Former Good Shepherd Convent on Australia's National Heritage List

Highest recognition 


When four Irish Good Shepherd Sisters arrived in Melbourne in 1863 they began their work at Abbotsford on the banks of the Yarra River.  Over time a large complex of buildings was developed, including a convent and residential care facilities for women and girls.  A chapel was built in 1871.  Food was produced on site from dairy and vegetable farms.  From this site new foundations were established in all capital cities of Australia.  It was the site of Provincial governance and formation of the sisters.  

In 1974, following a Province restructure of ministries, the sisters sold the whole complex, with the exception of the historic Chapel which remains a significant part of the site.  

Today the Abbotsford Convent is a thriving not-for-profit cultural and arts precinct. 


Photo above

Left to right - Victoria Marles, Chair, Abbotsford Convent Foundation; The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP; Sr Monica Walsh, Province Leader, Sisters of the Good Shepherd; Sr Anne Dalton, Good Shepherd Sister; Dimity Fifer, CEO, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand; Collette Brennan, CEO, Abbotsford Convent Foundation.


National Heritage listing in the highest category

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Melbourne, Australia were honoured on 31 August 2017 when Abbotsford Convent was officially added to Australia’s National Heritage List by the Minister for the Environment and Energy, The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP.

This was a momentous occasion for Good Shepherd. The listing includes the Abbotsford Convent, Good Shepherd Chapel and Collingwood Children’s Farm. It protects the precinct for generations to come - and gives it national significance alongside iconic places in Australia such Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

The Abbotsford Convent was built by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in 1863, in one of Melbourne’s poorest areas, to provide shelter, food and education for young girls and women who had limited options in life. 

By the start of the 1900s, the Convent had become the largest charitable institution in the southern hemisphere and played a strong social welfare role in Australia.

It became home to thousands of girls and women, often not of their choosing, and resonates with memories, good and bad, for all who were part of life at the Convent. 

The experiences of the Sisters, women, children and families who have a connection with Abbotsford Convent are respected. The dedication of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to build such a thriving precinct that could serve the community was well acknowledged and appreciated. 

Today the Abbotsford Convent is a not-for-profit arts, cultural and learning precinct owned and operated by the Abbotsford Convent Foundation. It is home to more than 100 arts and creative practitioners.

And the Good Shepherd Chapel continues as a vibrant place open to all.


Acknowledgment of Traditional Owners

The Abbotsford Convent shares place and history with the First Peoples of this land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.


More photos

Click here - Photos of Abbotsford Convent

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