Mother Ursula Bruton, a Sister of Charity, founded St Columba’s College in 1897 after being transferred from St Vincent’s College in Sydney, as a way to offer girls in the Essendon area the chance to continue their education.

Named after the Irish Saint and scholar, St Columba, the College opened its doors on July 13, 1897, to 47 co-educational students. The College offered a broad and liberal education to the young women attending St Columba’s, a tradition that is continued today.

The College was formed in the tradition of the Sisters of Charity, an Irish mission that came to Australia in 1839. The Sisters of Charity were the first religious women in Australia and were founded by Mary Aikenhead, who saw her religious sisters as women of vision, initiative, and generosity. 

The Sisters of Charity have been responding to the needs of the marginalised in all contexts since they first arrived in Australia. Their vision, compassion, initiative and strive for social justice are values that continue to be instilled in the young women of St Columba's College today.

Over the years, St Columba's College has introduced and expanded on its curricular and co-curricular education, offering a range of curriculums to suit the needs of our daring and curious students – ranging from digital learning to languages. 

St Columba's College celebrated the College’s 120-year anniversary in 2017.



The Sisters of Charity is a religious order founded by Mary Aikenhead in Ireland, 1816. The order was established to help the poor, sick and forgotten, with the Sisters running an orphanage, making pastoral visits to the prisons, establishing a school and hospital.

In 1838, Mary Aikenhead sent five Sisters from Ireland to help the female convicts sent to Australia. They would be the first religious women seen in Australia, and upon their arrival in 1839, the Sisters wasted no time in making a difference.

In Sydney, the Sisters’ main concern was the care of the poor, visiting government hospitals, orphanages, schools and prisons. During this time, the Sisters were met with hostility, however, their good work brought them support and new Sisters to their order.

The Sisters were asked to go to Tasmania, where they remained until 1847 due to the high rates of poverty and death. After this time, some of the Sisters remained in Tasmania, while others returned to Sydney.

During this time, money was raised to buy a convent for the Sisters, giving them a permanent home and place where they could coordinate the establishing of hospitals and schools around the country. 

Since then, the Sisters of Charity have continued to help the poor in addition to helping those who are afflicted with sickness, poverty, mental illness, addiction, and prejudice; continuing the traditions and values of the original Sisters of Charity and Mary Aikenhead.