About the Bicentenary

Photo Old Parramatta Marist School

In 2021, Catholic Education celebrated 200 years in Australia, marking the bicentenary of the first Catholic school established in Parramatta in October 1820.

First Catholic school

The first Catholic school in Australia was founded in October 1820 by Irish Catholic priest Fr John Therry and run by convict and lay person George Marley. The school, which Catholic historians believe was in Hunter Street, Parramatta, taught 31 students. By 1833, there were 10 Catholic schools in the colony. 


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Celebrating the legacy

Over 200 years, Catholic education has grown to become the largest provider of schooling in Australia (outside government) with one in five school age students attending a Catholic school.

Today, this represents over 785,000 students in 1,755 schools across the country and employing over 102,000 teachers and staff.

Nearly 40 per cent of Catholic schools are located outside of metropolitan cities in regional, rural and remote communities.

The formal celebrations were due to be held from October 2020 to October 2021. However, due to pandemic restrictions, the celebrations were held throughout the 2021 school year.

The official national launch of the celebrations was held virtually on 18 February 2021 with local launches held across Australia during February.

A National Mass was celebrated in dioceses and schools across Australia on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians on 24 May 2021.

Additional events and activities were held locally throughout the year.



National theme

A national theme, “Faith in the future” has been developed for the 200 years celebrations. The theme reflects the core purpose of Catholic education to form students in their faith, and to provide an education that enables our graduates to make a meaningful contribution to the world. The theme reflects our commitment to build on the great work of those who have come before us, and to provide a Catholic education for future generations of students in a world that is rapidly changing and poses new challenges for Catholic school communities. Yet, we have faith that we can face these challenges and continue to build on, and strengthen our mission of Catholic education.

About the logo

The Christian cross is the central element of the logo and represents the faith dimension of Catholic schools and our mission of service in Christ. The Southern Cross and outline of Australia represents the Great South Land of Australia. Dots are used as a key design element connecting to the traditional custodians of the land – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The colours – burnt red and yellow – represent the desert in the heart of the Australian outback, contrasting with the deep blue representing the Southern sky and ocean surrounding our continent.

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