Newcomers Accelerate Growth at Goulburn Catholic Schools

Back to school – Julie Downey, daughter Lauren Whalan and grandchildren Tully and Rupert Whalan. Photo: John Thistleton.

Families moving to Goulburn have increased enrollment in the town’s two Catholic primary schools. Second and third generation families who have attended the schools also send their children there.

The healthy enrollment contrasts with the latest Australian census which reveals that while Christianity remains the most widespread religion in the country, the number of followers continues to decline.

Both schools accept people of all denominations and no denominations.

Principal of Saints Peter and Paul’s Parish Primary School, Kathy Neely, said they have grown to two more classes in 2021 and 2022. There are 280 children enrolled and the number is expected to increase further in 2023.

Ms Neely said Goulburn’s proximity to Canberra and Sydney attracted newcomers. “They love the country atmosphere of our school, they feel it’s a community. They also like that students mainly go to Trinity College,” she said.

Ms Neely said the school had a large plot with plenty of room to grow.

St Joseph’s Primary School principal Matthew Mullins expects 10 new enrollments for next year, taking the total number from 320 to 330. He would like to expand but needs more space games. Mr Mullins said population growth in North Goulburn had taken off, with housing much more affordable than in the ACT and Sydney.

He said the main driver of enrollment growth was the positive reputation of the three Catholic schools in Goulburn (a town which last month celebrated the 60th anniversary of its famous strike which led to government aid for non-government schools) .

Julie and Garry Downey enrolled their three daughters Melissa, Lauren and Catherine at St Joseph’s in the 1980s because of Christian discipline and wanted them to go on to Marian College (which later merged with St Patrick’s College to become Trinity College) .

Julie said mass every Friday involving the children was an asset. Another highlight was having “beautiful” Sister Colleen Clear at Mass until her retirement. “The kids loved it,” Julie said. “It was always nice, the kids were involved.

“Sister Colleen retired and lived in Canberra and worked in a nursing home there, but she always came back to Goulburn on a Thursday,” Julie said. “It would take her half an hour to walk through the school if she came at lunchtime, which she normally did so she could talk to the kids, get to the office and pick up her report card,” she said. declared.

Julie joined the staff in 1999. “There were 171 students and 90 families when I started. On the day I left, there were 226 families and 332 students,” she said.

She said the families who lived towards Mary’s Mount and all these new neighborhoods went to St Joseph. Members of the NSW Police dominated the parent body, followed by nurses and corrections staff.

In many cases, the young fathers and mothers were police officers working at the NSW Police Academy. Julie said that when they arrived in Goulburn the first thing they asked was “what’s a good school?”.

“It was sad when the classes were so full that we had to turn people away. The last two years before I left we only had one more year in 22 years where I was where we had to telling people “I’m sorry, we can’t take you” The year I left (2020) after the first quarter and we already had the numbers for the following year.


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Julie recalled that the close-knit staff enjoyed their light moments. When one day, unknowingly, a teacher wore weird shoes at school, all her colleagues showed up the next day with weird shoes. Even sister Colleen wore a sneaker and one of her sensible and comfortable shoes.

Julie and Garry’s daughter Lauren and son-in-law Andrew Whalan enrolled their son Rupert and daughter Tully at St Joseph.

Lauren said that although parents of primary school age children were not inclined to emphasize religion in their lives, morals and values ​​at school, and say that prayers of thanks were important and appreciated, even for non-religious members of the school community.

Lauren said the teaching staff remained consistent during her time as a student when there was a mix of young teachers and loyal Wendy Wise, Ruth Read and Ann Whitfield.

“The values ​​have been strong for a long time, it’s a lovely little community to be a part of, I guess,” she said.

Lauren said that by encouraging the children to treat each other with respect and kindness, the school paved the way for strong, good relationships and long-lasting friendships. “Being with my friends was the absolute highlight,” she said.