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COVER FOR WEBSITEFor more than 160 years Catholic schools have been providing education for families in the Sandhurst Diocese with the first school opened on the Bendigo Goldfields in 1853.

Celebrating the Story documents the rich history of Catholic Education in the Sandhurst Diocese focusing on the past fifty years whilst acknowledging the remarkable pioneers of Catholic Education in whose steps we tread.

2014 marked the 140th anniversary since the establishment of the Sandhurst Diocese and forty years since the Catholic Education Office began. These significant milestones provide the catalyst for this book which is brought to life by personal accounts, historical records and retrospectives.

Celebrating the Story also documents important events that have occurred during the history of the Sandhurst Diocese and includes an honour roll listing the Bishops of Sandhurst, Priests, Religious Orders, Principals and a brief history of each Catholic school.

The story of Catholic Education in Sandhurst is a proud one. This book provides an opportunity for people to know their recent history, as well as honouring those who helped Catholic Education become what it is today.

A documentary celebrating the story of Catholic Education Sandhurst has been produced to animate this historical account. The audio-visual includes interviews which recall significant Sandhurst events that have occurred over the past fifty years and beyond. This visual record will be a valuable resource for schools and a wonderful recollection of the rich and vibrant history of Catholic Education in the Sandhurst Diocese.

The documentary can be viewed below.


History of the establishment of Catholic Schools in the Sandhurst Diocese

To celebrate 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia we reflect on the history of schools in the Sandhurst Diocese beginning in 1853 with St Kilian's School on the Bendigo Goldfields.


Historical Timeline

  • 1852
    A young Priest from Paderborn, Germany, Dr Backhaus was the first Priest to arrive on the Bendigo Goldfields in 1852. Among other virtues, Dr Backhaus was a sound investor who acquired valuable properties in his early days. His remarkable legacy helped shape the Diocese of Sandhurst. Dr Henry Backhaus lived in Bendigo until his death in 1882. He is buried in the grounds of St Kilian's Church.
  • 1853
    Dr Henry Backhaus established the first Catholic School in the Sandhurst Diocese. The School and Parish were named St Kilian's after the Patron Saint of Paderborn in Germany, the home town of Dr Backhaus. Prior to the construction of the school, Rev Dr Backhaus took classes in a tent which served as both chapel and school.
  • 1872
    The Education Act of 1872 removed state funding from non-government schools and created a new Education Department to control government schools.
  • 1874
    Born in Ireland in 1818, Martin Crane was an Augustinian Priest who would become the first Bishop of Sandhurst in 1874. The Diocese of Sandhurst was founded at the same time. Bishop Crane was responsible for the construction of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bendigo and was successful in bringing many Priests and Religious Orders to the Diocese. He served as Bishop of Sandhurst from 1874 until 1901.
  • 1896
    Construction of the magnificent Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo commenced in 1896, with the foundations, aisle, nave and lantern towers built by 1901. Work ceased for lack of funds in 1908 and did not recommence until 1954 and was completed in 1977. Sacred Heart Cathedral is one of Australia's largest Churches and the third tallest after St Patrick's Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. Designed in Gothic style, Sacred Heart Cathedral measures 75 metres long with a ceiling height of 24 metres. The main spire is 87 metres high. Image courtesy of Museums Victoria
  • 1901
    Fr Stephen Reville accompanied his cousin, Bishop Crane to Australia in 1875 and at the age of 40 he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Sandhurst to Dr. Crane who was suffering from poor health. Bishop Reville would bear a great deal of the responsibility of the diocese for the next sixteen years. In 1901 Bishop Reville succeeded as Bishop of Sandhurst following the death of Bishop Crane. Bishop Reville would serve the people of Sandhurst for over 30 years until his death in 1916, at the age of 72.
  • 1917
    John McCarthy was born in Ireland in 1858. He was ordained a priest in 1882 and began a service to the Catholic Church that was to take him across the world and last for 67 years. In 1917 Dr McCarthy was consecrated the third Bishop of Sandhurst, he would go on to become the longest serving Bishop of Sandhurst with a reign spanning 33 years. In August 1950, Dr. John McCarthy died at the grand age of 91.
  • 1950
    Bernard Denis Stewart was born in Essendon in 1900. An excellent student, he was the dux of his College and was an equally good sportsman who played VFL football for Prahran. He studied law and practised as a Barrister and Solicitor until 1926. He was ordained in 1929 and after twenty years’ service in parishes, Fr Bernard Stewart was appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Sandhurst and succeeded as Bishop of Sandhurst three years later in 1950. In 1977 Bishop Stewart saw the completion of the Sacred Heart Cathedral; he retired as the Fourth Bishop of Sandhurst in 1979.
  • 1962
    The Second Vatican Council was held in Rome and in Goulburn, New South Wales, the local Catholic school chose to strike to secure funding for Catholic Education. These were both highly significant historical events in the history of the Church and in Catholic Education.
  • 1967
    Victorian Premier, Mr Henry Bolte, allocated the first State Aid with Commonwealth funding to commence in 1969. The action and the political aftermath saw both major parties in Australia commit to providing support to Catholic and other religious schools on a "needs" basis. The "State aid" model has persisted, despite some moves for reform, since that date.
  • 1972
    The Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Gough Whitlam introduced needs based funding after coming to office.
  • 1974
    All four Dioceses in Victoria came together to create a unified approach to Education with the establishment of the Catholic Education Office of Victoria (CEOV). The Karmel Report urged the establishment of Commonwealth Aid and the first Educational Consultants (Jim McKenna-Benalla and Adrian Sexton-Bendigo) were appointed in the Sandhurst Diocese.
  • 1974
    The first Lay principal, Mr Glenn Roff was appointed to Holy Rosary Primary School, Heathcote. This was a significant time in the history of Catholic Education as previously all schools had been run by Religious Orders.
  • 1977
    From the turning of the first sod it would be eight decades before the Sacred Heart Cathedral was completed. The magnificent Cathedral now take its place as one of the most impressive provincial landmark buildings in the State. Significant features include carved stonework, stained glass windows, blackwood pews and an impressive pipe organ. Notable external fixtures include cast aluminium gargoyles, decorative iron balustrading and lamps, each feature paying homage to the wonderful Gothic architecture.
  • 1978
    The D.O.G.S (Defence of Government Schools) mounted a case in the High court to have funding removed from Catholic Schools.
  • 1979
    Mr Adrian Sexton was appointed as the first Lay Director to lead the Catholic Schools of the Diocese. Initially appointed as an Educational Consultant in 1974, Adrian served as Director from 1979 until 1996.
  • 1979
    Noel Desmond Daly was born in Sale, Victoria in 1929 to a very religious family. He had six siblings, three of his brothers became Marist Brothers and his youngest sister became a Josephite Sister. He was ordained in 1952 and spent the next 20 plus years in the Sale Diocese. At the age of 50 he was appointed the fifth Bishop of Sandhurst in April, 1979. Bishop Noel served the diocese as its leader for 21 years; during that time, he introduced many pastoral initiatives that benefited the community of Sandhurst. Ill health forced him to retire in 2001 and in January 2004 he died suddenly, just prior to his 75th Birthday.
  • 1997
    After many years as a teacher, Principal and Educational Consultant, Denis Higgins was appointed the Director of Catholic Education in 1997 following the retirement of Adrian Sexton. Denis served as Director until 2010.
  • 1997
    The SSEB was established by the Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst, Mr Denis Higgins. It was motivated by a desire to engage people in the leadership and governance of Catholic Education. The SSEB membership was made up of representatives from across the diocese including Principals, Priests, Religious Orders, parents, Catholic Education Office staff and an IEU representative. The inaugural Chairperson was Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, who would guide the board for the next 15 years!
  • 2001
    Bishop Joe, as he was affectionately known, became the sixth Bishop of Sandhurst in 2001. He was born in Malta in 1948 where he studied for the priesthood; he arrived in Australia and was ordained in 1974. Fr Grech spent his early years as an assistant priest in Melbourne prior to being consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 1999. Two years later became the sixth Bishop of Sandhurst. During his ten years as Bishop of Sandhurst he was an active member of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life with special oversight on Migrants and Refugees issues, he was also responsible for Youth Ministry on behalf of the Bishops of Australia. In December, 2010, Joseph Grech died suddenly after a short illness; he will be remembered as a man of the people and a champion for young people.
  • 2005
    The new Religious Education Curriculum, 'Source of Life' was launched in Catholic schools throughout the Diocese. The significance of the Source of Life document was that is was developed with community involvement to ensure it met the needs of all stakeholders; teachers, students, families and Church.
  • 2007
    Building the Education Revolution (BER) was an Australian Government Program designed to provide new and refurbished infrastructure to all eligible Australian schools. The program was part of the Rudd government's economic stimulus package designed as a response to the 2007–2010 global financial crisis.
  • 2010
    Philomena Billington was appointed Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst in 2010, becoming the first female to lead Catholic education in the diocese. She originally came to the diocese in 2002 as Deputy Director before her promotion to Director in July, 2010. She served for four and a half years until her retirement at the end of 2014.
  • 2012
    Leslie Rogers Tomlinson was born in Mildura in 1943 and was ordained a priest in 1972. He spent his early years as Assistant Priest at Mitcham and in the Archdiocese of Hobart. Returning to Melbourne, he served in several parishes prior to his appointment as Vicar General in 2003 and Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 2009. Bishop Tomlinson was installed as the seventh Bishop of Sandhurst on March 1, 2012 and retired in 2019.
  • 2014
    Father Brian Boyle was appointed the Episcopal Vicar for Education in 2014 after concluding his appointment as Academic Dean of Catholic Theological College in Melbourne. As the Episcopal Vicar for Education, the Very Rev Dr Brian Boyle has responsibility for the area of education as a representative of the Bishop of Sandhurst.
  • 2015
    A former principal of the largest Catholic Secondary College in Victoria, Mr Paul Desmond commenced as Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst in 2015 after the completion of his tenure at St Francis Xavier College in Beaconsfield, Victoria. Mr Desmond is the fourth Director of Catholic Education in the diocese.
  • 2019
    Shane Mackinlay was born in Brunswick in 1965, however, moved to Ballarat as a child where he completed most of his schooling. He was an excellent student and was named College dux in his final year. He has degrees in Theology and Physics as well as a doctorate in Philosophy. He was ordained a Priest in 1991 working in various parishes in the Ballarat Diocese prior to becoming a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University and eventually served as Master of the Catholic Theological College of Melbourne. He was spokesperson for the Church during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. He was appointed as the eight Bishop of Sandhurst in July 2019 and was installed in October that year.
  • 2020
    An unprecedented year as the global pandemic Covid-19 impacted the globe. Schools throughout Australia moved to a model of remote learning. Victoria would endure the most strict Covid-19 restrictions following the detection of a large number of cases. Borders were closed to other States and a time of immense uncertainty followed. Year 12 students were able to sit VCE exams with a revised timetable. The year ended with zero Covid-19 cases in the State of Victoria. However the uncertainty continued into 2021.
  • 2021
    From the first of January, 2021, Catholic Education Sandhurst became incorporated as a new model of Governance was adopted. A Board of Directors was appointed at the end of 2020 to lead Catholic Education Sandhurst Limited into a new era.
  • 2021
    At the end of 2020 an Assistant to the Director of Catholic Education Sandhurst Ltd was appointed to expand the provision of Early Childhood Education in the Diocese. Ms Carla Jeffrey was appointed to the role and a Board was established to oversee Sandhurst Early Childhood Education and Care Limited (SCEC&C).
  • 2021
    A celebration was held across the nation to mark 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia. On May 24th every diocese in Australia celebrated Mass to commemorate the occasion.

Bendigo Office

120 Hargreaves St
PO Box 477
Bendigo, 3552
Ph: (03) 5443 2377

Tatura Office

74 Hogan St
Tatura, 3616
Ph: (03) 5443 2377

Wangaratta Office

29 Templeton St
PO Box 1181
Wangaratta, 3677
Ph: (03) 5443 2377


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