The Loreto Story

Following the arrival of the Loreto Sisters in Ballarat in 1875, Mother Mary Gonzaga Barry was responsible for founding Loreto schools in most states of Australia.

              The Loreto Story

In 1899, Archbishop O’Reilly asked Mother Mary Gonzaga Barry to come to Adelaide. However, it was not until 1903 that she began negotiations after her friend, Mother Mary MacKillop, told her “There is work for you to do in Adelaide that no one else will do. Your house there will yet be the most important of all your foundations in Australia.”

By 1905 a suitable house had been found in Sydenham Road, Norwood (now Wynwood Nursing Home). Mother Gonzaga arrived with Mother Boniface Volker as first Superior and Mother Bertrand on 14 January. The Sisters of St Joseph offered their help and the school opened in early February with five students.

By 1907 there were 70 pupils, so Loreto moved to a larger house on The Parade at the corner of Eastey Street. By 1909, adjacent land had been acquired and a new hall and dormitory opened, but numbers continued to increase. In 1920, after the death of Sir Edwin Smith, his home, The Acacias, became available and Loreto moved to Marryatville.

Gradually, further properties have been bought and new buildings erected, including classrooms, science laboratories, libraries, gymnasium, art, music and performing arts centre, as well as boarding facilities in order to provide for the education of many thousands of students over the last century and beyond.

Mary Ward

Mary Ward was the founder of Loreto schools worldwide. Hundreds of years after her death, Mary Ward continues to be a very important role model in the lives of our current students. Through her story, our students are able to recognise the triumph in persistence and the determination to work hard for what you believe in.

              Mary Ward

Mary Ward was born in 1585 in Protestant England, where the monarch was committed to the Church of England and punished those who did not attend its services. After moving around with several relatives to avoid persecution for their beliefs, Mary decided to enter religious life. 

Over the coming years, Mary received her 'glory vision' and became more convinced of her purpose and began to gather a company of women to help her in achieving it, eventually establishing a school for girls. The system of education for women that developed was unique in its time for the breadth of subjects taught and the lack of distinction between the wealthy and the poor - all were treated equally.

The school and Mary Ward's Institute grew rapidly and a program of expansion saw more schools established around Europe. However, this earned Mary and her companions some bitter enemies, and she was repeatedly imprisoned and many of her schools were either shut down or denied permission to establish. Despite her ill-health, Mary continued to fight for the establishment of schools across Europe, eventually giving leadership to Barbara Babthorpe before her death in 1645. Mary's legacy was continued after her death and despite numerous challenges, more schools were established worldwide and continue to thrive today.

Gonzaga Barry Scholarship

In order to celebrate Gonzaga Barry’s vision for the education of girls, this scholarship is aimed at providing a Loreto Education for girls that are related to a Loreto Marryatville Old Scholar and would not be able to attend Loreto College without financial assistance. This scholarship acknowledges the long tradition of 145 years of Loreto Education in Australia and 115 years of Loreto Education in Adelaide.

The Gonzaga Barry Scholarship is offered to new Year 10 students wishing to enter Loreto College. A maximum of two scholarships will be awarded annually.

For more information, visit our 2021 Scholarship Page here.


The heritage of our school is an inspiration for all our students and continues to shape and guide our values and mission.


Loreto’s Heritage Gallery is located in the College’s Acacias Building and provides a permanent exhibition for past and present scholars.

The Heritage Gallery displays an extensive collection of archival documents, pictures and artefacts. This wonderful collection enables us to preserve the vision and values of our founders Mary Ward and Mother Gonzaga Barry and celebrate the memory of the early struggles, vision, and commitment of the Loreto Sisters.

The gallery will ensure the memories of Old Scholars and their achievements are enshrined and our school’s heritage embraced by our students today and into the future.

In 2013, Loreto launched a book written by Peter Moore, titled The Acacias Heritage House and Gardens, which gives a fantastic insight into the rich history of this beautiful structure. The book is available to purchase from the Senior School Reception.