Our History

A brief history of the development of Catholic schools in the Northern Territory

Drop down a time period to read about our history.

Port Essington (1847 - 1849)

The first mission to the north of Australia was established near Port Essington on the Coburg Peninsula by Fr Angelo Confalonieri in the 1840's. Fr Angelo studied the language of the local people, compiling a dictionary and translating scripture and prayers. He also drew a map of the Peninsula showing tribal lands.

Port Darwin (1869 - 1880)

The first mission to the north of Australia was established near Port Essington on the Coburg Peninsula by Fr Angelo Confalonieri in the 1840's. Fr Angelo studied the language of the local people, compiling a dictionary and translating scripture and prayers. He also drew a map of the Peninsula showing tribal lands.

The Jesuit Missions (1882 - 1902)

In 1882, the Austrian Jesuits from Sevenhill in the Clare Valley of South Australia set up a misison for Indigenous people near Rapid Creek in Darwin. By 1891, a further two missions at Daly River and Hermit Hill had opened and closed, while the Rapid Creek mission prospered.

Upon the resignation of Bishop Salvado in 1888, the Jesuit priest Fr Anthony Strele became Apostolic Administrator. The Diocese of Port Victoria came under the jurisdication of the Bishop of Geraldton from 1899. The Jesuits left Darwin in 1902.

Bishop Francis Xavier Gsell (1906 - 1948)

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were asked in 1904 to administer the Diocese. In 1906, Fr Francis Xavier Gsell MSC was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Port Victoria and Palmerston. In 1908, the first Catholic school, St Joseph's School, was established (today St Mary's school in Darwin).

Fr Gsell lived on Bathurst Island from 1922 until 1938 when he moved back to Darwin to reside, having been appointed Bishop of what is now the Diocese of Darwin. During Bishop Gsell's time, Catholic schools were established in Darwin, on Bathurst Island, and at the Santa Teresa Mission in Central Australia.

The founders of Catholic schooling in the Northern Territory

The true pioneers in Catholic Education in the Northern Territory were the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) and the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters (Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart - FDNSC). Dedicated men and women from these two congregations sustained education in the Northern Territory through the early decades.

From the 1970's Catholic schools in the diocese were established and led by other religious congregations, at the invitation of the Bishop. These included the Melbourne Marist Brothers, the Mercy Sisters from Ballarat East and Singleton, the Christian Brothers from Brisbane, and the Brigidine Sisters from Melbourne.

Bishop John O'Loughlin MSC - Bishop of Darwin (1949 - 1985)

Bishop John O'Loughlin's long episcopate saw additional Catholic schools established in Darwin, Alice Springs and in remote Indigenous communities and also included the development of Catholic schooling to a secondary level across Darwin and Alice Springs.

Bishop Edward (Ted) Collins MSC - Bishop of Darwin (1986 - 2007)

In the time of Bishop Edward (Ted) Collins, Catholic primary schools were established at Berrimah (later moved to Palmerston), Karama, Katherine and Humpty Doo. Senior secondary classes were added to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Alice Springs, and also to O'Loughlin College, Karama.Years 8-10 were added to St Joseph's College Katherine.

In his later years, Early Learning Centres became a feature of urban primary schools.

Bishop Daniel Eugene Hurley DD - Bishop of Darwin (2007 - present)

Bishop Daniel Eugene Hurley was appointed as the fourth Catholic Bishop of Darwin in 2007. Previously Bishop Hurley was Bishop of Port Pirie in South Australia from 1999 - 2007. Bishop Hurley has a passion for the people of regional and rural Australia.