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Academy of Mary Immaculate

(88 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy)

A Catholic secondary day college for girls established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1857, the Academy of Mary Immaculate has the distinction of being the first convent school in colonial Victoria.

Three Irish sisters came to Melbourne in March 1857 and were given a 14-room house, with mortgage, by the then bishop, James Alipius Goold. He wished the sisters to be self-supporting and advised them to open a fee-paying select school for girls from the neighbourhood, to be augmented by a boarding school for daughters of Catholics living in rural areas.

Mother Ursula Frayne, leader of the Mercy community, opened the school in convent rooms on 29 April 1857 with six pupils. By the end of the year, enrolments were at 43, with girls aged between three and 18. Subjects taken included music, elocution, English, French, Italian and drawing. The sisters taught, but from early on also employed lay staff.

At present the school population is some 540. There is a wide diversity of cultural background among students, and the school specialises in English as a second language (ESL) and Integration Programs, supported by Commonwealth funding.

Maree Allen