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To meet growing, post-war technological needs, the Australian Army commenced an Apprentice scheme on 2nd August 1948 at Balcombe Barracks on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. To train tradesmen and women direct from Australian secondary schools, youths aged between 14 and 18 were recruited for a four-year apprenticeship in various technical and clerical trades, and as musicians. Initial engagement was for 9 years. In 1982, the Army Apprentices School (AAS) moved from Balcombe to Latchford Barracks, Bonegilla, in northern Victoria. Many graduates went on to commissioned rank and some have achieved senior and general rank in the ARA. In 1991, the AAS was retitled the Army College of Technical and Further Education (TAFE). Although successful, the scheme was eventually phased out, with the last graduation parade on 8th April 1995. The College closed after over 7500 Apprentices graduated into the ARA.
Before the new AAS badge was issued in 1951, Apprentices wore Rising Sun badges. The AAS badge was copied from that of the British Army. At the badge’s apex, the Crown of the Sovereign expresses allegiance to the Sovereign, superiors, duty and country. Superimposed on a cogwheel, representing trade and technical training, the English Cross of St. George forms the spokes of the wheel (the basis of the badge) and depicts the Christian virtues and development of character. The Cross is overlaid with crossed, doubled–edged swords, representing military qualities of courage, discipline and physical fitness. Superimposed on the swords and the Cross is a flaming torch of learning.