Memories of Abbotsford Convent on an Ebay discussion forum

On an Ebay discussion forum, of all places, are to be found a series of uniformly adverse recollections by former residents of the Abbotsford Convent, and some other Catholic institutions. One woman’s story, pieced together by me from multiple posts, with a little editing, is:

‘It was indeed the Convent of the Good Shepherd, the Sacred Heart Class was where we kids worked our butts off to feed the nuns and the orphans (the orphans I don’t mind helping to feed …… ) and St Euphrasia was for schooling. So there were four sections in all. When my father placed me in the convent (I wasn’t in trouble by the way, at least not pregnant…), my father got rid of me as a plaything and the convent was as good as anywhere else.

We girls got up early, went to mass, came back, attended the refectory where we all had breakfast (such as it was) then we went to work. I was only a kid back then and didn’t know better, I just accepted their slavery as normal! Hubbys Bub [another poster on the disucssion board] the stories we could tell, your friend and I except my heart already feels as if it is breaking in two. As for my anger it’s getting like a great big ball. I don’t dare say too much else, as right now im not coping well at all.

This I want to say: breakfast was luke-warm porridge with a slice of STALE bread. Lunch on the other hand was soup, with the morning’s left over porridge added for volume! Please, I just need someone else to back me up as I know it sounds unbelievable!

We worked so hard. I usually worked in the ironing room, but did some time in the mangle room, which is a huge round press that one fed sheets and such into! Anyone who knows me will tell you I loathe ironing, hence most of my clothing is drip dry!

We had a huge bath and toilet area. We had a bath once a fortnight from memory and even so the water we used had been used several times before we got in Y…..UCKO! The crows, usually called auxiliaries, would drag us down there and beat the bejes-s out of us if some nun had a complaint against any of us. Never mind if it was true or not. Biff! Bash! And cop that! Until we grew older and now and then fought back.

There was also a method of complaint called standing on the slab. We would walk off work and stand in the middle of the room and that’s where we stayed until bedtime. We could eat the muck they gave us for breakfast, then the nun in charge of our workplace would ask us if we were prepared to work. I was too stubborn to comply and so went without many a meal. Some of the girls would try and smuggle us something, but it was usually at extreme risk to themselves, and many a child went down the toilet just for feeling pity for a fellow sufferer.

I make absolutely no apologies whatsoever for despising those cows called nuns if they were the gaurdian of our souls then god help us. I looked at my granddaughter and thought I wasn’t much older or bigger than that when I first went there! HANG your heads in shame, you women who were portrayed as the gaurdians of our bodies and souls. SHAME SHAME on you! The only time I have ever stepped inside a Catholic church since was to attend a funeral. I wandered around for some time after that eventually I realised I had a spiritual need so looked deeply into the Bible, and now I know what’s actually in the Bible, I despise them even more. Not only because they were nuns, but primarily because they were WOMEN!

Totally unforgiveable bvehaviour, however I can forgive (not easily ) but because the Bible directs us to! I DEFINITELY CANNOT FORGET THOUGH. I have deliberately wiped a lot of menories away, in order to survive and a survivor is exactly what I am and can take a little comfort in that.’

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524 Replies to “Memories of Abbotsford Convent on an Ebay discussion forum”

  1. l have read your story and found it most disturbing,l wasnt aware that the condition were so harsh, and cruel.l have been researching the life of my G/Mother Ethel Hill ,known as Frances she spent most of her life at the Abbottsford convent .Between 1907 and until her death in 1974. Does anyone have any infomation on this sad and lonely soul.? She died at the grand age of 83, and was buried by the Nuns at the Fawkner Cemetery.

    1. Hello Mary my overall experience was not at all cruel & harsh -some bullying from the scary girls & cold water washes in the mornings were offset by intelligent, caring nuns & plentiful healthy food, cosy beds, singing, plays, movie nights, swims at the beach, sewing & basketball with Mother Anne. Reading these shocking stories, I’m beginning to wonder if I was at a different convent? There were two! Abbotsford, where in 1963 I thought I’d been placed. And now I discover in Beaconsfield Parade, another Good Shepherd Convent in Albert Park which was opened in 1890s to cater for overcrowding at Abbotsford!

      1. I have now spoken to Mother Anne, Good Shepherd Sister of Rosary Place in Albert Park. I was here for 12 months in 1963. I told her how sad I was to read these shocking stories about her order & how much I needed her to know that she was loved & appreciated & that many of the girls who were there at that time would have benefited greatly as I did from her instruction, her humour & enormous energy. Why aren’t you writing here? There must have been cruel or harsh behaviour from some of the nuns for all these stories to emerge, but it’s so unfair that the whole Order has to suffer. Imagine spending your whole life, all your abilities & incredible patience caring for lost or angry & broken teenage girls, to reach the end of your life & have to read these stories! How depressing! Mother Anne just said, “it’s alright, God knows”

  2. HI MY NAME IS kathy Merrett ne Laherty and I was in Abbotsford convent from 1969 to 1970 I would like to get in touch with any girls that were in the mangle room at that time.

      1. Hi my sister was at abbottsford, Julie, from 1968/9 to 1971,Julie Mikulic/Feil, she is having terrible memories from this era and afterwards went to another home when it closed, i think it was in sandringham or highett??? if anyone remebers her, could they contact me …maree.shay11@gmail.com

  3. Mother Our Lady. Mother Good Council.and Father Mac. Were great to my mother , although from my mothers account there was some very cruel punishing nasty nuns in charge at Abbotsford

    1. I was bought up in st Joseph,s class(. Or the orphans) class and went to st euphrasias school and boy she was so true there were some nuns who were very cruel and by today's standard would have been classed violent for little misdemeanors such as talking we would have been flogged not hit flogged with 3 inch wide leather strap or cane feather duster handles these memories still live with me today I have many other memories if their mental and physical violence carers of our souls and body's Bthey were no angels I think they were Devils

  4. hello, i am an rmit architecture student who is doing a study on the convent for project. I am so glad a found this site, hearing your stories gives me an idea of what the convent was like and that it wasn't always pleasant! i would love to hear some personal stories so that i can include it in my research. I will be very grateful if one of you would be so kind to email me and share some of your stories

    my email address is s3487141@student.rmit.edu.au

    kind regards,

    Isabella

  5. My heart goes out to you people what you all went through my cousin had her baby there but did not work at the home she got a job and worked in melbourne and when her baby was due she had it in the melbourne hospital and there her baby (girl) was addoped so I was told my name is margaret I was told when you went into the home you never used your real name not sure if that is right my cousin was there in 1970s she was a blonde

  6. Hi everyone my name is Rose Solomon nee Tamburro and I went to the school from 1970 to 1975. It was during this time that I encountered the cruelty of Mother Austin and Mother Thomas. I think they met their match though. I have many memories of standing up for myself and others – which I think paved the way for my career in the domestic violence sector. I have memories of being thrown down stairs when I refused to comply to mother austin's demands and of my class mates having to pull there pants down to prove that they had not wet themselves – from memory that was Mother Thomas's gig. Anyway I am a survivor and if anything they drove me to be the strong woman I am today. I met my best friend Elizabeth Von Roehl who lived in the hostel there and we remained best friend until the day she died in October 2008. Our daughters are now best friends! I would love to hear from any classmates who went to school there and be informed of ant upcoming reunions. We all endured some terrible experiences in one way or another during our contact with these nuns however we are stronger women today and not all of them were cruel- some actually had a heart – I rememberMother John Bosco who was sweet and gentle. Rose Solomon (nee Tamburro).

    1. Hi Rose, I am the Admin on the St Euphrasia's School, Abbotsford, Victoria – closed facebook Group. You and others who have attended our school are most welcome to join us on there, as we like to share our school photo's and experiences of our school days. A school reunion is also planned for end 2015.

    2. Hi Rose, I remember you, you were in my class – Paula Leonardi (now Paula Grani). A few years ago a number of grade 6 students (class of 1971) had a reunion I still keep in contact with some of them, although most of them are boys!!! I remember Mother Austin and Thomas well. I also remember you always stood up for yourself and challenged them. It would be great if we could re-connect. Please go onto the St Euphrasia's facebook page and join our group. If you wish email me: rick_paula@hotmail.com

    3. God Bless you Rose I my name is Janice I was at the convent from 1962 -1970 and went to st euphrasias school and you guessed it my biggest nightmare was those B… Hs. Austin and Thomas. They used to flog us with their leather straps and feather duster handles just cause they could they used to hit us in the middle of the back and numerous other painful things and the used to pick more on us convent kids as we were called as they knew we could not go home and tell our parents and if we told the other nuns at the convent most not all most of them would not care so what was the point we had no childhood they we the hardest and loneliest years of my life

  7. Hi my name is Shanene,and I was in Mount Saint Canice,Tasmania,which was an off shoot of Abbottsford,same deal,a Magdalene Laundry.Conditions were very bad.A lot of shocking things happened there.I am know going through Towards Healing (has been a bad experience) substantiated claims are verbal abuse,being hit around the head constantly,being thrown against a wall,having my head repeatedly pushed under water.Have other things happen,but as yet not substantiated,sooo we will see,as the RC are onto the Sisters Of The Shepherd,nice to have found you all 🙂 Also I highly recommend CLAN,the work they do is awesome.So will go see if I can join the links now 🙂

  8. Hello…my name is Chezie…….I was there for 10 years, till i was 12…then they moved me to St.Catherines in Geelong. Iwas there for 5 1/2 years. Both places were living hell. I think that I blocked a whole lot of things out, because they were to painful. I do not even remember if I had any friends.I do remember a lot of the girls names though. I would like to see if anyone knows me. I am now saved by the grace of God. If I did not have him in my life now…I would not like to know where or what or if I would even be here now.I am not bitter, we must forgive in order to be forgiven our mistakes. I would like to meet up with people that were there,,between 1962 and 1972. I remeber a little baby we had there called Leslie De Fu…he was blind.He was a precious little thing…we all loved him.Does anyone else remember him. Please let me know if you know me…I had 2 sisters with me in Abbotsford. Will let you know their names if you get back to me. Bye for now. Chezie.

    1. My name is Tony Bourke – my aunty Rita Harris was admitted to the Abbottsford Convent in the early 1960's and remained there until her death. When my mother took Rita to the convent the nuns said it was best if they never visited. I have very sad memories of this even though I was only a young boy. Can anyone throw any light on what happened to my Aunty Rita.

  9. Hello
    My sister, Elizabeth Cooney, known as Betsy was at Abbotford Convent from 1967-68. It was part of a sad life for her which ended on 28th October 2013.
    I am her younger sister – I don't know what she went through there but I think it was pretty bad.
    If anyone remembers her and would like to talk please email me on …… shamrock.clover1956@gmail.com
    I am trying to write a piece about mental health to honour her memory – I know bieng at Abbotford did not help her at all.
    Thank you
    Eileen

  10. I am trying to research the history of the convent and would like to talk to people who have memories or could tell me the stories of their mother's journey. Please email me: sascha.kelly@gmail.com if you are comfortable putting it in words. Thanks x

  11. I was an inmate in 1951 and worked in the mangle room .because our names were changed I was known as Josette

    I was a sacred heart inmate in 1951 to 1953 working in the mangle room is there any one around from that era ???

  12. Hi there I was at the St.Euphraisia's High School and then Commercial School across the road I have fond memories of it loved it Mother Jerome, Mother Thomas and many others were always nice except for Mother Austin she was bit scary but I remember everything she taught us lol I went back last year for first time it was an emotional time I went into the church and cried as it brought back so many memories 🙂

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