School History


St Mary’s Primary School is one of the oldest Catholic schools in Queensland.   We are very proud of our school and its achievements and we encourage our students to be familiar with our school’s history and traditions and our connections with the past.

Our school’s history is intricately intertwined with the early history of Queensland, our Parish, the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers.  The official beginning of our school is documented as May, 1863, when the Sisters of Mercy, led by Mother Vincent Whitty, arrived by paddle steamer up the Bremer River to teach the children in the settlement at Ipswich.  They began teaching in a small slab hut built approximately on the site of the present Senior School.   On their first day more than 100 students arrived for lessons.   The Sisters remained active in the school until 2001 when the last teaching sister retired.

Our oldest building on the school premises was built in 1885 and now houses our Early Years Centre.  It is heritage listed.  This first building was the first of many, more substantial stone buildings that now make up our school precinct.  We are rightfully proud of the historical and cultural heritage that our buildings bring to the city of Ipswich, and we acknowledge and respect the foresight and contributions of a long line of priests, religious and lay people who laid the foundations of our fine school.  Many of our buildings are now heritage listed.  

Our association with the Christian Brothers began in 1892 when the first Brothers arrived by steam train to teach in the newly erected building that is now the Senior Primary Building.  At that time the building consisted of just the bottom floor facing Elizabeth Street.  The Christian Brothers taught in that building until 1988 when they withdrew because of declining numbers of Brothers.  In 1991 the two schools, St Mary’s Primary School and St Edmund’s Boys Primary School amalgamated to form St Mary’s Primary School, a co-educational school from Year 1 to Year 6.

Today, St Mary’s Primary School continues to educate approximately 600 pupils from Prep to Year 6 in our beautiful, historically significant buildings. As a school serving the local Catholic community, it shares a common history, as well as a special ethos, and continuing close relationships, with our neighbouring colleges, St Mary’s College and St Edmund’s College.

Our students have seen two centuries come and go, together with some of history’s greatest technological advances.  Now, in the third century of our existence, we are committed to remembering our history and proudly carrying on its educational tradition of preparing our students for the world of tomorrow. 


© Brisbane Catholic Education, St Mary’s Catholic Primary School (2023)