St Catherine's old school photo


​​​our story

Established in 1856, we are proud to be Australia's oldest independent Anglican girls’ school.

St Catherine's School was the vision of Mrs Jane Barker, wife of the second bishop of Sydney, who wanted to provide an education for the daughters of clergy equal to that given to boys. And so she did. Three girls were enrolled, as boarders, and the school was named St Catherine's after the patron saint of scholars in 1856.

We took up our present site in 1859 after the completion of the Old Stone House, now our administration offices. Sir William Denison advised on the plans, estimating the cost would be three thousand pounds. Purpose-built as a boarding school,  it was substantially expanded during the 19th century as attendance grew. St Catherine's remained a boarding school until the 1890s and by 1906, with day girls now attending, we had 48 students. 

Enrolment surged, along with the country, post World War II and under our longest serving headmistress, Miss Faith Patterson AM, we grew from 200 to just under 900 girls. Mrs Barker’s legacy was carried so strongly forward we are now a school of 1000 girls under the headship of Dr Julie Townsend.

They made their mark on history

Dame Joan Sutherland, soprano

Joan Sutherland started at St Catherine's in 1934, aged 7, and left in 1943. Supported by her mother who encouraged her daughter's voice, Dame Joan went on to become one of the world's most celebrated operatic sopranos.

Dr Una Fielding, Surgeon

Una Fielding attended St Catherine's in her formative years. A highly capable student, Una won a bursary to study at the University of Sydney where she completed four degrees. She established herself as a superb teacher of practical neurology and was a trailblazer for women in medicine.

Eirene Mort, Artist

Eirene was the daughter of Canon Henry Wallace Mort, rector of All Saints' Woollahra. She came to St Catherine's in 1889 with a gift for art and needlework. She went on to further study in London and became a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Madeleine St John, author

One of Australia's most successful writers, Madeleine became the first Australian author to be shortlisted for a Booker Prize. She graduated from Sydney University in 1963 and, as Clive James recalled, she was "the most brilliant of the expatriates in London in the 1960s". Her novel 'Ladies in Black' was recently released as a film.

Leadership + History

 160 Year assembly