St John Vianney Catholic Church & School Historic Site 1870

St John Vianney Catholic Church & School Historic Site 1870
For nearly 100 years, a small wooden structure along Cathedral Avenue in Leschenault served as a school and Mass centre for generations of local Catholics.

Australind was settled in the 1840s, but it was not until the 1870s that there were sufficient Catholics in the area to justify any special building for religious services.

Between 1848 and 1854 there was a considerable increase in Catholic pioneers, brought about by the initiatives of one man, Thomas Little. Little managed Belvedere Farm on the Leschenault Peninsula and encouraged his fellow Irishmen to leave the country’s devastating famine for Western Australia.

Another prominent Catholic at Australind was that of James Rodgers of Cook’s Park. One of his sons, Paddy, was ultimately to bequest money to the Catholic Church with the provision it would be used to build a church at Australind.

Other Catholic farming families nearby were Ferris, Kearnan, Milligan and Brown.

The Brown’s & Grosvenor Farm

William Brown (1847 – ), a discharged Pensioner Guard who served in Jamaica, North America and India, migrated to Western Australia on the Dalhousie.

He settled in Middle Swan, where he married his wife Ellen (nee Bisdee), before moving to Australind on a property next to Cook’s Park in 1862. He named it Grosvenor and farmed it for several years.

When he died, his Ellen leased it to a neighbour, Michael Ferris.

She died in 1879 and in her will left the property to the Catholic Church, represented by Fr Hugh Brady. It was on part of this location that the Church of St John Vianney was built.

The Roman Catholic Provisional School

Roman Catholic School operated as an ‘Assisted School’ and the Australind (Government) School used the building from time to time until 1905, when the Australind (Government) School was built.

The original concept was not for a church, but a school. Government schools had been operating in the area, both at Parkfield near the head of the estuary and near Upton House. However, as the number of children in the Irish families increased, a decision was made by the people concerned to build their own school.

This was opened as a Roman Catholic ‘Assisted School’ in 1875 with an immediate effect on the enrolment of the adjacent schools. Both Parkfield and Australind closed at the end of 1878 because of a lack of numbers.

The first teacher at the school was Mary Jane Maguire, a granddaughter of an early Dardanup settler. The enrolment in 1875 was 31, consisting of 19 boys and 12 girls.

Religious Instruction was given by visiting priests, among whom were Fr Delaney and Dean Martelli (and in later years by nuns from St Joseph’s Convent, Bunbury). In 1895, Bishop Gibney valued the building and 5 acres of ground at £100.

The building was used from time to time as a government school until 1905, when a school was built on Cathedral Avenue, south of the present location of the caravan park.

St John Vianney Catholic Church

It continued to be used as a chapel, with priests coming from Bunbury until 1916, and then from Dardanup when it became the parish centre for the next 18 years. During this period, Australind had a monthly Mass. Fortnightly services were resumed in 1934 when Australind was returned to Bunbury Parish.

In 1941, Archbishop Prendiville formally blessed and consecrated Australind’s school/chapel, giving it the title of the Church of St. John Vianney.

By the 1970s, the Catholic population near the church was such that it was no longer practical to use the building for Masses. It fell into disrepair and was finally demolished.

The furnishings were removed to the Church of St Thomas in Carey Park.

Custom dictated that a family always occupy the same pew, year after year. Fathers were usually on the inside near the wall, then the children, with the mother next to the aisle.

Any unwitting newcomer who caused a departure from this tradition would be made to feel the disapproval of the dispossessed.



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St John Vianney Catholic Church & School Historic Site 1870

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