All Saints Parish School Portland

The oldest continuing school in the Ballarat Diocese.

The first Catholic School in Portland was established in May 1849 by Fr. Michael Stevens and is the oldest continuing Catholic school in the Diocese of Ballarat. Among the generation of outstanding and committed teachers who have worked in the school, at present, it is the only Australian Catholic school to include a canonised saint among its lay teachers: Mary MacKillop. 

All Saints’ first teacher is registered as Rosanna Phillipina Quinn who received a government salary of £25 per annum. The school was initially located in the parish chapel, which was always intended to double as a school building, in Bentinck Street, Portland. By the end of the first year of operation it had an average attendance of 25-30 pupils. The school fee for each child was six pence per week.

On his first visit to the school in 1851, denominational school inspector Hugh C E Childers, reported the school was housed in a small wooden rented premise in Gawler Street. Between 1849 and 1853 four lay teachers in succession staffed the school. By October 1854, the school had a master appointed with an assistant teacher. It was between 1861 and 1863 that Mary MacKillop and her sister Annie were recorded as assistants to the school master at the time.

With the establishment of Loreto Portland by the Sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), in 1885 the role of instructing the children moved from lay teachers to the Loreto sisters. Their involvement with the school would continue beyond the next 100 years until 1996 when the last Loreto Nun, Sr Helen Murphy, retired from her role as principal of All Saints Primary School.

With the opening of the new All Saints Church in 1862, the school was subsequently moved back into the old chapel where it remained as the main school building for many years. In 1934 a brick school room was built at a cost £900 to extend the size of the school beyond the chapel. This building was later demolished to make way for the infant school that was to be opened in 1961. In 1966 the primary section of the convent school was transferred to All Saints Primary School and with increasing numbers of students attending the school, larger school facilities were needed. A double story building was built, followed by the senior school and hall. By 1978 the original chapel/school building was demolished to make way for urgently required classrooms. The building was by this time becoming a dangerous hazard as well. On this site a library and resource area were built.

Portland Free School, as it was known, held in the Catholic chapel
All Saints Catholic School c.1961

In 1983, the building of a second Catholic school began in South Portland. The new school was named MacKillop Primary School, after Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, in recognition of her commitment to education and her dedication to the Church and to the poor. MacKillop Primary School opened with 52 children ranging from Prep to Grade 5. The first teacher was Sr. Teresa Lowery IBVM, who was assisted by two full-time staff members.

The original school building consisted of four general-purpose learning areas, a multi-purpose area, and staffroom and toilet blocks. The school population steadily increased, and in 1997 a second building stage for administration areas was completed which consisted of admin areas, a Principal’s office, staff room, meeting room and sick-bay.

In 1999, due to the changing demographics of Portland, the feasibility of continuing to fund and resource two Catholic schools began to be questioned. After a lengthy process the decision was made that the two Catholic schools in Portland would be amalgamated. The amalgamated school would be known as All Saints Parish School and would be located on the site of MacKillop Primary school in South Portland. The All Saints Primary School in Bentinck Street and the MacKillop Primary School officially closed at the end of 2002. Despite the new building not being completed, 2003 saw the beginning of All Saints Parish School on our current site with an enrolment of 295 students.


MacKillop Primary School established 1984

The school continues this new phase of Catholic Education in Portland with a buoyant confidence in our ability to meet the challenges of modern Catholic education.

In 2011 with the Building Education Revolution Government funding, two buildings of eight classrooms were built to replace portables and build an undercover outdoor structure. In 2017 major refurbishments were conducted to include two Foundation classrooms in the original main building.

To fulfil certain obligations and needs, structural and organisational changes were made. DOBCEL (Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited) was established by Bishop Paul Bird to oversee the governance of parish schools in the Diocese of Ballarat.  In 2020, All Saints Parish School was signed over to DOBCEL to act as the governing body of the school. 

Today the school boasts modern facilities which include bright classrooms, a large assembly hall, a superb library and rooms catering for science, the arts and music. St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop, along with Mother Gonzaga Barry IBVM and the Loreto Sister, still stand as models of faith and educational innovation for all members of All Saints Parish School Community.


All Saints Parish School- current

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop


St Mary MacKillop has a special connection with All Saints School and the Portland district. Mary was born on 15 January 1842 in Melbourne. In June 1862 Mary, aged 20, made her way to Portland to be governess to the daughters of Mrs. Duncan Cameron, a relative of the MacKillop family. Mary lived with the widowed Mrs. Cameron and her children at their home, Fitzroy Cottage. Mary gained a teaching position at Common School 510, which became All Saints Parish School in October 1863. This was Mary’s first formal teaching position. She taught at the school for almost two years developing teaching and organisational skills which were to stand her in good stead in the future. As she moved on to Penola and established the first of many schools, and later the Josephite Sisters, she continued to provide education for children across the country and reach out to the poor. As Australia’s first saint, her life and legacy are celebrated across Australia and especially at All Saints where the importance of education and the need to assist those in needs is instilled in all who work and learn at the school. Her famous quote of ‘Never see a need without doing something about it’, is a common term for the staff and students and is lived out by them every day.

Loreto and All Saints


In 1875 Mother Gonzaga Barry of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) was sent to Ballarat to establish a Loreto school, Mary’s Mount, which was situated on the current Loreto College site. In 1883 Mother Gonzaga was sent to Portland for her health. She fell in love with the people and the Catholic community there. The locals petitioned Mother Gonzaga Barry to send sisters to Portland to teach at the school. As a result, a community of Loreto Sisters moved to Portland in 1885 and secured a house, once used by Mary MacKillop, to use as a convent and boarding house. They assumed responsibility for the parish school. As the years past the Loreto sister extended their services to include a school for boys and to teach students beyond primary school age. When the primary section of the convent school was transferred to All Saints Primary School in 1966, Loreto Sisters continued as members of school staff and leadership for many years to come. They remained devoted to educating the children of Portland until a lay principal was appointed to All Saints Primary School in 1996 and after 132 years of leadership from the Loreto Sisters, their formal involvement with the school had concluded.