13 March 2024

An avenue of trees along Bourke Street to celebrate the Presentation Sisters' 150 years in Wagga

| Chris Roe
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Wagga's Presentation Sisters have proposed to plant an avenue of trees along Bourke Street to mark 150 years of service in the community. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga’s Presentation Sisters have proposed to plant an avenue of trees along Bourke Street to mark 150 years of service in the community. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga Wagga City Council has unanimously endorsed a proposal by the Presentation Sisters to create an avenue of trees on Bourke Street to commemorate the beginnings of Catholic education in the city.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first five sisters from Kildare in Ireland to establish a school where children could be educated and instructed in the Catholic faith.

The sisters arrived in the frontier town of Wagga Wagga in 1874 and established their first classroom in a stable before the Mt Erin Convent was built.

Mayor Dallas Tout said it was a great initiative to recognise the contribution of the sisters to generations of children across the Riverina.

“To put it in perspective, they arrived here in 1874 and it was only four years after Wagga was declared even a borough,” he said before listing many of the schools they would go on to establish.

“Then to wish to still do a legacy gift to the city, I think it’s fantastic.”

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Cr Rod Kendall agreed that the sisters’ story and legacy should be commemorated.

“It’s really difficult for us to imagine the difficulties that the original Presentation Sisters would have met in moving to Australia, but not just to Australia, but to Wagga to found an educational institution and do all that great work that they’ve done in this city so far from their original birth country,” he said.

The Presentation Sisters’ proposal includes the planting of 93 Claret Ash trees on Bourke Street between Red Hill Road and Holbrook Road.

In a letter to Council, Sister Margaret Barclay explained that “the planting of trees expresses the sisters’ mission focus of caring for the Earth now and into the future as well as our thanks to the community of Wagga Wagga”.

“The suggested site marks the route the first sisters took in 1874 to enter Wagga Wagga from Mangoplah.”

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Mr Erin Heritage Centre archivist Patrick Donahue addressed the council at Monday’s meeting and explained that the sisters had agreed that they would like to contribute something that would enhance the environment of the city and celebrate their heritage.

“When they came from Melbourne, they stopped at Albury for a few days and then they also broke the journey at Mangoplah Station,” he said, adding that a crowd gathered to witness their arrival.

“There was a significant group of citizens that went out on their horses and carriages to escort the sisters into town and that was along the Mangoplah road.”

Mr Donahue said that when they went out to look for possible locations, they noted that the avenue in question was bare of trees.

Cr Jenny McKinnon said that “new trees are always welcome” and acknowledged the Presentation Sisters’ contribution.

“I think it’s very fitting that an avenue of trees is the way that we commemorate the time that they’ve been here and the work that they’ve done for the community,” Cr McKinnon said.

Councillor Georgie Davies agreed that it was a “wonderful and generous gift from the Presentation Sisters that will beautify and cool the street in Wagga for generations to come”.

The proposal received unanimous support and Cr Tout added that he would host a mayoral reception in May to mark the sesquicentenary.

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