Australian PrehistoryHistory - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other Countries


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Relations between Aborigines
and colonists

Aboriginal War
Friends or foes?

History Wars
Denying contestability

Black Woman and White Man
Rape or love?

Myall Creek Masscare
Causes and consequences of colonial violence

The Stolen Generations
It's not so black and white

Jimmy Govenor
Not a good fence builder

Mary Anne Bugg
Female Bushranger

Justice or resistance?

1967 referendum
The myths

Contemporary racism against Indigenous People

Convicts and their legacy

Convict legacy
How the past shapes the present

Convict life
Regrets and floggings

Convict crimes
Power and morality

Convict punishments
What purpose?

Larrikin Convicts
Breaking rules

Thinking different

Convict women
Moral diversity



Mary MacKillop
Mary MacKillop

A rebel and a saint

Convicts didn't seem particularly impressed with the champions of Christianity. When Governor King ordered that they attend Church on Sundays, they responded by burning the Church to the ground. Similarly, many Convicts had tattooed onto their backs images of crucifixes or angels holding cups of blood. This gave the impression that when they were being flogged, Christ himself was being flogged.

The Convicts were obviously good judges of character because the champions of Christianity had acted in a manner that ran contrary to Christianity's message. However not all Christian missionaries were bad people. One shining light was Mary McKillop. Like Jesus himself, Mary was a troublemaker. She worked tirelessly for the poor, was excommunicated from the Church, and later was ordered to leave her diocese for promoting controversial views. However if a god exists, it seems he/she was pleased with Mary because in 1994, Mary became the first Australian to be beatified. In 2010, she became the first to be canonised.

The road to sainthood

Mary MacKillop was born in Melbourne in 1842. Her father had always struggled in jobs or as a farmer so the MacKillops were poor, often living without a home and relying on other wealthier members of the family to survive. Mary left home to work when she was fourteen and gave all the money she earned to her family. In 1861 she went to work in Penola, a small town in South Australia. Here Mary met Father Julian Woods. Mary felt a religious calling, but hadn't been able to find an order that suited her. Consequently, in 1866, she and Father Woods started their own order; 'The Sisters of St. Joseph'. It was the first religious order to be founded by an Australian.

The Sisters of St. Joseph were dedicated to the education of poor children. This necessitated that the sisters live and follow the poor. Consequently, the sisters followed farmers, miners, railway workers to isolated outback regions. Whatever hardships that they suffered, the sisters would suffer with them. The order spread to Adelaide and other parts of South Australia, and membership grew rapidly.

As well as being extremely compassionate, Mary was strong willed. She stood up for what she believed, which brought her into conflict with religious leaders. She took a vow of poverty, which meant she had to beg for money. With her sense of faith, she believed that god would provide for the sisters wherever they went. Catholic Church leaders didn't like begging, but Mary refused to change her ways. The tension escalated into conflict over educational matters and as a result Mary was excommunicated by Bishop Shiel for insubordination in 1871. Shiel accused of her of encouraging disobedience and defiance in her schools. He also complained that her students sang excessively.  The excommunication placed on her was lifted 6 months later, and on his death bed, Shiel admitted he had done the wrong thing.

In 1883, Mary came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church establishment by insisting on an equalitarian rather than hierarchical organization. Bishop Reynolds told her to leave his diocese and Mary transferred the headquarters of the Josephites in Sydney and died in Sydney on 8 August, 1909.

Mary never became bitter against the Church leaders that had opposed her. This forgiving attitude was complemented by the outstanding work of the congregation. Protestants, as well as Catholics, loudly praised her charity to the poor, her personal poverty, and her abstinence from proselytising.

Mary MacKillop died on 8 August 1909, aged 57, in the Josephite convent in North Sydney. At her funeral, the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Moran, stated:

"I consider this day to have assisted at the deathbed of a Saint."

In 1973, Mother Mary became the first Australian to be formally proposed to Rome as a candidate for canonization and she was beatified by Pope John Paul II at St Francis' Church on 27th November, 1994. She was canonised on 17 October 2010 in Vatican City, thus becoming the first recognised Australian Roman Catholic saint.






John Caesare
The first

Our Ned Kelly
A story heard and considered

Eureka Massacre
Dying for liberty

Post Convicts

Why is it not celebrated?

White Australia Policy
From Convicts to Chinese

Baptism of Fire or Well of Tears

Simpson and his Donkey
A larrikin and a hero

Nancy Wake
A larrikin and a hero

The Depression
Australia's Greek Moment

World War 2
The eastern chapters

Cold War
The expression of transnational identities

Prime Ministers
Values and policies of Australian leaders




"Let no-one say the past is dead, the past is all about us and within"(Oodgeroo)