Celebrating 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia

Celebrating 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia

2021 marks 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia, a significant milestone in the education of Australian students. With almost one million students in, and 98,000 teachers and staff across 1,751 Catholic schools in Australia, Loreto Normanhurst is proud to have been a part of this legacy for 124 years. It was in 1875 that Gonzaga Barry led the first Loreto Sisters to Australia at the request of Bishop Michael O’Connor in Ballarat.

“Today, there are seven Loreto Schools in Australia and over 70 throughout the world. Mary’s Mount, Ballarat (1875), Normanhurst (1897) and Kirribilli (1907) in Sydney, Marryatville in Adelaide (1905), Mandeville Hall in Melbourne (1924), Nedlands in Perth (1931) and Coorparoo in Brisbane (1927). Two more, Loreto Osborne (1901) and Loreto Portland (1884) formed local amalgamations and maintain links with their Loreto heritage: John XXIII College in Perth (1977) and Bayview College, Portland (1977). The Sisters also taught in more than 20 parish schools, opened the first free Catholic kindergarten in South Melbourne (1912) and provided commercial training for school leavers in Ballarat and South Melbourne.”[i]

The educational visionary, Mother Gonzaga Barry, was in fact the first educator in Australia to establish a formal teaching training College for teachers in Catholic schools. She was one of the earliest proponents of a holistic education and was influenced by the writings of Froebel. Aware of a chronic shortage of professionally trained teachers who could teach in this way, in 1884 Gonzaga Barry established a teacher training college in Ballarat, followed, in 1896, by the opening of the Albert Park College in Melbourne. She believed that continual professional development fostered excellence in teaching. In calling for ‘A Women’s Education Congress’ where the Heads of girls’ schools could meet in mutual support, she demonstrated Mary Ward’s passionate belief in the capacity of women and the value of their particular insights:

Nothing but mutual advantage can arise from an interchange of ideas and experience; in short, what is to prevent [the Heads] from taking an independent, original view of education from a woman’s standpoint and so checking and correcting and completing the theories on education still in vogue and which we owe nearly all to men – often to ‘doctrinaires’ and charlatans?

Mother Gonzaga Barry (1891). Eucalyptus Blossoms.

Today Loreto Normanhurst continues to provide a strong holistic Catholic education for girls that ‘celebrates a joyous Christian faith which grows from reflection and leads to justice’. We encourage each student to be a woman of conscious faith developing a gentle strength that is both empathetic and reflective, so they can use their voice confidently to respond to the needs of our world.

Our staff are renowned for their excellence and this week at the Broken Bay Diocesan Mass held at the Light of Christ Centre, Waitara, we celebrated more than 25 years of service to Catholic education with Ms Jenelle Minto and Mrs Bridget Andersen. Ms Mary Anne De Mattia was also celebrated but was unable to attend. As a school community we congratulate these women and thank them most sincerely for their service to Catholic education and Loreto Normanhurst.


Mrs Libby Parker

Director of Mission


[i] Https://www.loreto.org.au/about-us/history/gonzaga-barry/