27 July 2021
Catholic schools across Australia will celebrate Family Week from 8 – 14 August, to
recognise the significant contribution parents, carers and families have made to the
foundation, growth and continuity of Catholic schools in Australia over 200 years.
Family Week coincides with the Feast Day of Australia’s First Saint, Mary MacKillop, who
was a passionate educator and advocate for children and families, particularly those from
National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said the bicentenary is an
opportunity to acknowledge the families of the 777,000 students, and their essential role
across our 1,755 Catholic school communities.
“With the tremendous support of parents and carers, including those who were lay teachers
in our early schools, Catholic education has grown to serve one in five students and
provide faith, excellence and access to Catholic education for millions of students,” Ms
“For nearly 75 per cent of that period families, alongside parishes and religious
congregations, sustained and built schools across Australia, in large part without any
government financial support.
“Today, with greater government support, our families continue to contribute through school
fees and building levies to maintain and build new schools,” Ms Collins said.
“Our families work in partnership with their schools in formation and learning support,
volunteering, parents and friends groups, fundraising and a host of other activities that
contribute to the growth and success of their children and their schools.
“The past two years have made further demands on parents and carers with long periods of
home learning for many communities due to the COVID pandemic, and as we continue to
face an unpredictable future, our families will be at the forefront with teachers in ensuring
continuity of learning and formation for their children.
“On this milestone occasion, we acknowledge our First Nations families who were the first
educators in Australia and recognise the contribution they have made over two centuries to
the spirituality and cultural heritage of our schools and nation.
“Catholic education also recognises parents as the first educators of their children, and the
critical role they play in fostering their child’s successful learning and development.”
Catholic education’s peak parent body Catholic School Parents Australia (CSPA) supports
Catholic school families through resources, consultation, advocacy and representation.
Father of five children and CSPA chair Karl Rodrigues said the Family Week celebrations
are an important opportunity to recognise the contribution of families and demonstrates the
confidence and faith parents have in Catholic schools.
“Over the past 200 years in Australia parents have chosen a Catholic education to
complement the important role of families in supporting their children to grow to their fullest
“Catholic education provides a holistic education for children, one that is balanced across
academic, spiritual, physical, cultural and motivational dimensions, as well as being based
on respect and values,” Mr Rodrigues said.
Schools will celebrate locally in a variety of ways including liturgies and gatherings,
distributing the national Prayer for families, and through student activities such as
interviewing their family members, drawing a picture of their family, and learning about
The bicentenary commemorates the anniversary of the first official Catholic school in
Australia, founded in October 1820 by Irish Catholic priest Fr John Therry. The school,
which Catholic historians believe was located on Hunter Street in Parramatta, taught 31
students. This school was transferred to the site of the present St Patrick’s Cathedral in
1837 and was entrusted to the care of the Marist Brothers in 1875. Parramatta Marist High
School, now located in Westmead and St Patrick’s Primary, Parramatta trace their origins
back to this first school.
Over 200 years, Catholic schools have educated millions of young people and today
educate one in five Australian students.