History - Mercedes College Perth

Mercedes College was the first school in Australia to be founded by a religious congregation and Western Australia's first permanent school still on its original site.

The College traces its origins back to 1846, when a community of six Sisters of Mercy, led by Ursula Frayne, arrived from Ireland on the barque Elizabeth. The Sisters of Mercy had been founded barely fifteen years earlier in 1831 by Catherine McAuley who devoted herself and a substantial inheritance to the relief and education of the poor.  Responding to the need of the fledgling colony, the Sisters of Mercy established the pioneer teaching order in Western Australia.

After initial difficulties in finding accommodation, Ursula and her community moved into a small cottage on what is now St George's Terrace, near Victoria Avenue. On 2 February of that year, the Sisters opened their first school with one student. By the end of that historic day, however, five more students had joined them. By the end of 1846 there were one hundred children in the school, which had by that time moved up to the present Victoria Square site.

Those early years were a time of great struggle as well as sadness - one of the Sisters died six months after their arrival.  Also, the diocese was in severe financial difficulty, with Bishop Brady unable to provide any support to the school and the Sisters' works in the community. In order to see them through these early financial troubles, the Sisters were forced to use their own funds, money which had been set aside for their return journey, and together with two hundred pounds given by one of the Sister's father on her profession. This money was used to build the first Convent of Mercy in Australia in 1847. The building now known as Holy Cross, is still in use today and stands as a testimony to those dedicated pioneers.  Two years later in 1849, the Sisters began what was the first secondary school in WA.  The School House opened in 1853 with 279 students and comprised four schools - Our Lady of Mercy School (Pension School), St Mary's (Middle School), St Joseph's (Free or Assisted School) and Holy Angels (Infants' School).

With great courage, facing primitive conditions and enormous hardship, the College was to flourish. From the Mother House at Victoria Square, the sisters were to undertake the establishment of schools throughout the state and beyond.

Ursula Frayne died in 1885.  She is remembered as an outstanding educator of great vision and a warm, caring Sister of Mercy.  Her work, and that of those early pioneers, has had a profound and lasting effect on the history of Catholic Education in this State.

In 1896 St Joseph's School day school and Our Lady's College boarding school opened their doors and the School House became the boarding house for St Joseph's.  In 1963 St Joseph's attained highschool status enabling the acceptance of Leaving students and in 1967 a merger between St Joseph's Victoria Square and Our Lady's College saw the establishment of the current school - now proudly known as Mercedes College. The name Mercedes is Spanish for Mercy.

Those who have followed in successive generations have been entrusted to carry the mantle of Mercy in the authentic spirit of Catherine McAuley and Ursula Frayne. Today, Mercedes College is the bearer of a proud heritage where the Mercy traditions and values of compassion, justice, excellence, integrity and service are at the heart of our Vision and permeate everything we do. 

To learn more about the Mercedes College Perth Vision and Mission, please click here.





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