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Our History

MercyCare has a proud heritage. We continue traditions started by the Sisters of Mercy and provide services that have their origins in the 1850s.

The Sisters

Catherine McAuley

Catherine McAuley, an heiress of 50 years of age, founded the Sisters of Mercy as a Catholic Religious Order in Dublin in 1831. Sister Ursula Frayne was a friend and associate of Catherine McAuley and imbibed her spirit and values very deeply. In 1846, Ursula was chosen to lead the small group of pioneer Sisters of Mercy who accompanied Bishop Brady to the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. These Mercy women were part of a band of 28 missionaries. The group included Spanish Benedictine priests, brothers and lay catechists.

In January 9, 1846 having landed in Fremantle after a voyage of 113 days on the barque 'Elizabeth' the seven Sisters then sailed up the Swan River to Perth. "We stood in the wilds of Australia in the mid-summer night and we could truly say of it that we had nowhere to lay our heads", wrote Ursula Frayne when they found no arrangements had been made for a place to live.

The Sisters made packing cases into desks and bricks and planks into seats and were ready to open the first school on February 2, 1846. This school became the first secondary school for girls in Australia and is the present site of Mercedes College where our original convent, our Mother House (Victoria Square), stands today. At the same site the sisters founded the first welfare home for Aborigine girls in Perth.

This pioneer group was the first of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia.

From 1846 to 1900 there were eight independently operating groups of Sisters of Mercy in W.A.: - Victoria Square Perth that founded West Perth, Bunbury, Guildford/Midland, York and Toodyay. Coolgardie - founded from Adelaide and Victoria Park - founded from Derry. In 1896, West Perth assumed a separate identity, while the other seven foundations amalgamated under the auspices of Victoria Square, Perth.

On December 12, 2011 the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, the Sisters of Mercy Perth and Sisters of Mercy West Perth joined the new congregation known as Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

The Wembley Site

St Joseph Orphanage

There is a wealth of information existing about the unique history of the Catherine McAuley Family Centre from its beginnings as a Benedictine Monastery to its present identity.

Our Heritage Trail, on the Wembley site at 18 Barrett St, takes you on a historical journey dating back to 1846 when the Sisters of Mercy first arrived in Western Australia.

If you can't make it to the site to walk the trail, you can download the Trail Guide here and take yourself on the journey.

The Heritage Trail serves as a constant reminder of the mission of care first undertaken by the Sisters of Mercy and carried forward to MercyCare today.

Past Residents

Any past residents of the care facilities run by the Sisters of Mercy at the Wembley site are encouraged to access their personal records. To access these records, contact the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia & Papua New Guinea via email at We also encourage past residents to contact Tuart Place or the Care Leavers of Australia Network.

We also encourage past residents to contact Tuart Place or the Care Leavers of Australia Network.

Click here for the Tuart Place website.

Click here for the Care Leavers of Australia Network website.