About the Sisters
Our Foundress Mary MacKillop
Julian Tenison Woods
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Since the time of Mary MacKillop, Josephites have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) peoples.
Sisters have always worked in the urban areas of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and continue to work there. Since the 1960s we have had a major commitment to the Kimberley Region of Western Australia with Sisters currently working in Warmun, Halls Creek and Kununurra. Currently Sisters also minister in the Northern Territory at Amata and Wadeye and in New South Wales at Walgett and Lismore.
Josephites continue to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of the Australian Indigenous People through the work of Reconciliation Circles and the Josephite Leaders Social Action Office.
The Mary MacKillop Foundation provides grants to individuals and organisations for life-changing projects. To find out more, visit the Mary MacKillop Foundation website.
In 1999 we the Sisters of St Joseph made a public apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples expressing our deepest sorrow that we had failed to recognize and address many of the injustices caused by the dispossession of land and culture.
We committed ourselves to stand in solidarity and work in partnership for a more just and equitable Australia.
View the complete Apology
The Sisters of St Joseph enter into partnership with Indigenous Peoples of this land (Australia) believing that their commitment is a call to encounter 'God in the many faces of Indigenous Peoples.' It is a call:
To learn from them, to receive from them, to support them in their struggle for justice and equity. It is an experience of God which is painful, disturbing, profoundly biblical and founded in the incarnation of Christ.
Constitutions, Sisters of St Joseph no. 14
The Sisters state that they 'are now called to stand in solidarity with and move towards partnership with Indigenous Peoples... acknowledging that conversion is a process that touches our hearts and calls us to action to grow in right relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. (Sisters of St Joseph 1999 Review of Ministry with Australian Indigenous Peoples, p.4, Appendix)
Influenced by the work of her cousin, Fr Duncan McNab and her brother Fr Donald MacKillop sj Mary MacKillop had a strong desire to make a Josephite foundation in the Northern Territory. Because of circumstances beyond her control this venture, which was to be at Daly River (Rapid Bay), did not eventuate.
"I hope Donald will be able to take some Sisters back with him. If so, I am to go with them and see them settled. I shall have no worry there, and I ought to go to encourage the Sisters."
Letter of Mary MacKillop 22.12.1892
In the oral tradition of both Josephite sisters and Aboriginal groups, there are numerous stories of positive interaction between Sisters who were involved in education in country towns and local Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people living in such places as Hillston, Walgett, Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Moora and the twin goldfield towns of Kalgoorlie-Boulder hold such memories in their family history.
In response to a formal request from Church authorities, the Sisters opened a primary school at Wyndham in the East Kimberley and three years later established a similar school at the developing town of Kununurra on the Ord River. Over the next twenty-five the Sisters became involved in Two-Way Education at the remote Aboriginal communities at Turkey Creek (now Warmun), Ringer Soak (Yaruman) and Red Hill located on the outskirts of the frontier town of Halls Creek
All these schools were established at the request of the local Aboriginal community. From the outset, there has been a strong partnership between Aboriginal parents
and Elders and the Sisters.
Another Kimberley initiative was the setting up of Mirrilingki Spirituality Centre at Warmun (formerly Turkey Creek). This centre provides opportunities for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to engage in personal and spiritual development courses. In recent years the centre has promoted Reconciliation and has offered retreats where participants have had the opportunity to meet and pray with Aboriginal people. Mirrilingki also supports Aboriginal interests by hosting Environmental Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.