Our College has experienced an incredible journey since its beginnings, celebrating 125 years in 2014.
Sacred Heart College is one of several Catholic Secondary Colleges in Victoria owned and administered by the Sisters of Mercy (Melbourne Congregation).
The Order was begun in 1831 by an Irish woman, Catherine McAuley. At that time nuns were enclosed – they could not leave their convents – and Catherine, knowing this, had no wish to found an Order as she believed she could work more freely with the poor outside Religious Life.
Catherine, however, was given permission to found a new type of Order “The Walking Nuns”. They were allowed to leave their Convents to walk the streets to minister to those in need. They looked after the poor, sick and ignorant – founded homes for girls, began schools, visited the sick and gave hospitality to all. Their lives were centered on God and their belief was “The poor need help today, not tomorrow”.
Catherine, an extraordinary woman, a woman of deep faith and trust in God, died in 1841, 10 years after founding the Order. Her work had already started spreading and, in the same decade as her death, the Order spread to Australia.
In 1846 the first foundation in Australia was made in Perth. Eleven years later, in 1857, the first Victorian foundation was made at Fitzroy – “The Academy of Mary Immaculate”.
In 1859 a foundation was made in Geelong and, from that foundation, thirty years later, the Sisters came to Kyneton – 1889.
Kyneton in the 1880’s
Kyneton was a prosperous town in the 1880’s. It had become important in the 1850’s because of its close proximity to the gold fields. The demand for food resulting from the rushes prompted a large expansion of agriculture and Kyneton became the chief agricultural town in the state. Stone flour mills, still standing, bear witness to its importance as a wheat-growing centre.
In the 1880’s it was said that Kyneton had the highest population of Catholics outside the metropolitan area. In 1881, 8 years before the Sisters came, there were 25 Catholic schools within the parish with 1335 children on the rolls. No other area in the diocese could make such a claim. However, educationally the schools weren’t good. They were poorly staffed and struggled financially. The Sisters of Mercy were asked to come because they would “lift teaching standards and curtail expenses”. And so the Sisters arrived. The story of their arrival and the days that followed are preserved for us in the Annals of the Sisters of Mercy.
Their first residence, at the corner of Wedge and Yaldwin Streets, was once the “Robert Burns Hotel”. The Sisters opened the Secondary School on 29 July 1889 with 24 pupils; in August the Boarding School was opened.
In 1906, the new building in High Street was begun and school commenced in February 1907 in the building known today as Sacred Heart College. The Convent Wing was added during 1908 and the large Chapel in 1926.
Over the years, many minor alterations were made to modernise the facilities and provide accommodation for both boarders and day pupils as the needs of the students changed. But it is in the last 25 years that the most rapid changes have taken place as enrolments increased and the Boarding School was phased out after 83 years.
During the early 1970’s the Home Economics room was fitted out and the Science block was built. The College resumed its co-educational status in 1973. In 1976 an octagonal block of 4 classrooms was begun. The space created by the closure of the Boarding School was made available and has provided the College with rooms for Art, Ceramics, Woodwork, Computing, Audiovisual, tutorials and staff facilities.
In the 1980’s, 12 new rooms for classes, together with a new Science Laboratory were built. An indoor activity centre, “Quambi”, was also added to student facilities with the assistance of the Parents & Friends’ Association. The Creative Arts block – 1983-84 project – met the increasing need for arts/crafts facilities. In 1987, the Year 7 area, “Hilary Stevenson Wing”, was built. The Catherine McAuley Library was built in 1991. Three Computer Laboratories were established in the early 1990’s and a Technology/Horticulture facility was built in 1995. In 1998 our VCE building, the “Patricia O’Neill Wing”, was completed. In 1999 refurbishments were made to the Creative Arts block and Technology area and a third Science Laboratory was constructed.
In 2003 the Ursula Frayne Hospitality Centre was completed. Extensions to the Library and Performing Arts facilities and the construction of a Theatre were completed in June 2004. The Theatre was named the “Mary Moloney Theatre” at the end of 2005 after Sr Mary Moloney completed her term as Principal of Sacred Heart College Kyneton. 2006 saw the first Lay Principal, Mr John Arthurson, appointed to the College.
Sacred Heart College is continuing to develop on a scale worthy of the enthusiasm and faith of our pioneers.