The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Victoria in 1857. Their work included the care of orphans. The Sisters of Mercy Melbourne were responsible for two orphanages: St Vincent de Paul's Orphanage for Girls in South Melbourne, and Our Lady's Orphanage, which subsequently became St Catherine's Orphanage in Highton, Geelong. In 2011, the Melbourne congregation of the Sisters of Mercy became part of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).
The Sisters of Mercy Melbourne Congregation began its work in 1857 when three Sisters of Mercy, led by Mother Ursula Frayne, arrived in the colony of Victoria from Perth. They settled in the suburb of Fitzroy and began their works, including education of the poor and young women, the care of orphans and newly arrived immigrant Irish girls and visitation of the needy. The Sisters of Mercy had responsibility for two orphanages, St Vincent de Paul's Orphanage for Girls in South Melbourne which had been founded some years earlier and for which the Sisters at Fitzroy took responsibility in 1861; and an existing orphanage in Geelong (Our Lady's Orphanage) which subsequently became St Catherine's Orphanage in Highton, a Geelong suburb.
In 1872 the Sisters of Mercy established a Domestic Training Institute in their former House of Mercy in Fitzroy. It had previously accommodated newly arrived Irish female migrants who were waiting to gain employment in the colony. Older orphan girls were transferred to the Institute from St Vincent de Paul's Girls' Orphanage, South Melbourne to be trained in domestic work. This training involved 'acting as servants for the adjoining boarding school', the Convent of Mercy, Nicholson Street, Fitzroy.
Over the next forty or so years this pioneering group was followed by many other groups, which settled in other parts of Victoria including:-
Nearly all of these convents made other foundations in the Archdioceses of Melbourne and Hobart and the Dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst. The Sisters were heavily involved in most of the traditional works of mercy in Melbourne, large provincial cities and many small country towns.
In 1907, most of these houses with the exception of Ballarat (founded from Warrnambool in 1881) amalgamated to form the present Melbourne Congregation, which became a province of the Australian Union of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1954 and a member congregation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia in 1981.
In 1997, records of the Sisters of Mercy were transferred to MacKillop Family Services. These included records of the various orphanages, homes and other residences run by the Sisters of Mercy. While custodianship of the records about people in 'care' became the responsibility of MacKillop Family Services at this point, it was formally agreed that the intellectual property in these records would not change hands.
1857 - 2011 Sisters of Mercy, Melbourne
2011 - Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea
Sources used to compile this entry: Advertising: On Sunday 12 October, The Argus, 8 October 1879, 1 pp, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5958399; Barnard, Jill; Twigg, Karen, Holding on to Hope: a history of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services 1854-1997, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2004.
Prepared by: Cate O'Neill
Created: 17 February 2009, Last modified: 30 April 2014