Our History


As we celebrate 200 years of Catholic education in Australia this year, we share with you our story.

St Mary's College Ipswich has always been a lively, encouraging community, where all are welcomed and supported to succeed.

Our story began more than 157 years ago when the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Ipswich, persuaded by a group of ​Catholic citizens from Ipswich to come and educate the region's children. A small band of the Sisters of Mercy, including Mother Vincent Whitty and Sister Jane Gorry sailed up the Bremer River from Brisbane on the SS Saddler on 1 May 1863. The Sisters of Mercy were prepared to travel to Ipswich and open a school when others were daunted by the thought. We were founded, then, with courage and compassion. The sisters commenced teaching a small cohort of 180 pupils

In 1874, with enrolment numbers growing, the foundation stone of Mercy Convent was laid on the school grounds. Though financial hardship delayed its completion, in 1884 the Sisters of Mercy took up residence in Mercy Convent, their home for the next 133 years. From here, the sisters established the foundation of Catholic Education in the south east region.

In 1913, St Mary's College was established as a separate secondary school exclusively for the higher education of girls in the Mercy tradition. The College and its pupils were now distinct from the Primary School students. The two schools remained closely connected, a friendship that endures today. The Sisters were involved continuously in the administration and teaching at the College until 1987.

While the Sisters of Mercy are no longer physically present at our College, our histories are intrinsically linked. Daily, we are reminded of their vision and mission and strive to uphold it. Two of our College Houses, Gorry and Whitty, recognise the first contingent of Sisters to teach at St Mary's College. Many buildings around our campus are named in honour of the sisters, including our main hall, the McAuley Centre, for Catherine McAuley herself.

Mercy Convent still stands proudly on our campus, a visual reminder of where we have been and how far we have come. Today, it serves as the College's main reception and staff offices. Its past will not be forgotten, and Sr Mary Lawson, a great friend of the College, can still find her old bedroom among the offices and enjoys pointing it out. Any additions to our College campus remain sympathetic to the style of this heritage listed building.

Today, St Mary's College is proud to educate more than 680 girls each year. We remain the only all girls' secondary college in Ipswich and the greater western corridor. Many of our students are the latest generation in a family of Mary's Girls, their mother's, grandmother's and great-grandmother's having attended the College before them. Among our current staff are also many former students. They help to provide a foundation on which we can build and grow our Catholic identity.

The Mercy charism has flowed through many generations and today continues to inspire us to perform ordinary things, extraordinarily well. The example of Catherine, to go where there was a need to spread mercy, continues to encourage and empower us in our words and actions.