This paper considers philosophies of progressive and radical education circulating in Australia in the post-war period through to the alternative school movement of the 1970s. It analyses the reach and impact of different strands of thought, including child-centred and developmental, therapeutic and individualizing, and socially critical and transformative. This encompasses attention to the international flows of such ideas and Australian engagements with touchstone texts, sources and ‘experts’, from A.S. Neill to Ivan Illich, as well as local writings, manifestos and declarations of the new. Threaded through these various writings are changing conceptions and enactments of relations between schools and the world around them [local; imagined; international…], with schools variously seen as communities unto themselves, embedded in and responsive to communities or symbolically and physically removed from the everyday. The focus is on the realisation of utopian and radical aspirations in the imagination and design (accidental, intended, formal, informal) of the school environment, both inside and outside the classroom, with specific reference to developments in state education in Victoria during the 1960s and 1970s.