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Christian Brothers

A Catholic religious order that came to Melbourne from Ireland in 1868, the Christian Brothers opened their first school next to St Francis' Church, Lonsdale Street, in 1869. During the following century brothers took responsibility for the St Vincent de Paul Orphanage and over 30 schools, including Parade College (Bundoora, first opened East Melbourne 1871), Christian Brothers College (St Kilda, 1878), St Kevin's College (Toorak, 1918), St Bernard's (Essendon) and St Joseph's (North Melbourne). Their primary mission was to help pupils to rise above the poverty that afflicted Irish Catholics, with great emphasis given to examination success. In the 1960s, consumerism, the liberalisation of social values and secularism rapidly decimated the novitiate ranks, sending the Order into a decline which was reinforced when scandals involving physical and sexual abuse were given significant media coverage from the 1970s. In 2004 the Order announced its intention to withdraw from Catholic education to focus instead on other community projects.

Chris Coney