Rosary Convent, Waratah – Archives (1888-1979)

Special Collections at the University of Newcastle Library holds the archive of the Rosary Convent Waratah, established in 1888 under the Dominican Order of Nuns.

The School for Deaf Girls, Waratah, NSW, Australia [Formerly known as Waratah Deaf and Dumb Institute] was located at the Rosary Convent in Waratah.

These photographs from the archive are held by Special Collections and the entire collection can be VIEWED HERE

Photograph of the Pupils and Staff at Rosary Convent, Waratah [n.d.]
Pupils and Staff at Rosary Convent, Waratah [n.d.]

The Dominicans Establish Education for Deaf Children

The Dominican Order of Nuns first established a convent in West Maitland in 1867, a two storey building in Grant Street, whereby the nuns took over education of the Catholic children at St John’s school located across the road.

A few years later in 1873 in Newcastle the Star of the Sea Convent was established, and in 1888 another convent set up in Waratah specifically for education of deaf children.

Oral History Interview with Sister Catarina Heffernan (1989)

In this Oral History Interview in 1989 with Sister Catarina Heffernan she speaks about the Dominican Order of Nuns (at Rosary Convent Waratah). She discusses the changes for Dominican Order of Nuns and institution in Newcastle and Maitland, teaching arrangements, and the decline in nuns at the convent in the 1970s. (Interviewer: Raelee Caswell) LISTEN HERE

Sister Catarina’s Life & Work

Sister Catarina Heffernan OP OAM entered the order in 1939 at age 18. She had Dominican associations as her mother and two sisters had been educated at Maitland, and two of her great aunts were Dominican nuns. She passed away in Sydney in 2006 aged 85. She was described as:

“A passionate teacher and friend of hearing-impaired children and their families. Sister worked tirelessly with them especially in Sydney, Newcastle”


Photograph of the Staff from 'School for Deaf Girls', Waratah [n.d.]
Staff from ‘School for Deaf Girls’, Waratah [n.d.]

“The School for Deaf Girls at Waratah had a devastating fire in 1949,  but rebuilt and reopened in 1951. Students were trained to cook, sew, type and  and taught ‘all the usual school subjects’. At that time the school had 75 pupils from all over Australia but also ‘of various creeds and nationalities’, including an Aboriginal girl from Bathurst Island and a girl from Singapore.

The school continued to lead education for hearing-impaired girls in New South Wales into the 1960s.The School for Deaf Girls was mentioned in a 1979 Commonwealth Government report called Why are they in children’s homes: report of the ACOSS children’s home intake survey. It is assumed to have closed as a residential school shortly afterwards.” (From ‘Find and Connect’ website)

Group photograph of 'School for Deaf Girls', Waratah, NSW
‘School for Deaf Girls’, Waratah, NSW
This is a photograph of the Pupils of Rosary Convent, Waratah, NSW, 1914
Pupils of Rosary Convent, Waratah, NSW, 1914

The Various Names of the Rosary Convent Waratah

The following is a listing of archive material relating to the Rosary Convent Waratah,  also known as:

  • Rosary Convent School for Deaf Girls
  • School for Deaf Girls, Waratah
  • Waratah Deaf and Dumb Institute
  • Waratah School for Deaf Girls

[Formerly known as Waratah Deaf and Dumb Institute].

A5696 (i)   Correspondence,  1888 – 1967.

A5696 (i)   Letters from Cardinal Moran of Sydney, from Bishop Torregiani of Armidale, and from other Catholic Bishops of Australasia, in which they give their support to the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Waratah,  1888 – 1890.

[Typescript biographies of Elzear (Aloysius) Torregiani, 1830 – 1904 and Patrick Cardinal Moran 1830 – 1911, are included.]

A5696 (ia)   Letter from the Under Secretary of N.S.W., Chief Secretary’s Office, Sydney, relating to grant of 500 pound,  June 24th, 1914.

A5696 (ii)   Letters from and relating to Helen Keller,  1937 – 1948 and press clippings and printed material relating to Helen Keller,  1939 – 1960 [with particular reference to her visit to Australia in 1948.]

A5696 (iii)   Correspondence relating to the publication of How to converse with the deaf in sign language,  1966 – 1967.

A5696 (iv)   Letters from Dame Margo Fonteyne relating to deaf children taking dancing examinations [1965?] and Royal Academy of Dancing Gazette,  June, 1965.

A5696 (v)   Financial records 1876 – 1920, including:

Statement of receipts and expenditure,  1892 – 1893.

Summary of receipts and expenditure,  1886 – 1920.

Balance sheet,  1886 – 1915.

Balance sheet,  1915 – 1917.

Balance sheet,  1925 – 1926.

A5696 (vi)   Teachers diplomas,  1935.

Diploma examination question papers,  1964 – 1965.

Revised syllabus for diploma,  1964.

[Returned to Sister A. Dooley (?) – 23.8.1988].

A5696 (vii)  Reports of, and papers read at Conferences,  1929, 1938, 1950, 1965, 1968 including anonymous, undated MS [1908+] entitled Our duty to the deaf and dumb of Australasia.

Reports on overseas Study Tours including:

A5696 (viii)   Visit to New Zealand Schools,  1948.  [Typescript].

Report on an overseas trip by Sister Mary Caterina.  [Typescript],  1971.

Reports on deaf education,  1949 – 1966, including:

A5696 (ix)   Sydney Teachers’ College Teachers of the Deaf Reports,  1949 – 1966.


A5696 (x)   Ascertainment of deafness in infancy, Progress Report May 1961, by W.G. Parr, Sydney Teachers’ College.

A5696 (xi)   General report to the Commonwealth Office of Education, by A.W.G. Ewing and J.R. Ewing,  September, 1950.  [Known as the “Ewing Report”].

Lectures on education of the deaf.  [Typescripts n.d.].

Manuscripts and typescripts relating to the history of Catholic deaf education in Australia [n.d.], including The Institution in Newcastle [1875 – 1889] by Sister Mary Martina.

A5696 (xii)  Pupils roll book,  1875 – 1892.

A5696 (xiii) Language lesson books.  [n.d.].

A5696 (xiv) Religion lesson books.  [n.d.].

A5697   Deaf and Dumb Institute, Waratah annual reports,  1886 – 1945.

Manuscript annual reports,  1886 – 1888.

Printed annual reports [cover title “Ephpheta”],  1890, 1900 – 1910.

Printed annual reports,  1915 – 1924.

A5698    Printed annual reports,  1939 – 1945.

Annual reports (bound volumes),  1890 – 1916.

Annual reports (bound volumes),  1917 – 1935.


Printed material:

A5699 Veritas.  [Magazine of the ex-pupils of the Rosary Convent, Waratah and St. Mary’s “Delgany”, Portsea, Victoria],  1963 – 1975.

[Sister Patricia Bayley, Ph. 68-1295 – W.M.]

A5700  St. Gabriel’s, Castle Hill Annual reports,  1922 – 1923,  1936 – 1940, 1945.

Victorian Deaf and Dumb Institution Annual reports,  1934 – 1936,  1938 – 1939 and 1948.

A5701 (i) Pamphlets relating to deafness and deaf education,  1921 – 1965.

A5701 (ii)  New South Wales Department of Education:

Reports of the Research Committee for the deaf and the blind,  1932 – 1934. [MISSING FROM BOX AS OF 2/9/2009]

A5701 (iii) Reports of the Research Committee for the deaf and the blind, 1935. [MISSING FROM BOX AS OF 2/9/2009]

A5701 (iv) Printed material relating to the history of deaf education in Australia,  1875 – 1975, including History of Catholic deaf education in Australia 1927 – 1954.  [Pamphlet – 3 copies].

Pictorial Centenary Souvenir… 1875 – 1975.  [Book – 2 copies].

A5701 (iv) Rosary Convent School for Deaf Girls, Waratah Centenary Programme,  August 12th – 17th, 1975.   [MISSING FROM BOX AS OF 2/9/2009]

A5701 (v)   St. Mary’s, Delgany, Portsea [Victoria].  [Pamphlet, n.d. – 2 copies].

A5701 (vi) Careers advisers seminar…University of Newcastle, Programme,  May 26th – 27th, 1975.

The Pixie O’Harris Fairy book.  Stories and verse by Lynette Yardley, Eva Lawton, Gwen M. Cook, [and] Pixie O’Harris.  Illustrations by Pixie O’Harris.  [Autographed November 8th, 1937].

A5701 (vii) Three Prayer Books for the deaf.  [n.d.].

Catechism for the deaf,  1910, 1926.

Outlines of Sacred and Church history for the use of pupils of the Catholic Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Waratah,  N.S.W., 1917.

A5701 (viii) Press clippings,  1934 – 1938, 1960 and The Catholic weekly,  August 11th, 1955.

Photographic records:

A5702   Album 1901 – 1931;  Album 1932 – 1938;  Album 1940 – 1941.


Framed photographs:

Sister Mary Gabriel Hogan.  [Foundress of the Institution, taught at the School 1875 – 1915].

Mother Sister Mary Columba Dwyer [Supervisor of Rosary Convent 1895 – 1924].

Marianne Hanney, ex pupil and teacher [photograph copied for Centenary celebrations 1975].

A5703    Diaries of pupils Agnes Lynch and Esther Hutchinson,  1927 – 1941.

Posters with names of pupils and dates,  1875 – 1968 [1975?].  [M2018].

Two press clipping books 1971, 1955 – 1978.  [M2016 – M2017].

[Above located in Map Drawer].

A5699   Veritas.  [Magazine of the ex-pupils of the Rosary Convent, Waratah and St. Mary’s “Delgany”, Portsea, Victoria],  1963 – 1975.

A8155(viii)  Waratah – Rosary Convent (and elsewhere): Pictorial Centenary Souvenir: Companion to History of Catholic Deaf Education in Australia, 1875-1975



Printed material:

B10083         Syllabus and Outlines of Language Study … as used at the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, Waratah, N.S.W. 1918.

B10084        Language Lesson Book [n.d.].

B10085        As above.

B10086        Pictorial Centenary Souvenir: companion to history of deaf education in Australia,  1975 -1975.

B10087        As above.

B10088       Outlines of History Compiled for the Use of the Pupils of the Institution of the Deaf and  Dumb, Waratah,  1918.

B10089        How to Converse with the Deaf in Sign Language as Used in the Australian Catholic Schools for the Deaf compiled by the teachers of the schools at Waratah and Castle Hill, N.S.W. [Retd. Temporarily 2.5.80 D.R. in pencil].

B10090   As above.

Sheehan, Archbishop M:

B10091  Religion by Letter,  1937.

B10092  A Simple Course of Religion by Letter,  1948

B10093  A Simple Course of Religion by Letter,  1954

B10094 St. Gabriels School for Deaf Boys, Castle Hill, N.S.W.Programme of Studies,  1948

B10095  Teaching Manual,  1948

B10096  St. Rita School for the Deaf, affiliated with St. Xavier College, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Summer  Normal School Course,  July 18-21, 1928

B10097  As above

B10098-101     First Educational Conference of the Catholic Schools for the Deaf held at St. Gabriel’s School or Deaf Boys, 30th August – 2nd September 1954

B10102  Australian Association of Teachers of the Deaf: Proceedings of the First Conference of Teachers of the Deaf in Australia…, 7 – 11January,  1935

B10103 Proceedings of the Second Conference of Teachers of the Deaf in Australia,  4 – 7 January, 1938

B10104  Regan, J. L. Modern Development in the Education of the Deaf.  Essay written for Diploma of Teacher of the Deaf, 1954.

B10105   Royal Newcastle Hospital Ear Nose and Throat Department Annual Report, July 1962 – June  1963.

B10106  Oxley, Selwyn The Deaf of Other Days: a pageant … [c.1920].  [Includes script for play Little Nellie’s  Christmas.

B10107 American Annals of the Deaf,  1897 – 1900

B10108   American Annals of the Deaf,  1903 – 1904

B10109  Braddy, Nella, Anne Sullivan Macy: the story behind Helen Keller,  1934.

B10110  Help for the Hard of Hearing: a survey of the work in New Zealand since 1880 [n.d.].

B10111  New Zealand League for the Hard of Hearing – Wellington Branch Better Hearing: a handbook … 1942.

B10112  Jones, J. W. The Education of Robert, a deaf boy, 1925.

B10113 Interpreting for Deaf People: a report on a workshop on interpreting, Governor Baxter State School for the Deaf.  Portland, Maine,  7 – 27 July, 1965.

B10114 Ateliers des Sounds [Special issue of L’am. Des Sounds, which is devoted to the shops for the deaf on their hundredth anniversary … 1865  -1965].

Listing compiled by Gionni di Gravio OAM, University Archivist

Post created by Dr Ann Hardy

2 thoughts on “Rosary Convent, Waratah – Archives (1888-1979)

  1. I am very pleased to see that the Uni has these archives. Ihave a family connection to this institution. My paternal grandmother’s family name was Sullivan and she came from the Bathurst district. Her great aunty Catherine Sullivan was born in 1859 and a bout of rheumatic fever caused her to become deaf.
    In the 1870s Catherine was at the Newtown Institution for the Deaf and Dumb staffed by members of the Church of England. As a Catholic she received continual jeers and abuse. Her father complained to the Bishop of Bathurst Dr Quinn who asked for help from the Dominican Nuns of West Maitland because of their experience in training deaf children back in Ireland. They agreed to take Catherine Sullivan as a boarder. A catholic nun –Sister M Gabriel a deaf mute and remarkable teacher – was sent out from Ireland and began the training of deaf children at Newcastle Star of the Sea Convent in 1875.
    In 1886 owing to the great increase in numbers, the nuns decided to erect a building that would meet the needs of Australia and New Zealand. This was erected at Waratah …
    Notes from Sister M. Assumpta O’Hanlon, Dominican Pioneers in New South Wales, Sydney: Australasian Publishing Company 1949.

  2. Very interesting. I started at Hearing Australia in 1969 when it was known as Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory & enjoyed my first day at Rosary Convent assisting in taking ear impressions for new ear moulds Sister Francis was in charge of the convent at the time. Many beautiful memories and great staff & girls.

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