shalley. Formerly a professional engineer, Dr Shalley spent ten years as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Curtin University of Technology. He had been involved for many years in church-centred-ministries including preaching, teaching and youth work.
In 1983 the growth of both the programme and enrolments necessitated the expansion of the educational facilities on campus. By the end of that year two large transportable units had been positioned on site. Volunteer help and student work parties had the project completed and open by March 1984. The college then had lecture, library and office space to meet its needs for some years to come.
Continuing growth and the development of a wider range of courses, plus increasing administration pressures, made it clear that an additional academic lecturer was required. Accordingly Mr Geoff Wager, already a visiting tutor, was appointed as Deputy Principal, on half time from 1990 then full time from 1992.
An important stage in the development of the college occurred in 1993 when the Graduate Diploma, Diploma, Certificate and Advanced Certificate courses were accredited, allowing students access to Austudy, Abstudy and Centrelink.
In 1994 Rev. Geoff Fewster was appointed as Principal of the college. The college branched out in 1997 to develop new courses in the areas of Children’s Ministry and Teaching of English to Non-English speakers. In 2005, Haydn Nelson was appointed as Principal. Haydn had been appointed as a part-time lecturer in 2002 whist studying for his PhD and took over the leadership of the college when Geoff Fewster retired in February 2005. Dawson Elliott who was the Director of Administrative Services and Business Manager since 2003 was appointed as the Deputy Principal in February 2005. Haydn Nelson resigned at the end of December 2006 to take up a position at Riverview church in Perth. David Shalley was then appointed as Interim Principal for the first semester of 2007 after which Dawson Elliott was appointed as Principal from 1 July 2007. Prior commitments had prevented Dawson from taking on the position from the beginning of 2007.
Over the years of the life of Bible College of Western Australia, a steady stream of graduates have found employment as Pastors, Missionaries and para-church workers along with many others who have taken an enriched Christian faith back into their own communities. As at April 2018, the college has had 1294 students. Voluntary visiting trainers have come from a wide spectrum of evangelical denominations and have enriched the students’ appreciation of their faith. Whilst some changes in the voluntary faculty have occurred with the passing of the years, the college currently enjoys the services of a team of well-qualified and experienced visiting trainers. Academically BCWA has sought to stretch students beyond their starting point with the college. Flexibility of courses and availability of a personalized approach to the provision of Bible – based education for Christian life and service remain distinctive traits of the college