In 1857 Archbishop Polding founded the first Australian order of nuns, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St. Benedict. Among other work the Sisters had become concerned with the large number of neglected children and began to search for a home where they could help them. In 1880 they heard of a good sized estate at Manly, then unoccupied and in disrepair. It proved an ideal spot and in 1881 was blessed as the Star of the Sea Convent and the Good Samaritan Sisters moved in.
That year the Sisters opened up an Industrial School to care for neglected children and orphans where they were taught normal school subjects up to the age of 14, then trained in skills that would enable them to earn a living – mostly sewing and laundry, as much of the work for women generally at that time was in domestic service. It was fortunate they did, for in 1886 the Parramatta orphanage, owned by the government but run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, was closed and the Sisters at Manly were able to accept the children and care for them as well as carry on their work in the Industrial School. With their schooling and training the children were provided with a happy, home-like atmosphere, ensuring they had the skills necessary to take their place in society. In the very early years the Sisters also conducted a small day school for neighbourhood children and a boarding school ‘for high class ladies’ on the site.
By the time the orphans moved from Manly to Mater Dei Orphanage at Narellan in 1910, it had cared for more than two thousand children. The reason for the move was that Manly was fast progressing and the rural atmosphere the Sisters considered desirable for the children was being lost. The older girls of the Industrial School moved to Balmain to be near the firms which provided them with work.
Four years after their arrival in Manly, the Sisters took over full responsibility for St Mary’s School in Whistler Street. Under different names, it catered for boys as well as girls until the opening of the Christian Brothers School in 1929.
In 1930 the original house was demolished and the present-day Convent and single-storey school were built. Thus, in 1931 the Sisters of the Good Samaritan took another giant step in the field of education with the opening of Stella Maris College. The College opened on 4 February with an intake of thirty three pupils from Kindergarten to Intermediate Certificate, including two small boys. Initially the school was a boys’ and girls’ primary school and a girls’ high school. The primary school was gradually phased out and by 1944 Stella Maris was purely a high school for girls.
Stella Maris College has grown significantly from its first intake in 1931 to approximately one thousand students today, large enough to provide a breadth of learning experiences, yet retaining structures to ensure each girl is recognized, supported and valued.
A Brief Timeline
|1857 Institute of the Good Shepherd Sisters of the Order of St Benedict formed.|
|1866 Name of institute changed to Sisters of the Good Samaritan to avoid confusion with the older Irish Order of Good Shepherd Sisters.|
|1880 Stella Maris property acquired at a cost of 5,000 pounds (50 acres).|
|1881 Original house dedicated as Star of the Sea Convent. Industrial School for Girls opened to care for neglected children and orphans.|
|1888 Chapel built.|
|1910 Substantial acreage sold to clear debt.|
|1930 Original house demolished. Existing Convent and matching school with four classrooms and loggia built.|
|1931 Stella Maris College opened with 33 pupils (including two small boys) from Kindergarten to Intermediate Certificate. Chapel renovated.|
|1942 Last intake of boys.|
|1944 Primary section of Stella Maris discontinued.|
|1954 Extensions: hall built, tennis court re-surfaced, second court constructed.|
|1961 Wyndham Scheme introduced: School Certificate and HSC.|
|1963 Two rooms behind the Hall added.|
|1965 Extensions: 7 classrooms, laboratory, library, canteen.|
|1975 Marian Wing opens consisting of two laboratories, senior classrooms and staffroom. New library opened.|
|1985 Extensions: Home Science, Textile & Design, Interview room, PE change room, dark room, general purpose room, ceramics room, new Science Laboratory. Stella Maris College assumes Independent status.|
|1986 Vertical Semester Scheme introduced.|
|1987 Extensions: Music and Art rooms, administration and staff areas.|
|1989 Stella Day inaugurated.|
|1991 Diamond Jubilee of School. Extensions: Driveway, tennis court and Rose Garden project begun.|
|1993 College incorporated.|
|1995 Departure of Sister Lia Van Haren, last Good Samaritan Principal.|
|1996 First lay Principal, Allan Coman, commenced.|
|1997 Convent handed over for College use.|
|1999 Organic community garden established in grounds.|
|2004 Extensions: Star of the Sea Theatre, dance studio, drama studio, fitness centre, 8 music practice rooms, 7 classrooms. Driveway and Nun's Garden reconfigured.|
|2010 New Commercial Kitchen and Canteen completed. Purchase of Manly Fishing and Sporting Association Club as second campus.|
|2012 Opening of Benedict Campus on Pittwater Road.|
|2018 Scholastica building opens in place of Hall/D block. New deck in the quadrangle.|