One of the oldest schools in Melbourne, the rich heritage of St Columba’s College reflects an unwavering commitment to educating strong, purposeful and passionate young women, ready to make a meaningful contribution in a rapidly changing world. 

Founded in 1897 by Mother Ursula Bruton, a Sister of Charity, the College takes its name from the Irish saint and scholar, Saint Columba. Characterised by generosity, vision and initiative, the Sisters of Charity were the first congregation of religious women in Australia and their vibrant, courageous spirit remains, and is continued through the education provided at the College. 

Students at St Columba’s College are encouraged to find inspiration in the College’s rich history. Mary Aikenhead founded the Sisters of Charity in 1815 and led by example. Taking to the streets of Ireland to serve to the poor, the Sisters drew on ingenuity and resourcefulness to address the social challenges of their era. 

This was an innovative and courageous approach, testing the boundaries of what was expected of religious women. It is these firm values of generosity, creative problem solving and ‘breaking the mould’ that travelled with the Sisters of Charity to Melbourne, and which are evident today in both the culture and community at St Columba’s College.

Located on its original site in Essendon, St Columba’s offers a broad and liberal education characterised by a culture of empowerment, resilience, determination and strong academic achievement. Supported to thrive and succeed, today’s St Columba’s girl draws on the traditions of the Sisters to find solutions to the challenges of contemporary life while fulfilling her own individual potential.


The Sisters of Charity is a religious order founded by Mary Aikenhead in Ireland, 1815. The order was established to help the poor, sick and forgotten, with the Sisters running an orphanage, making pastoral visits to the prisons, establishing a school and hospital.

In 1838, Mary Aikenhead sent five Sisters from Ireland to help the female convicts sent to Australia. They would be the first religious women in Australia, and upon their arrival in 1839, the Sisters wasted no time in making a difference.

In Sydney, the Sisters’ main concern was the care of the poor, visiting government hospitals, orphanages, schools and prisons. During this time, the Sisters were met with hostility, however, their good work brought them support and new Sisters to their order.

The Sisters were asked to go to Tasmania, where they remained until 1847 due to the high rates of poverty and death. After this time, some of the Sisters remained in Tasmania, while others returned to Sydney.

During this time, money was raised to buy a convent for the Sisters, giving them a permanent home and place where they could coordinate the establishing of hospitals and schools around the country.

Since then, the Sisters of Charity have continued to help the poor, in the broadest sense of the term, in addition to helping those who are afflicted with sickness, poverty, mental illness, addiction, and prejudice; continuing the traditions and values of the original Sisters of Charity and Mary Aikenhead.