Our History

Our History

Our History

From its humble beginnings in 1843, when the first Catholic school opened in Perth, Catholic education in Western Australia has been responding to the needs of communities, providing a Catholic education for all families who seek it.

Since 1986, Catholic Education Western Australia has been driving the strategic direction and mission of all our Catholic schools, serving almost one in five school-aged children in WA with a distinct educational framework that motivates students and staff to achieve their full potential.

Formerly known as the Catholic Education Centre, Catholic Education Western Australia’s head office in West Leederville was opened by Pope John Paul II on 30 November 1986 – the only building in Australia to have been opened by a Pope. During the official opening, His Holiness prayed: “May this centre always be a home of truth and wisdom, of faith and goodwill toward all – may it be of service to the community and work to build your kingdom of justice, light and peace.”

Today, it is central to Catholic Education Western Australia’s delivery of Catholic education across the state’s four Catholic dioceses ­– Broome, Bunbury, Geraldton and Perth – educating 76,000 young people in 162 schools and colleges across WA.

The book Continuity in Change, by Phillip Pendal, provides further insight into the journey of Catholic education in WA from 1843 to 2008.


The buildings and grounds that are home to Catholic Education Western Australia are steeped in the rich history of the Catholic tradition in Western Australia.

The original buildings were the former home of the Sisters of Good Shepherd, built in stages from 1903 to the 1920s. The first building, built of brick and Cottesloe stone and designed by architect Richard Joseph Dennehy, was first occupied on 21 September 1904. The Sisters offered prayer, example, kindness and devotion to the moral and social re-education of girls and women placed in their charge.

The convent was purchased by the Archdiocese of Perth in 1985 with extensive structural work, restoration and refurbishment undertaken during the following year.

The Chapel of St Michael the Archangel, built in 1938, is situated within the grounds of the Catholic Education Centre. Built in the neo-gothic architectural style to accommodate the seating of seventy nuns, it is today the focus of liturgical life for staff at Catholic Education Western Australia and a highly popular venue for weddings. For more information on the chapel and booking, please see Chapel Bookings.

In 1957, the Sisters removed the Good Shepherd stained glass window from the first floor of the original building for ventilation purposes. The damaged window was stored under the chapel for some years before it was given to an antique dealer in York. The dealer kept it for 33 years until it was recognised in 1990 by Sr Marie-Therese Flemming SGS, the then Principal at New Norcia College, who believed it belonged to the convent. The antique dealer had restored the window for sale, which was then purchased by Michael King on behalf of Catholic Education Western Australia and restored to its original place in 1991.


The magnificent grounds of the Catholic Education Centre have enormous heritage value. The existing gardens on the southern side are one of a handful of largely intact Edwardian gardens in Perth. Their retention was a design consideration in the reconstruction of the grounds and led to the decision to create a new entrance at the rear (northern side) of the complex with parking kept to the north and west.