Born in Caleruega, Spain, St Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) founded a religious order to preach the Word of God. The Order of Preachers was approved in 1216 and so began a religious tradition that has spread across the world. St Dominic believed in the power of education to develop well informed, articulate people whose lives, through prayer, community and service, would best reflect the life of Christ to the world. Dominican theologians, philosophers and preachers such as St Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas, Fransisco de Vitorio and Antonio de Montesinos inspired critical thinking of the law, the role and actions of world leaders and of the Church.
Our patron, St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), a lay Dominican whose intense spirituality inspired others around her, had considerable influence on religious thinking and on the political leaders of the day, most famously when she encouraged Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome and take up his duties more directly.
Branches of the Order spread rapidly throughout Europe with a foundation in Dublin, Ireland being established in 1224. On 10 September 1867, eight Sisters from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, arrived in Australia to settle and establish a convent at Maitland. Thus began a new chapter in the Dominican story.
In 1926, at the request of Archbishop Mannix, four Dominican Sisters from West Maitland came to Camberwell. On 12 August, MM Concepta O’Donoghue, SM Loreto Cockerill, SM Perpetua Hermann and SM Placid Flaherty were met at Spencer Street (Southern Cross) station by the Dominican Vicar-Provincial, Father Jordan Powell, the Prior of St Dominic’s, Father Hogan, Father Rupert Roche OP, Mrs Annie Rudd, a former Maitland pupil, and her daughter and cousin. A month later on 12 September, the tiny two bedroom cottage in Riversdale Road, in Camberwell, was officially opened and blessed by Archbishop Mannix.
The Sisters supported the work of the friars at St Dominic’s Parish and Primary School in Camberwell, but soon came to realise that there was a need for a secondary school. Over the next ten years, the Sisters began the planning and development of a much larger convent that would act as both convent and school for many years.
Siena Convent School opened in 1940 with fifteen enrolled students, but it was only in 1961, that a purpose built school building was developed and opened. While there have been many changes to the building, population, size and curriculum, it is the Dominican tradition that underpins our Siena community and remains a constant and living presence.
Student enrolments go from 354 to just over 500 students. The winter tunic becomes a skirt, while the beige summer dress is replaced by a cream dress. Hemlines shorten and hats, gloves and stockings disappear.
A major building project adds a new three storey wing connecting to the 1960s expansion. Two properties on Hocknell Street are purchased and the Compton Street cottage is converted to Music and Art and Craft rooms.
The College undertakes major refurbishment of existing classrooms with the Thomas Aquinas Learning Centre opening in 2011.
In 2013, a new College uniform is introduced incorporating Dominican black and white colours and retaining the rust blazer. The College joins Girls’ Sport Victoria Association.
Student enrolments reach nearly 800 with approximately 120 staff.
A new three storey student centre, the St Catherine Centre is completed and opened as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations in late 2015.
The transition of the new uniform is complete with all students wearing the new College uniform in 2015.
Siena College celebrates 75 years of Catholic education in the Dominican tradition in 2015, 800 years of the Dominican Order in 2016 and the 150th anniversary of the Dominican Sisters arrival in Australia in 2017.
Siena College Archives acquires and keeps records and artefacts which document the unique history and culture of our Dominican Convent and College. Our purpose is to preserve the collective memory of the College and share the stories with our Siena community. Our holdings include non-current records, memorabilia, uniforms, photographs, yearbooks and other items related to the history and life of the College. The Heritage Centre is situated within the Convent. It serves as a meeting place for alumnae and visitors and provides a permanent exhibition space for our heritage collection.
Siena College Archives provides access to the historical holdings of the College to students, staff and the wider community for research purposes.
Our heritage collection continues to grow thanks to the generous donations of past and present staff and students and the wider community. If you wish to donate memorabilia, please contact the archivist.
The College Archives is open during school terms and the archivist is available to assist with all enquiries, research requests and donations. Please contact the College Archivist, Maureen McAuley via email or phone the College on 9835 0200.