A History of Our School
On March the 1st, 1906 four Presentation Sisters arrived by coastal vessel to set up a day and boarding school in Carnarvon, at that time a township of a few hundred citizens.
Under the guidance of Mother Joseph O'Connell, school opened in a section of the small Catholic Church on Monday, March the 19th with twenty two pupils attending*. The school was an immediate success with a wide and varied curriculum for both Elementary and High School students. Demand for the Sisters' services grew rapidly, such was the school's reputation. Resources were soon stretched to the limit and the Union Bank was approached for a loan to build a convent which would include boarders' accommodation and two classrooms. The application was rejected.
Mr. MacLeod however, advanced the Sisters a loan of fifteen hundred pounds and the original wood and iron St Mary's Convent was partially occupied by October 1906. Mass was celebrated in the convent chapel that Christmas Eve and the following year, High School classes were being conducted in a wing of the new building with Primary classes still in the church. The original cement brick schoolroom, now the school hall, was not built until 1928/ 29 by which time, student numbers had reached one hundred and ten*.
As many as nine Sisters were to reside and serve at the convent at any one time, each with their own special gift and apart from general education of the highest standard, St Mary's has been blessed with truly talented music teachers. The Sisters also ran Evening Classes teaching commercial and other subjects not available elsewhere, to youngsters and adults alike, seeking further education. In 1942, with the possibility of invasion ever present, the boarding school facility was closed and the closure was permanent: the end of an era but the Sisters stayed on.
In 1966, three new classrooms were built to be occupied by Secondary School students and the Sisters moved into a new two storey, brick convent replacing the old structure that had served as convent, boarding school and partly a day school for the past sixty years. All the new buildings were blessed by Bishop Francis Xavier Thomas on 11/12/66.
During the seventies and eighties, great building programmes were undertaken. New classrooms, toilets, industrial arts centre, library and resource centre, a science block and computer technology facilities were built. Manual arts were now taught and, after alterations to the stage in the hall, home economics. A music department was established in 1991 and the purchase of land in Stuart St. led to the building of the extensive Junior Learning Centre and play area. In all, the school and its surrounds have grown and expanded beyond recognition.
Since the mid seventies, lay teachers have increasingly filled positions on the staff and in 1995, the Presentation Sisters transferred the responsibility for the school to the Catholic Education Office. In 1996, the first lay Principal, Mrs. Anne Cullender was appointed to the school. At the time of writing, there are more than three hundred students at the school and thirty seven teaching and non-teacher staff. As for the past one hundred years, more than sixty Presentation Sisters and many lay teachers have served at St Mary's, maintaining the school's continuous presence in Carnarvon and educating thousands of children - and adults.
In fact, the presence of the Sisters has been woven into the fabric of this community where they have educated and nurtured so many, not only in the classroom. It seems that without St Mary's Convent and therefore the Sisters, Carnarvon would have been a dull place indeed without the eagerly awaited Annual Bazaar and Fancy Dress Ball, the concerts, community singing and socials held in the school hall. Then, in times of hardship and emergency, the Sisters have cared for children and families, taught English to migrants and helped those unable to get to these classes, to obtain their drivers' licences. They have given wise counsel and most of all, they have taught by example whilst treading in the footsteps of their foundress, Nano Nagle. And may we never forget that without the Sisters, there would never have been a school.
School Motto - 'To Jesus through Mary'
Star and Sea Symbols of Mary Star of the Sea Patroness of our School
Book Learning - Word of God
Acorn Traditional symbol of the Presentation Order
Kangaroo Paw Flower symbol of W.A.
School Colours - Blue and white