Emmanuel History

Emmanuel College

29 years young - 148 years strong

Mother M. Philomene Maguire arrived in Warrnambool in 1872, after a long sea voyage, equipped only with a few belongings and with the knowledge that she would probably never see her family or home again.  Mother Philomene had accepted an invitation to set up a Sisters of Mercy community and a school in the town.


Bishop Goold was very keen to offer a quality, affordable Catholic education in the area. Although Mother Philomene lacked funds, supplies and equipment, she called on the local community for support. Within a remarkably short time, in July 1872 a school for girls was opened at Wyton House – an eight roomed stone dwelling at what is now the Botanic Road and Ardlie Street corner.

This school (that eventually became known as St Ann’s) was extraordinarily innovative. In an era when women were not allowed to own property or vote, the College not only catered for, but also helped to create a growing demand for the education of girls. It was only in the previous year of 1871 that girls had been allowed to sit for the Matriculation exam for the first time. Yet the Sisters not only taught the pursuits perceived as feminine, they made sure that the girls were given a educated in subject such as Algebra, Latin and Euclid. St Ann’s girls also received a first-class education in French and German - a worldly education that expanded the horizons of girls living in a small town within a fledgling colony.


The Sisters worked hard and were supported by people of the local community, who volunteered many hours of labour in building, gardening and maintaining the school they became so proud of.

In 1902 Brother Egan arrived with only his suitcase, after being instructed only 3 days previously to set up a Brother’s community and a school. Again the local community responded generously with time and finances and the school soon opened with 104 boys enrolled and for the next 80 years was known as CBC.

By 1990 the Australian educational landscape was dramatically different to that of the 1870s.  Across Australia single sex schools began to open their doors to both genders, or they combined to operate as a single coeducational facility.  The same conversations occurred in Warrnambool and in 1991 Emmanuel College was born 1991 began a new era as St Ann’s and CBC amalgamated to become Emmanuel College, the school that welcomes you today. Amalgamation has ensured on-going and viable Catholic secondary education in the Warrnambool area.


Emmanuel College has been on an amazing journey since its inception. Much has changed since Mother Philomene and Brother Egan accepted the challenges that were given to them. They would be entirely unfamiliar with the type of learning the learning that takes place in the school they built.


The delivery of education has changed remarkably. Students are no longer passive learners who are fed information by the teacher.  Trends predict that the average 15 year old currently in Year 9 will have multiple career paths and will hold an average of 15 jobs over 5 different industries. Students are taught to become life long learners who play an active part in educating themselves ready to learn and relearn over a lifetime of re-skilling.

Mother Philomene and Brother Egan would not recognise Warrnambool and would be surprised at the largely secular nature of Australian society. The challenge for the Catholic school is to continue to re-contextualise the Gospel values of its founders in a way that students find meaningful and can relate to. These values - Tradition, Community Hope, Peace, Justice, Faith, Love Growth, Optimism and Joy - are just as important today as they were in 1872.

In 2016 Emmanuel College celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Emmanuel College. It was a time to reflect on the history of our community and the generosity of those who have contributed and continue to contribute to making it an innovative, welcoming and forward-looking learning community.