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.’

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

  1. Sent: 8/2/2007 2:43 PM

    hi all my name is angela i was as a child in the good shepherd convent abbotsford from 1968 till 1971 i attended inside school with the nuns t for three years and 1 year in the sewing room and mangle room were we had to repair on the sewing machines all torn sheets also making clothing for the 1000 or so people who were in the convent there was a mixture of down syndromes and old laddies it was a weird set up how we were all mixed together but when the girls from winlaton and winbirra came to the convent i would be told by the nun in our group go and deflea her by this she meant to do there hair with kerosene and water and put paper under them and use a nit comb the old steel ones and do there hair then take them to the shower block were they had a shower and then waited for were they would be placed this copuld be the laundry, the packing room, the mangle room, the ironing room, were you would work or go to school but after school was out you had to work till tea time just wondering if any one went to the abbotsford convent and would they remember mother our lady or mother louis who were the head nuns of when you first entered into the convent would love any comment on this

    Sent: 8/2/2007 2:36 PM

    1. Wow, just found this site and cannot believe someone from the convent has started us talking about that era. I went there in 1972, 15 years old, scared to death, had to find wits i never knew existed. Many experiences. I was sent to sister Francis sewing room and plotted my escape to another group, took 3 months, ended up with sister Geraldine, she was nice. Worked in the packing shed, but sometime had to go sort the dirty laundry, came for the doctors surgerys etc i recall. Will probably talk more in future. Will read other postings first. Bye Vanessa Gray

    2. Hi Angela my cousin was at this home to have her babie and while there she worked for a lawer in melbourne she was fair hair and about23 or 24 she had her babie at the hospital for women and the baby was a girl she took her name as maria do you ever rember any one that fits this.

        1. Hi I have since discovered that I was in Albert Park, Rosary Place in 1963 with Maria, Darleen, Pat, Merrilyn Van-Warden & Anne Alexander. I remember all the faces but few names.

    3. I remember Mother Louis with her hands shoved into her sleeves, looking out over all of us penitents through her round spectacles at breakfast time….I remember Mother Louis who was the door nun when I was first placed into the convent…a little round fat nun. I worked in the packing room. Rose Euphrasie was my house mother. My father had me placed in the convent….he didnt like my boyfriend.

  2. Hi Angela,
    I certainly remember Mother Our Lady and Mother Louis. I was put into the YTC in August ’66 and managed to get home at Christmas 68. I was put into the packing room when I arrived, but couldn’t seem to fit in there, and actually got a transfer to the ironing room with M Louis (probably the pick of the bunch) when I asked to be moved. But I don’t remember any de-fleaing. I did end up attending the school, and of course ironed my little heart out before and afterwards – oh boy, did I hate the waiter’s jackets that were starched to the consistency of a plank of wood. The food was terrible – although occasionally (I think St Pat’s day) it wasn’t bad – and the stewed tea was awful, especially the times you got to the bottom of the cup and found a clump of cat hair in it. It’s been a lot of years since then, but I think about it often. Perhaps I need to revisit the site and see what it has become now – maybe that would be enough to purge myself of the memories.

    1. Hey Valerie … It Sounds Like We Were With Mother Our Lady & Louis At The Same Time … I Was Also In The Ironing Room With "LEX" On The 2nd Bodier & Gidgid On The 1st Bodier … I Did Sleever For Awhile Then Went Onto Those Cardboard "MENZIE, FEDERAL, SAVOY" Etc Coats … What A Hell Hole … … I Finally Escaped With "BARBRA DIVIAC & Later DENISE SCULLY" … … Sincerly Yours Ricki …

  3. Angela and Valerie ,I hear you and every word you say
    rings some bell ! Angela , shower block!?things must have improved since my time .I feel such affinity with you both,and I chat with another VICTIM , and we have developed a strong friendship ,I feel in some way we (she and I) are teachers and pupils also.and frequen tly thank God that we came in contact.As they say it was meant to be !

  4. hi valerie i was in the sewing room they called it the granary i saw mother louis about 8 years ago she was at the st albans good shepherd services she got the shock of her life when i spoke to her did you know mother albert from the sewing room when i was talking about de fleaing thats what the nuns used to say i had to use a nit comb and kerosene and do the girls hair when they were new to the convent i was in there from 1968 till 1971 is when i left the convent was closed down after that i moved back there latter in life my x husband used to manage the convent grounds he was a gardener we lived in a house in the side street of the convent its were the collingwood childrens farm is my children helped to start the farm when they were little we moved away latter to williamstown i now live in west sunshine but you never forget the convent i would like to organize another reunion sometime regards angela dyer

  5. Angela, were you there when that girl jumped out of the granary window? I was in the ironing-room bathroom and no-one came to let me out for hours. And what about when the aboriginal girls all got away together? Must have been 8 or 10 of them, and they got out through the theatre window? I’ve never been back, but have thought for some time that I would like to go there now that it’s different. I wonder how long it would take for all the repressed memories to come flooding back. And then I wonder whether I really want to go there again, because it’s a place I tried to put out of my mind for so many years. I wonder if we ever get together whether we will remember each other?
    Maureen, it’s great that you have a mate. It would be good to get together and talk to someone about the “good old days”. As you know very well, it is impossible to talk to someone who hasn’t been there, and it’s not even worth trying. You might have been there at a different time, but I don’t imagine anything was any different. Freezing cold dormitories (at least I was in one of the nice ones they had for show) because they didn’t believe in heating. Ironing and mangle rooms warm in winter, but sweltering in summer. If they were lucky they might get a drink of Sal Vital after a full day’s work in over 40 degree heat – they must have worried we would all collapse if they didn’t. Packing room cool in summer but freezing in winter. The granary was probably the best place to be in most respects. I looked at Clan before, but now I know there are more of US there, I will look further into it.
    Thanks for the info you provided. We will talk again soon.

  6. Hi all I remember M Our lady ,and sweet M Perpetua ,also Albert in the sewing room and Aloysius in the ironing room ,Other names are a little blurry as I was in there in the fifties .When we were there a Dutch family called the Goeys (I think thats how you spell it…. like who cares ?)were resident in the house next to the convent ,they were the general dogs bodies ,overseeing

    the farm and also the caretakers I think .Angela that was where you lived ,reading these comments opens it all up ,and even though my first blog (Taken from Ebays Chin wag ) sounds unbelievable ,I promise its all true

    I so need someone other than myself and who was there at the same time as I, to simply back me up .You know what hurts me so cruelly is all those girls who went before and whoes voices are now silent forever RIP my sisters.

    1. HI MAUREEN, I certainly believe you as I was there in abbotsford as well and I will never forget the food ,slavery, and many other conitions . I also have an emense deep HATE for that place, do you remember the tiny room the old ladies used to smoke in one in perticular –her name was bibbiarna and one of her arms used to shake all the time , Iwas put into the ironing room , I tremember one time when one of the pressers came down on a girls hand , her screams were terrifying I still to this day can see it , there are so many things I wish I could block out , .hope you reply marlene

      1. Hi Marlene, can I ask what did the nuns do to care for the girl who's hand had been burnt?

        The more I hear about this and other institutions, the more angry and sad I become. I'm researching the history of my relative's birth mother, Monica Barr. She could have been in the Sacred Heart section during 1945 – 1947 before or possibly after the birth of my relative ( a long time ago I know)!


    2. Hi Maureen. I was there in the fifties. I worked in the mangle room, then Mother perpetua rescued me and I went to the classroom where mthr Perpetua taught me to make lace and embroider vestments. I live in Brisbane now. would love to hear from you. Regards Geraldine Kennedy

    3. Well I care 😉 It's spelled Goewie …. My father was theengineer and worked in the boiler room and on the machinery in the laundry and yes he did odd jobs when asked . He did not work at the farm . He would also drive nuns and girls (in the back of one of the laundry trucks , sitting on benches. ) to Mandalay port sea for their retreat on his day off . Tony was not the only one of my brothers to be in all sorts of trouble with dad as far as the girls went ( 5 brothers and 3 sisters) in those days it was considered outrageous to show public affection . Dad worked hard to keep the boys away from you girls but he was not overly successful . They and you were teenagers and hormones were pretty active lol . He was privey to a lot that went on over there and took some hair raising stories to his grave . Our family was treated very well by the nuns but remember the stories from some of the girls who attended the school with us. As I read through these posts I see that there are a few different points of view from different people . I guess it depended where you were put . I am sorry for those who have such bad memories of their time there. I hope you can leave the past behind and look to the now and the future .


    1. I must have been one of the lucky ones who treasure the time I spent with the Good Shepherd nuns at Abbotsford and Albert Park. My grandfather drove the big green laundry trucks for the convent at Abbotsford when I was pre school I was often minded by them while Pa worked and Mum worked in the shoe dactories in Collingwood. My mum and Dad and all their brothers and sisters and my cousins were given a wonderful education by the nuns in the day school St Euphrasias. When I was 14 I was in a house of alcohol and domestic violence by my war damaged stepfather and instead of time in Winlaton, the Catholic Welfare service arranged for me to live for a year in the convent at Albert Park but I went out to school each day about four blocks away to the Brigidine Convent Kilbride where I topped the class in year four and the experiment that was me was so successful that two girls were given the same opportunity as I had. I went home to the dyssocial family in West Heidelberg and travelled every day all the way to Albert Park and topped the Leaving class too.I am now in my sixties , trained as a General and Psychiatric Nurse, travelled the world ,working in several countries as a nurse, nanny, milked goats and made cheese in France, sold clothes around the french riviera, lived in squats doing leather work to sell,on markets in London, Flew with the older brother of the King of Saudi Arabia to be his private family nurse, taught English in Mexico and retired ten years ago whilst working as a nurse at Pentridge I think I would not have been able to do all the things I have done, including being a published poet had it not been for the love and nurturing I received from the Good Shepherd Nuns I am most grateful to them always Maureen Compton

      1. Hi Maureen
        It sounds like you have had a lovely life. Congratulations.
        Do you remember a girl named Corrine at the Albert Park convent? I think she was there late 1950's – early 1960's.

      2. Hello Maureen I was so happy to read your story -finally some positive feedback! I was in the convent in 1962 & loved it so much I deliberately earned points so I could stay there! Those nuns were intelligent & loving people who taught me so much, straightening me out & putting me a creative course that would continue for the rest of my life.

        I hope more who emerged better people, will write about their experience here & give those amazing nuns some credit.

  8. Memories of Xmas at the Convent ,early rise for Mass
    back to a decent? brekky, Lunch ? well the nuns and others in the inmates kitchen outdid themselves on the 25th of
    December ,the food was tasty ,edible for once ! Amazing and best of all, at dinner time on that day we got the leftovers from the nuns kitchen .So once more ,even in thier generosity we were made aware of the distinct gap between the nuns and the girls ! What a cheek ,considering we were the ones who worked under dreadful conditions to
    bring home the bacon ,as it were !

    1. Shame on them!
      Amazing that those particular nuns – with all their knowledge of Catholic saints through the ages, didn't get it – that the nuns who became saints in the past had been the humble ones, the ones who had been relegated to scrub the floors, the ones who were demeaned and thought of as inferior by their superiors!,

      God (Jesus 'the Good Shepherd') will be their judge – Let's hope he'll be more merciful to them than they were to you poor women. I am disgusted with this cruelty that went on, and think it should be brought out more into the open. Hypocrasy, and just when Mother Mary MacKillip is to be canonised. I'm having second thoughts – I do hope she was kind, and it's just that some in her order may have let her down. (The Sisters of St Joseph also ran a Babies Home and Receiving Home for unwed mothers in Carlton and Broadmeadows, and I've heard a couple of negative stories about them too – plus the nurses in the hospitals that worked in with these 'homes')

      I've discovered all this via searching records for my relative regarding his adoption many years ago.

  9. I rang Clan also Valerie and Angela,they assured me they would contact me so I just need to wait and see . Thanks for both the info and the encouragement.
    We women really are a society within ourselves ,and need to find out as much as is possible .I myself . intend to write the story one day .I believe if nothing else, it will help me to overcome a lot of personal problems I still retain .

    1. Maureen I do hope you write your story I am so taken back by the convent and the book I am reading the convent
      I have just been to Melbourne and went through the convent..

  10. Afternoon Angela, I tried to locate it from the addy on top of this blog ,but that particul discussion was a fair while ago and they dont stay around for too long as there is always a new topic being introduced .It was a Chin wag Post ,I wish you luck
    but are you a member of Ebay? ,cos you need to be to access Chin Wag Cheers Maureen

  11. Hi ,I just found out that the land Abbotsford

    Convent was built on was originally owned by the

    Wurungeri tribe .I consider that to be fascinating !

    Hang on, I retract the word owned ,as Ithink that could be considered offensive to the Aboriginals

    1. Well all of Australia was occupied by aboriginals until white men turned up and slaughtered 90% of them and herded the rest in to camps . The bend in the river was a meeting place for elders so pretty significant to the traditional owners .

  12. I have been reading your stories of your experiences of the Abbotsford Convent and am interested in hearing more. I am a writer who has a studio at the covent and am hoping to document some of the stories of the people who lived and worked here to get a sense of what it was like before people like me moved in to use it as a place of creative work. I think it is so important to hear the human stories that unfolded within these walls. If anyone would like to contact me via my email at I would be happy to hear from you.

    Kind regards,

    Carmel Meiklejohn

    1. Carmel, I was in St Josephs at Abbotsford convent (we were babies, orphans, parents deserted most of us) and these nuns were evil. I hated the 12 yrs at this hell hole, we were slaves as the girls from Sacred Heart Class have told you, even we little children did similar chores to these adult girls. Some of the stories I could tell you would make you cringe.

    2. Do you still have a studio at the convent?
      I only started to remember over the past 3 years, but i live inside a nightmare as i try to find me, my name, my bloodline and…any left over family who may be alive…but i no longer hope for that…it is hard…people suddenly hate me because i have post traumatic shock disorder…anyway…when i see a photo of the launrdy…a…voice inside my mind said "that's the slaughter house"…and i ran to the side of my bed a screamed as i did kneel and pray…um…it is not an easy thing to call home…not an orphanage…i was in saint aidens too…but i guess what i did yesterday? ,, i used google earth street cam to walk from my house up the hill to my school and then up the hill to the orphanage…it was very very frightening…everything feels surreal and no one helps me…i want to go there and look at it and remember via the buildings speaking 2me…but i get the shakes.

      1. Hello my name is Rachel and my Mother was in Abbotsford and also St Vincent De Paul in South Melbourne, some of the stories she had told me when she was still alive was heart breaking but she was a very strong woman like so many who endured the hell that was put apon children years ago.
        Last year I decided to visit Abbotsford convent and I must say the buildings are absolutely beautiful but there is such a darkness of this place and such an eerie feeling walking the corridors and even on a hot summers day I was freezing there. It was hard for me to look at this place without thinking of the evil that went on behind the closed doors.

    3. Hi my name is Mary Dungan(maiden name). I was at the good shephed convent when I was five years old. I dont remember too much apart from the cane and horrible meals and darning socks. I also witnessed girls being ridiculed for bedwetting and them having to stand on their beds naked whilst a nun wrapped a sheet in a nappy form around her and telling all the other girls what a wicked person she was. I m sure there is much more but being susch a young age has perhaps spared me. I do remember trying to climb over the walls, which were concrete with broken glass cemented into the top.

    4. I have read these comments and am shocked, I was also put there by my mum for a while and it wasnt like they are saying, for me. I was more worried about what the girls might be capable of than the nuns.. Any way I hope you get the truth and some balanced accounts of the times there…

  13. Hey Angela and Valerie,Chin up , and onward into the fray.I replied to Carmel,trying to explain the reality ,that being its kind of like speaking another language ,not just the loss of freedom,but the very real lack of emotion shown .I do believe in my case i was furious
    that i was being punished because of another persons inability to care, and the fact that the Nuns knew it all ,and still considered young girls as slaves and
    quite bad !Valerie ,did you get my Email?) in reply, I did send one and hope you got it.I would so much like to hear from you again ,Im quite a bit older than both of you and saw different things in my time ,but as they say Sufficient to the day !Take care ladies ,and may the tooth fairy leave a winning Tattslotto ticket
    under your pillow, Lots of love, Maureen.

  14. Hi Angela and all,
    Just found this discussion group. I was at Abbotsford during 1965 – 1968. I was in the sewing room at first then transferred to the Mangle room. Also had to go to school within. Have been seeking people from that period maybe to catch up and have a reunion. I have recently moved back from Qld where I lived for 10 years. Even though it was tough going in Abbotsford I made some friends there that I have never forgot, but unfortunately cannot find anymore. Hope you all take care. Pls reply soon

    Warmest regards,

    1. Hi Dianne,

      I remember you from the convent days and after. Often wonder what became of you and all the other girls. Remember when we escaped through the theatre window? Life in the con vent was just so barbaric and brutal!
      But it was an extraordinary experience.
      bye for now,
      Wendy Beveridge

      1. Hi Wendy, just found your reply – I'm not often on this website but was just browsing. I'm living in Ballarat now, how about you. My email address is if you care to send me an email. Maybe we could arrange to catch up sometime. Thank you for your reply, hope to hear from you again, Dianne Kohlman

  15. Welcome Dianne,you will probably relate better to Valerie and Angela as they were there around the same time as you .I was a little earlier, but just like you will never forget Great to see you joining our blog

    Best wishes and big hugz, Maureen.

  16. I was in the convent 1969-70. I worked in the mangle room with Mother Francis Xavier. I try not to remember the early wakeups and that bloody bell they rang to get you out of bed and on your knees. We had a few physically challenged people in there with us and they were the ones I felt sorry for. They were expected to do as much as us able bodied people. I remember Mother Louis Bertram (parlour) and Mother Louis who was the head nun in our section. She reminded me of a ferret and she had the attitude to match. Mother Madonna left just after I came and Mother Louis ttok over. There is no point trying to tell anyone who wasn’t there what it was like because they just don’t believe you. Nuns are supposed to be nice not nasty……and a lot of the nuns there were very nasty. Needless to say I had my fill of religion in there and now I go to church for wedding, funerals and baptisms, that’s it.

    1. Janet – there *is* a point in telling people – because they should know what went on, and the nuns of the Good Shepherd order have some explaining to do! Their actions have been anything but Christian or Catholic or Christ-like or like Mary whom they're supposed to emulate! I think the stories need to be told!! There is false information out there about everything being so nice – but this was slave labour what you experienced, along with physical and emotional deprivation. It is a story of abuse and cruelty and betrayal of trust – it is absolutely shocking!! Plus it has caused you to lose your faith – this in itself is so sad, and the nuns need to know this. The Church needs to apologise!

      And don't worry about people not believing it – any Catholic who has been taught by or worked for the nuns (I was taught by them for 10 years and worked for them for 13 – at ironically a family care institution) will be convinced! God forgive me but some nuns can be so cruel and hard, yet others sweet and lovely – and the latter could be in the minority, or maybe it's just that the nasty ones cause you to remember them more due to the negative experiences…

    2. hi there do you have sister called michelle and cheryle and do you remember me my name is irene ryan and have a sister called robyn i know angela dyer can you please email if you know me thank you

  17. A genuine welcome to you Janet ,no doubt angela will offer you an invitation to join her group ,I joined
    a short time ago and only by others joining will the website succeed ,So think about it please . I am still hanging in here ,hoping against hope that someone of my age will respond .Mind you I really love speaking to all former slaves of the Good Shepherd.I have a soft
    spot for all of the girls who shared our experiences . (now women). I hope to have you return to the blog ,and share our experiences. Maureen

  18. hi janet i was there from 1968 till 1971 i was in the sewing room with mother albert i remember mother francis xavier and francis who was in charge of toy section in the mangle room i remember mother louis she was the head nun from the ironing room till she became in charge of were we were do you remember the swimming pool how we were aloud to use it after work i was in school for 3 years then one year of sewing in the sewing room but inbetween we had to work in the laundry and the mangle room do you remember girls escaping from the packing room in the work trucks up the lane way and picture night in the stage area and the plays we had to do and singing on friday night with mother good counsel for mass on sunday her sister was in charge before mother lois her name was mother our lady do you remember her maybe we will all get together one day for a reunion i went back there 3 years ago abd went through the dormitories and were we used to eat bought back memories regards angela

    1. Would love to join. I was in Albert Park convent in 1960 onwards until I broke out and scaled the 8ft wall.
      I am 63 years old and still cannot tell anyone about it without lots of tears as it has affected me my whole life and finally seeing a Psychologist to help me as we were slaves to the Catholic Church who used us to earn their millions
      My nickname was Beehive and under the care of Mother Anne.

    2. Angela I remember you, you had big blue eyes and curly hair and you had some kind of skin condition in which you blistered and itched. I remember I met you after I was there for a few days, because you wore the dress I came in. It was a red and green velvety courderoy dress. You were a good friend to me and my sisters I think. I was friends with Joanne who had short hair and she was a rough nut. I had three sisters in there. God I can verify everything you say for sure. I think I came there in 1969 and left in 1970/71

  19. Hi Maureen & Angela. Thank you for your warm welcome. Yes Angela I do remember the things you wrote about. I was there at the time Mother Francis got her collie dog Honey. Do you remember her? I also remember Elsie who could knit like no one else I knew. And Henrietta who used to look after Mothers budgies. I remember one time when Mother went away for some reason, Henrietta cut the budgies nails too short and there was blood everywhere. I also remember Carol who was severly handicapped but could lip read really well and if she thought you were talking about her she would go off tap BIG TIME. And Cathy, the poor love, always waiting for her brother to come get her and he never did. Everything she ate was "milky pie". I do remember the stage area…..I remember making a complete fool of m self by attempting to sing "There's a hole in my bucket"with some other girl…..boy did we make a mess of it…lol. The nun I called Mother Madonna was Mother Our Lady. I got introduced to her as Mother Madonna. I only saw her the first night I was there. She was replaced by Mother Louis after that.

    My daughter took some photos of the convent a few years ago and gave them to me. Boy did they bring back memories. The were taken when the convent was in bad disrepair. Thank you for letting me talk about it. It is not something that has been a secret in my family, my kids & grandkids know all about my time there. They try to understand but unless you have lived it you can never understand it. Keep your chins up girls, we are the survivors and I for one am very proud of the fact that they didn't break me. Kindest regards


    1. hi janet
      my nameis john i am from sydney ..i am trying to find out about this place i take it it was number two clark street …i am a stollen gen so i know some of the pain all you ladies are going thro ..i am trying to fine out what else was there lost grandmother was at this place …i have just found her after looking for 20 years and it gives 2 clark st as the place were she was when she died …..i would love any photos or any thing you could tell me about the place ..did it have a part for homeless poeple as i cant figer out what she was doing there as she was a native woman and given the times ..could you help me out in any way if it dose not hurt to much ok …cheers john ……15/12/2009

  20. Hi Janet ,I tried to reply to your post on the 19th ,but must have been too critical of the nuns,as they blocked my opinion ( AGAIN)Whats new ?How are you ? really hope to hear from you again.I think of religion in an entirely different way ,I ask why should people who just dont get it ,block my way to God ?Also I remember Mother Our Lady very well ,she was tall ,graceful and very Madonna-ish.Im going down there soon myself to get some photos taken .And one final thing ,I approached Carmel Meikeljohnand, her replies were so down to earth,I found a lot of what she told me very interesting .Take special care ,
    and hopefully we will be in touch with each other soon

  21. Hi Carmel,thanks for your reply to my Email .I see where you told me you wanted to keep the( doco?)
    balanced .I lost it a little at that ,but realise you need to be seem as impartial .Still, Just remembering how totally unbalanced it was for us back then and where were our rights .Even now ,the odds are in favor of our custodians , back then it was much much worse ! Still i wish you well with your venture ,and it was great to talk with you Maureen

  22. Hi dianne,I remember you,we were both in the mangle rm,I was ther from 65 till 67,last time i saw you was at the johnny Okeef concert in Werribee,would love to catch up.Halina


  24. As a young child growing up in such a horriable place what did we do that was so bad in them days,may be the youth of today should experience what we went through and they would have more my sister debbie said it has made us a stronger person in our own way the scares will never go but know there are people around that can relate to what we went through the healing should get a bit better Anglia we abmire you for what you are doing and good luck keep the good work up and debbie and l say thank you for just being there .karen and debbie love to hear back from u soon

  25. hi all just a quick not to let everyone know the reunion for the good shepherd convent is going well so far have over 50 women so all women who were in the convent between years 1930s through to 1972 who were in the sacret heart class st marys class or st josephs please email me or ring me if you are intersted it would be great to get more it is going to be on the 15th november 2008 but i need replies back to me no latter than 30th of september 2008 hope to hear from anyone who was there cheers angela dyer

  26. Hi Angela,
    I attended St. Euphrasia’s from 1962 to 1966 and obviously had friends in my classes that were boarding at the convent. Does this reunion include ex students the likes of me or only for those that were at Sacred Heart, St. Mary’s or St. J’s?

  27. Luisa, How lovely of you to write those warm and caring thoughts ,Its so much appreciated.I know also that the nuns used to tell the girls to turn away from us ,they even went so far as to tell some that we were BAD girls .The story you tell about the girl who fell ? down the stairs ,i have heard a very similar story myself ,from another student ,but this time it was Sister Thomas who was the offender ? so .so far Ive come to ascertain that the nuns were slanderers ,dishonest,and physically cruel as well! Thats just the beginning …,and they called us unfit ? Honestly Luisa ,I was there simply because I wasnt wanted ,as were many many others ,how dare they label us bad ? And they represent JESUS ?? its a joke !! And far as Angel;a is concerned i think all her efforts are toward getting this reunion up and going ,but im sure she is as pleased as I am to hear from you .Please write again ,I have a very soft spot for others who were in the Convent ,and I wish you well ,and thank you for sharing your memories with such beautiful honesty !

  28. I have just been reading through all of your stories and I am absolutely horrified. As I said earlier I attended St. Euphrasia's,from 1962-1966 and yes we did have what we called the convent girls also attend our classes however the Sacred Heart girls were never discussed. I vaguely remember one time when Mother Austen who taught year 8or Form 2 as we called it, has a group of us walk through the convent gardens which only happened the once whilst I attended the school, to practice netball on one on the courts past the Sacred Heart Building. We were told to turn and look the other way when we went passed the building. I always wondered why. Now I think I know. That same nun one day did an atrocious thing to one of the girls from the convent by the name of Sandra. Sandra gave this nun some cheek during class and for her efforst was literally thrown out of the room and the poor thing fell down the stairs. I left after year 8 so I don't know what became of her. The other nuns I remember are Mother Thomas, (tom tom the atom bomb we called her), Mother Bede, Mother Louise and a lovely nun whose name escapes me that used to take music class. I believe she ended up leaving the convent. May have been Mother Immaculata? All of you who suffered under the hands of the nuns, I don't know how you survived. I truly hope that you will all be able to put that era out of your minds and try to find peace and happiness which you all so truly deserve. Luisa

    1. Hello Luisa I was in the convent at Abbotsford for 10 months in 1962 & have no memory at all of any cruelty by the nuns. The girls loved them! We were not treated badly at all -I’m shocked to read these stories!

      The nuns I remember well were Mother Euphrasia, Sister Paul (my group nun) and Sister Anne who gave us religious instruction and basketball. We ate so well we all put on huge amounts of weight! We slept on feather mattresses with feather pillows, washed every morning in handbasins & bathed in tubs of fresh water every fortnight. There were sewing classes, dance, singing & concerts. We were taken to the beach on hot days. There was bullying & cruelty but it came from the girls -not the nuns!

      1. As stated later in this Blog I have since discovered that I was placed at Rosary Place, Albert Park in 1963 -not Abbotsford.

    2. mother Immaculata taught me piano after Mother Lelia stopped teaching die to ner age. Mother Immaculata did not leave the order. She became a personal friend of mine..coming to my home, playing organ at my husband's funeral etc etc..You are correct in saying she was lovely…

    3. Hi, I am that Sandra that was thrown out of class. I have blocked all memories of the abuse that we suffered in there, but I survived and the only nun in that place who had any heart was Mother Philomena who did a stint in the sewing room helping us young kids make the nuns habits. I have not used the name Sandra since I escaped the convent by running away when I was 13 (that was in 1963). I am now known as Frankie

  29. Luisa ,I have been in touch with my special friend who was also a student in the bowels of hell !
    Well ,hell for her and a few others too from what i gather !She tells me almost the exact same story
    as you wrote ,BUT I was mistaken ,it was Sister Austen (not Sister Thomas) who was involved with the
    stair incident .My heart fills with such sadness when she speaks of her time at St Euphrasias ,we Sacred Heart Classgirls kind of expected some forms of abuse ,but she was merely going to school ! Outrageous!

  30. Hi Maureen, I knew it wasn’t old tom tom ‘cos she had difficulty climbing stairs for one and secondly this happened in front of my eyes. Sandra was sitting in the front seat of my row and I was about 4 desks back from memory. The poor girl did not know the answer to a question posed to her by Sr Austen and was then abused and asked if she was stupid. Sandra answered back and that was it. Austen went over and told her, shouting I might add, to get out of her classroom and pushed her to the rear entrance of our class where she fell down the stairs. We never saw Sandra after that day and I never found out what happened to her. Young kids today don’t know how lucky they are. We also experienced both boys and girls having to bend over desks and receiving the bamboo end of the feather duster as punishment. I myself got the cane but on the hand. Austen was also very strict. We could not make any noise in the room not even drop a pencil, because the class beneath us would be able to hear it. I did accidently drop a pencil and had to write 10,000 lines by hand “I must not drop my pencil in class”. I don’t think it taught me anything other than taping 4 pens together to get the task over quicker. Fortunately I am, and was pretty strong willed and I never let things like that upset me. But then again I had family to go home to and laugh with them about it too. Mum actually helped me tape the four pens together. I also got on the wrong side of tom tom one day. She left me in charge of the sewing class because I had experience at home with a tredle machine. Well one girl made a mess of her work. She did not ask for help nor tell me she was having difficulties, so I didn’t even know she mucked up. Tom tom came back and tore strips of me to which I answered back and told her how it was. She just walked away thank goodness. No I don’t think we would be believed if we told 10-12 yearolds how strict they were back then and what methods were used to punish us. Today kids walk out of classrooms, answer back and some just retaliate either physically or by telling the authorities and the law takes their side thank god. When I think back we had a lot of good times at school but teachers were strict and we did as we were told. May have taught us respect which is sadly lacking in the younger generations sadly. Did you ever have anything to do with a Mother Louise. She was a Novice when she started teaching year 6. Must have been around 1964. Tall woman. We always knew when the priest was visiting because she wore perfume. Very funny really. Don’t know if it was a coincidence or not, but perfume she wore.

  31. Isnt that hilarious LOL.wonder where she got the perfume from??Thats a real puzzler !Mother Immaculata ?
    I think I may know her neice ,Im not too sure,but it stirs a memory in my mind .I have done quite a bit of conversing with many women who were at Abbotsford ,and have picked up quite a lot of info along the way . I was down visiting the childrens farm a while back ,and heard children (happy children ) crying out and laughing from the same grey and sad building where the ST Joeys children lived .I cant remember hearing children at all while I was a guest of the Nuns ,so I asked a worker from the farm ,and she told me the happy kids were children from the Sophia Mundi school who use the premises now .You know I didnt even know I was crying until she offered me a tissue .. By the way I think the Sandra you speak of was one of the orphans from ST joeys !Cant be positive ,but i think so . Great to see you making the effort,Thanks and take care ! Maureen. Dont forget to come and say hi from time to time!

  32. Hi Maureen are you a member of my site as you said you had joined and i couldnt find you on there what years were you in sacred heart class and what section were you in also are you going to the reunion on the 15th of november hope to see you there please email me if you are going to attend at

  33. Hi Maureen, Yes, it was hilarious. Where did she get it from? Probably the Priest!! Take care and enjoy the reunion.



    1. Hi Angela,
      I realise this is an old post but hope you see it.
      Did you end up finding Robin Mathieson ? If she is the girl I remember we were sent from abbotsford to St Aidens in Bendigo together. I would love to hear from her.
      I remember Maureen Gaffeny too but from st Aidens with her sister Debbie and there might have been a brother too. They were in the St Aidens side and Robin and I were in the Marysfield side. I was in winlaton with Kerry Gaffney
      My name back then was Laura Scott

  35. Hi all ,in reply to your question Angela ,you ask if I was in the sacred heart class ,when in fact all you really need to do to ascertain that is read the original post on this blog to realise that !.I was the
    person who was quoted and I have told you that much before ,but you seem to have so much on your mind it appears to have slipped by .If you put me down as a participant of the reunion I will do my best to get there . Thanks for your invite ,it is appreciated ! Do you though ,realise that many many of the former ressies CANNOT bring themselves to even go near the place ,and perhaps that fact may assist you .By the way ,did your parents ever own a milk bar in Abbotsford ? I dont think you are the angela involved ,but thought Id ask ,Regards , Maureen.

  36. Hi everyone,

    Maureen, you are right that many of us will find it difficult to revisit the site. I know I would find it difficult to do so on my own. However, the reunion is the perfect time to make the necessary pilgrimage in order to exorcise some of the demons that had their birth there. With sisters at my side, I believe I can, and will, do what is necessary. At least we will be in company with others who know what we are remembering and feeling.

    1. I was just remembering cup day Jesus ! we used well I must say I told them to shove it ! but others would run around on a broom and get an egg cup OMG! that place was terrible I was in all of them hehehehehe

  37. Angela,I have been there and in fact I didnt intend
    visiting SHC ,my friend was looking for a restaurant on the premises and I just kind of stumbled upon it . The big Iron gates with the barbed wire are gone ,but its so sad in there ,If I hadnt been with my friend that day ,I dont know how I would have coped . I just sat there ,drinking in the memories ,and I felt so stunned and lost I wasnt really comprehending the enormity of it ! If you havent visited before be prepared for a feeling like you are being kicked in the chest ,well at least ,thats how i felt .I love the way you use the expression SISTERS ,as thats exactly the way I think of others who were there ! Best wishes maureen

  38. maureen i have been through that convent when the nuns still owned the convent in 1973 i lived down st helliers street my three children were born at the house in st helliers street my husband who died last year of cancer worked for the nuns as a gardener and when the convent was sold still worked for the institute of early childhood who bought the convent i went over there many times as he used to upkeep the swimming pool as well and the nuns used to visit me frequently over the years we live there around 8 years then moved away

  39. Hi Everyone,
    That’s the spirit Valerie. I sincerely hope that you and all those who can muster the courage to go down St. HELLier’s St. again, will find the strength to stand before those buildings and say, ” I see a bunch of old derelict, empty, unloved buildings. I stand here a proud survivor of the attrocities afflicted upon me behind these walls, and I am full of life and LOVED. I will not give any further satisfaction to those who governed here by allowing my life to be adversely affected anymore, for I am free.” I so sincerely wish you all can find closure and be able to enjoy your lives in peace and tranquility. You are ALL amazing.

  40. Oh Valerie,So sorry ,I mistook your post as one from Angela .Its great to hear from you again and I mean that most sincerely .Actually I havent been here for quite a while myself ,but then Luisa posted here and
    it sparked my interest over again . I must admit Ive been wondering how you are ,and here you pop up again! !
    I am somewhat older than most of the women on this blog, ,Ill look for you for sure but how will I know you . ?Spose its not really necessary ,if you keep your eyes out for a RED
    scooter .with a fairly substantial woman aboard! LOL!

    Horrors ,Ive just had a dreadful thought ,the nuns arent invited are they ? shreik , horror !Now that would be an event Id stand up and physically run from.
    Angela , I am aware that you lived in the house the caretakers used .when we went past it it had a few lonely windchimes chiming forlornly in the wind ..
    and it was also quite overgrown .(Apart from the fact that you and your family resided there ),it seemed fitting somehow .
    Luisa ,your positive thoughts are so appreciated and thanks ,all i need now to make my cup runneth over is for my sweeet Anniekins to come and say a word or two
    Anniekins?(A pet name for a lovely soul I am privileged to know )Caring wishes to all !

  41. Angela,Please assure me of this fact …I initially wrote about the nuns attending in jest ,but now am wondering if they will be there ? Also ,I realise the need for all classes to attend the reunion, and we the sacred heart CLASS girls will have access to the building itself ,but what about the school girls and ST Josephs residents ? Will those folk have access ?Can I just express my thoughts in this way ,its OUR reunion ,and only we ex residents or schoolgirls should be there to meet one another. Thats how I feel anyway Best wishes , Maureen

  42. being a former student of st.euphrasia’s 1965 -1968 this blog brought back so many memories, especially luisa gerler’s emails as i was in her class and lived in the same street. i am so sorry to hear of what went on inside the convent, and my heart goes out to you all. those of us who were day students did not know that the sacred heart girls were treated so badly infact we were made to think that they were lucky having the nuns look after them. i remember so many of those sweet convent girls who were my friends. these are some of the girls: sandra edmondston, marion wadsworth, susan & wendy papworth, heather dow(one of my best friends), beverly pinkham, vicky evans & many more. love to hear from any one of you,your friend theresa xx

    1. Hi Theresa,

      I left St Josephs Class in late 1962. I have been reading your comments about your Convent school friends. The older girls in the Convent were given younger children to care for. They were referred to as our "charges". My charges were Heather Dow and her twin sister Lorraine. I have always wondered how life turned out for them. Were you able to contact Heather. Also, Joan Pinkham, whom I assume was the older sister of Beverley.was my age and I remember her very well. Do you know anything of her. I would really like to hear from you.

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