Netball on All Hallows' Terrace with Sr Mary Carmichael 1963. Image courtesy of Sisters of Mercy Brisbane Archive

Netball on All Hallows' Terrace with Sr Mary Carmichael 1963. Image courtesy of Sisters of Mercy Brisbane Archive

Equity of Access: the guiding principle for education in 1861

Mother Vincent Whitty had a bold vision for education in 1861 Brisbane and overcame strong opposition to start schools that were accessible for all regardless of gender, financial means or religious beliefs.

Only one month after arriving in Brisbane, the Sisters’ began teaching from a small wooden cottage on the grounds of St Stephen’s in Charlotte Street, opening to 80 pupils on the first day.

Education was an opportunity to empower, and it was in this mission that Mother Vincent was both zealous and visionary. She accepted non-Catholics in her schools in a time when sectarian tensions were high. Prioritised the education of girls and young women and utilised fees from boarding schools to contribute towards the funding of parish schools enabling families, that couldn’t pay to educate their children.

Mother Vincent Whitty commenced secondary education for girls fifty years before the first state high school was established, a remarkable achievement.

She made additions to the curriculum, adding music, singing, needlework and history and forged strong connections between school and families believing it to be essential to a child’s development

At the time of Vincent Whitty’s death in 1892, 222 Sisters managed twenty-six schools with about 7000 students in Queensland.

This story is one of the many shared in the Women Who Dare exhibition at Adderton until 3 October, 2021.

The extraordinary social history within the exhibition is accompanied by engaging activity stations inviting you to share your thoughts in a simple yet innovative way about issues of today.

You can also influence the future of social change.  Take inspiration from Women Who Dare, join in creative workshops and find new ways to speak out, create positive change and dare to make a real difference.

Book your free visit to Adderton and see Women Who Dare.

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