The particular flavour and character of Marist schools spring from the Founder of Marist education and of the Marist Brothers, St Marcellin Champagnat.

During his short life (1789-1840) he established 47 schools, and the work he began was continued by his Brothers, who spread to over 50 countries. The first Marist school in Australia began in Sydney in 1872 and others were founded in quick succession in all the mainland States.

The origins of Marist College Canberra are to be found at the Rocks in Sydney.

There in 1875, only three years after the foundation of the first Marist school in Australia, the Brothers began a Select School or High School with Brother Augustine McDonald as its first Principal. Such a school was quite an innovation for those days, when having even primary schooling made one well educated.

In 1887 the secondary school transferred to the eastern side of St Mary’s Cathedral, since this was a more central location and provided more space. By 1910 however, the school premises were run down and this fact and other difficulties led the Brothers to construct new buildings on the heights of Darlinghurst, and “The High School” as it was commonly known, transferred there.

Both at the Cathedral and at Darlinghurst the school flourished. Its students often gained brilliant results in the public examinations and its Old Boys were distinguished in many walks of life. By the 1960s however, demographics threatened the future of the school at Darlinghurst, while at the same time the National Capital was burgeoning and in need of Catholic schools.

So the decision was taken to sell the property and to use the proceeds to transfer the school to Canberra.

Marist College Canberra began in 1968 with primary classes

By 1973 the main secondary building and gymnasium had been completed and the first Marist senior class to complete the full secondary course at the College graduated in 1975. Since that time, the College has grown to be one of the largest schools in the ACT. Not only is it large – it is also one of the most highly regarded and sought after.

With a history of over 120 years, and a local history of 50 years, the College continues to maintain good things from the past, while ever anxious to embrace the new and contemporary.

The College enjoys strong support from its parent body and this support has enabled it to keep abreast of educational developments.

For the first century or so of its existence, most of the teachers were Brothers. The remaining Brothers were farewelled from Marist Canberra by the College community in June 2015 after 47 years presence.

These days, the teaching and care of the students is carried out by dedicated lay people who identify with the educational charism of Marcellin Champagnat and wish to see it preserved and enhanced.

Historical Sexual Abuse at the College

In addition to its many successes, the College has faced substantial challenges over the years, namely the instances of sexual abuse that were revealed through both individual cases and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This abuse and the subsequent inadequate response from the Marist Brothers had tragic consequences for victims and their families. Formal apologies on behalf of the Marist Brothers and the College have been made and the strength of our contemporary Child Safeguarding Framework is unrecognisable from those of days gone by. However, our thoughts and our prayers should always remain with those men and their families who were victims, coupled with a fierce determination that failures of the past will never occur again. 

Click here to view more information about the Liturgy of Lament which was held at the College on 10 November 2016.