Mount Saint Canice

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Mount Saint Canice Convent

Mount Saint Canice was a Catholic convent first opened in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia by the Good Shepherd Sisters in 1893. The sisters began to take in young women who were perceived to have fallen short of the morals and values of the times. The Mount Saint Canice convent was to become known as The Magdalene Laundry and was one of ten such laundries in operation throughout Australia.[1] They were based on existing Magdalene laundries in Ireland.[2] "The Magdalene Laundries were workhouses in which many Irish women and girls were effectively imprisoned because they were perceived to be a threat to the moral fiber of society."[3]

The convent closed after 8 were killed in an explosion in 1974.[4]


Mount Saint Canice has been likened by former inmates to laundries which operated in Ireland.[5] Former inmates of Mount Saint Canice are now referred to as Forgotten Australians. In 2009, an official Australian government apology[6] was made to people who had grown up in the institutional system, including former child immigrants to Australia. The apology was made by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Survivor and artist Rachael Romero[7] represents her experience as a girl in a similar Convent of the Good Shepherd in South Australia and another of the commercial laundries known collectively around the world as "Magdalene Laundries." Romero's art portrays her experience in the convent, recalling her suffering as an inmate. She expresses her opinion about the Good Shepherd nun's 150th anniversary celebration.[8]

Writer and author Merlene Fawdry gives insight into the daily operation of Mount Saint Canice in "My Magdalene Home."[9]

Janice Konstantinidis, guest author for the Australian National Museum, 28 February 2011, shares a current photograph, as well as her detailed history of her time from the age of 12 working in the Magdalene laundry of Mount Saint Canice, nicknamed "The Mag." Janice also includes recollections of the lengths some girls would go to in order to escape.[10]

Mount Saint Canice had similar conditions to those shown in the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, written and directed by Peter Mullan. Girls as young as eleven were turned over to the Good Shepherd sisters. While there was a school at Mount Saint Canice, the curriculum was very basic. These younger girls were also forced to work in the laundry. Many young women who came to Mount Saint Canice pregnant were forced to give up their babies for adoption. Most women were released after varying lengths of stay; however, some stayed all their lives.

The Good Shepherd mother convent in Australia was Abbotsford, a commercial laundry that provided (unpaid) employment for girls and women and generated income for the Convent (1863 - 1975). The Convent was able to care for up to 1,000 and was self-sufficient through its farming, Industrial School and laundry activities.[11]

Other Good Shepherd convents in Australia that supported themselves as industrial laundries included:

  • Leederville, Perth, Western Australia, begun in 1903. A commercial laundry.
  • St Aiden's, Albert Park Convent - on Port Phillip Bay, Bendigo, Victoria, first opened as a Melbourne Convent. The commercial laundry generated income for the Convent.
  • Ashfield, Sydney during 1913 expanded to Toongabbie (1948 - 1961). Laundry.[12][13]
  • Mitchelton, Queensland 1931, industrial laundry.[14]
  • Albert Park, South Melbourne, 1892 - 1974. Industrial laundry.[15][16]
  • "The Pines", North Plympton, South Australia (1941 - 1974) a commercial laundry provided (unpaid) employment and generated income for the convent, under the control of the Good Shepherd Sisters and the Children's Welfare and Public Relief Board and its successors.,[1]
  • Oakleigh, 1883 - a reformatory school for adolescents in Southeast Melbourne, Victoria.[15]

Historian Adele Chynoweth writes about the Good Shepherd Sisters denying history: There are no precise figures for the number of girls who slaved in the ten Magdalene laundries run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in twentieth century Australia. This is because the order of the Good Shepherd Sisters has not released its records. We do know, as a result of the Federal Senate Report on Forgotten Australians (2004)[17] that the Good Shepherd laundries in Australia acted as prisons for the girls who were forced to labor in workhouses laundering linen for local hospitals or commercial premises. The report also described the conditions as characterized by inedible food, unhygienic living conditions and little or no education. In 2008, in Federal Parliament, Senator Andrew Murray likened the Convent of the Good Shepherd, "The Pines," Adelaide, to a prisoner-of-war camp.[18]

Good Shepherd Australia's Province Leader, Sister Anne Manning writes: "We acknowledge, that for numbers of women, memories of their time with Good Shepherd are painful. We are deeply sorry for acts of verbal or physical cruelty that occurred: such things should never have taken place in a Good Shepherd facility. The understanding that we have been the cause of suffering is our deep regret as we look back over our history."[19]

Mount Saint Canice closed after a tragic fire as a result of a boiler explosion in 1974.[20] The buildings are now occupied by a retirement complex, the Saint Canice Lifestyle Village.[21]

State government funded redress schemes have made or are planning ex-gratia payments to Forgotten Australians in some states.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Convent of the Good Shepherd "The Pines" - Summary | Find & Connect".
  2. ^ Good Shepherd Sisters denying history - On Line Opinion - 19/6/2013 by Adele Chynoweth phd
  3. ^ "Ireland's Magdalen Laundries and the Nation's Architecture of Containment // Books // University of Notre Dame Press". Archived from the original on 20 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Fond farewell to one of our favourite photographers, Barry Winburn". The Mercury. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Smashwords – View book".
  6. ^ "Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants". Australian Government, Department of Social Services. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Women who have lost their way - on Line Opinion - 20/6/2013".
  9. ^ "My Magdalen Home, an Ebook by Merlene Fawdry".
  10. ^ "Inside – Life in Children's Homes and Institutions".
  11. ^ "History & Heritage | The Abbotsford Convent". Archived from the original on 4 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Convent probe." The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld:1933 - 1954) 1 Sep 1954:1. Web. 2 Jul 2013 50618269
  13. ^ "Home of the Good Shepherd - Summary | Find & Connect".
  14. ^ "Site 78 - 'Good Shepherd Convent, Home and Laundry, 1931'".
  15. ^ a b "Good Shepherd Sisters in Australia - History - Soeurs du Bon Pasteur". Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Convent of the Good Shepherd, Albert Park - Summary | Find & Connect".
  17. ^ "Senate Committees (Page No Longer Valid)".
  18. ^ "Error".
  19. ^ "Good Shepherd's 150 Years | Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  20. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: TVT 6: Mount St Canice Explosion, 1974. YouTube.
  21. ^
  22. ^

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