St Joseph’s celebrates 120th anniversary

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Home > Media > News > St Joseph’s celebrates 120th anniversary
St Joseph’s celebrates 120th anniversary

The town of Queenstown is a community in flux, with mine closures and changing demographics, but St Joseph’s Catholic School on the hill is still a permanent and vibrant fixture.

On Saturday, November 16, the community gathered to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the school. The school yard was transformed into a fair with stalls, rides, hot food and musical entertainment from local talent Amy Pegg. Several people marked the occasion by donning their best period costume, while teachers transformed their classrooms into history exhibits.

Almost all of the school’s 110 enrolled students took part, as well as family, friends and alumni. Two religious sisters who were former teachers at the school, Sr Tess Ward and Sr Ancilla White of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, travelled from Sydney to be part of the celebrations. 

The weekend coincided with a Mission Evening in the parish, while 10 students also received the sacrament of Confirmation by Archbishop Julian.

A spirit of resilience marks the community of St Joseph’s. It was the first Catholic school opened in Queenstown, and it is the only one that remains today. Opened by the Presentation Sisters in 1899, and briefly closing in 1906, it was re-opened in 1907 under the Sisters from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Six sisters arrived in the mining town. They had only one chair, one bed and two long benches in the convent but within three years had transformed the school into to a vibrant community of 188 students.

“I just can’t imagine what it must have been like coming here,” said Carmen Aylott, Principal of St Joseph’s, explaining how the pioneering sisters travelled five kilometres each day in “treacherous weather” to teach.

Over the 120 years, the buildings have been replaced, but the walls are lined with photos, and cabinets of memorabilia. Over all these years the spirit of resilience that the Presentation Sisters, and later Sacred Heart Sisters, brought to the school remains alive.

“That’s how I feel,” said Mrs Aylott. “You have the changing demographic, where you know the community is getting smaller, you know that the mines are closing, but the school will stay.”

“It’s survived all those years, there’s something there you can’t take away,” she said.

Photo: L-R: Staff members Anne-Marie Walker, Rebecca Bounds and Jessica Randall. Photo: Clare Hales.