Anna Barbaro

Date of Submission



This thesis investigates the origins of convent high school education in Australia. In particular it presents a case study of St Rita’s College at Clayfield, Queensland, a Catholic girls’ secondary college that has evolved within the long history of women’s education. St Rita’s College was established by the Presentation Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1926. The background study in Part II (chapters two to four) is an essential element of the thesis as it situates such Catholic women’s educational institutions in their historical context. The case study in Part III (chapters five to ten) concerns the history of St Rita’s College and the impact of historical, religious and social forces from its foundation in 1926 through to 2008 when the last Presentation Sister to serve as college principal completed her term of office. This thesis focuses particularly on the empowerment and transformation traditions of convent high school education. Such a continuing thread can be traced through both the prehistory and history of St Rita’s up to the present point where the college is facing a major challenge of its existence: transition from sponsorship and administration by its founding religious congregation to a new form of governance. A central question answered by this thesis is: How has St Rita’s history reflected the empowerment and transformation traditions of the convent high school? This thesis establishes and demonstrates that modern Catholic girls’ secondary colleges do not stand on their own but instead share one distinctive tradition of convent high school education. (...)


School of Arts and Sciences

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


377 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Arts and Sciences


Research Location