Date of Submission



This thesis is a history of St Ursula’s Yeppoon, a Catholic boarding school on the central coast of Queensland that was established in 1917. The provision of adequate education in the scattered settlements of remote Queensland was low on the list of government priorities for the first hundred years of settlement in the colony and state secondary schools in those areas were not established until the 1960s, hence St Ursula’s played an important role in the education of girls in Queensland. The arrival in western central Queensland and eventually Yeppoon of a community of women religious known as the Presentation Sisters was a cultural clash in lifestyle, dress and curriculum for many children who had never seen nuns before and, in many cases, had not even been inside a classroom. Through interviews with eighty-five past staff and students of St Ursula’s, this thesis yields new perspectives on the complex interactions between gender, religion and class in the education of girls in religious institutions in remote Queensland through much of the twentieth century. The history’s main threads and themes of origin, leadership, formal education, culture and faith are viewed through the lens of personal memory as a multiplicity of experiences, perspectives, interpretations and subjectivities. This thesis employs the basic technique and the goals of oral history and incorporates oral history testimonies of a collection of stories and reminiscences of staff and students of St Ursula’s. This is in keeping with qualitative research methodology where there are multiple approaches as well as multiple types of oral history.1 The findings from this study challenge the widely held assumption that the teaching sisters were always complicit with the church’s view that a convent school education was ultimately a preparation for the role as a good Catholic wife and mother. In so doing, this thesis provides a richer and more nuanced account of the operation of the power and challenges facing religious educational institutions as they negotiated the rapid changes taking place in remote parts of Australia in the twentieth century. Its aim is to contribute to Australian educational history and to the history of secondary education in the vast remote regions of Queensland.


School of Arts

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


375 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts

Included in

Oral History Commons