Welcome to Bethlehem College Ashfield, an outstanding secondary Catholic college located in the culturally diverse Inner West suburb of Ashfield which has been educating young women in the charism of the Sisters of Charity since 1881.
As an experienced and highly relational principal, I work closely with our teachers to support the academic, spiritual and personal growth of our young women so that they can become strong, confident, faith filled graduates who will make a difference to the world.
I invite you to journey through our website to discover the many academic and extra-curricular opportunities that await all learners at Bethlehem College. Enrolments are accepted throughout the year and tours are available on request.
“Growing Learners: every teacher, every student, every lesson.”
Mrs Paula Bounds
The story of Bethlehem College begins not with the opening of the College but with the arrival of the first Sisters of Charity to Australia in 1838.
Bishop Polding requested the foundress of the Sisters of Charity Mary Aikenhead, to send Sisters of Charity from Ireland to help women convicts sent to Australia. The Sisters of Charity were the first religious women seen in Australia.
After a journey of over four months on the Francis Spaight, the five Sisters of Charity arrived in Sydney on the last day of 1838. From January 1839 the Sisters lived at Parramatta and ministered to the many women convicts at the Female Factory.
On 26 January 1881 the Sisters of Charity established a high school in Goswell Cottage, located at what is now 125-127 Elizabeth Street, Ashfield. In 1882, they moved the high school to two cottages in Bland Street and also established a convent there. Original enrolments were low, probably less than twenty. The significance, however, was that this was the first Catholic high school for girls in the Inner Western suburbs. Despite the small enrolments, the Sisters were determined to offer a broad curriculum. There was a strong focus on cultural subjects such as music.
As enrolments grew, the school soon outgrew the original buildings and in 1906 these were replaced by a new school building and an assembly hall. When opening the new buildings, Cardinal Moran recommended the name Bethlehem College. From this time until the late 1950s primary students (including some boys) were also enrolled. In 1914, when there were 200 students and 10 teachers, the school became a registered secondary school under the name Bethlehem Ladies’ College.
The education reforms of the 1960s brought significant change to the school. These changes were embraced by the staff because Bethlehem College had always offered a broad and innovative secondary curriculum. Bethlehem was one of the first girl schools in Sydney to build science laboratories. Enrolments grew rapidly to 726 in 1969. This rapid expansion placed enormous strain on the limited resources and required more classrooms and specialist buildings. Fortunately, the beginnings of government funding helped in the provision of a succession of new buildings and extensions from the 1960s through to the ‘Eora’ technology block of 1992, named after the Aboriginal people of the Ashfield area. Funding also allowed for the employment of many more lay teachers, who gradually assumed more responsibility in the school.
At the end of 1991 the Sisters of Charity ended their 110 years of leadership of the school and, what was then the Catholic Education System Sydney, appointed Mrs Joy Short as the first lay Principal.
137 years on from its foundation, Bethlehem College continues to flourish as an outstanding All Girls Catholic school forming strong K-12 pathways with 16 feeder Catholic schools. It continues to cater for all learners, including the provision of the Newman Selective Stream and a range of HSC pathways. It offers a broad, innovative curriculum and outstanding 21st century learning spaces and recreational areas.
For more information that spans across our school’s rich history, visit The Bethlehem Archives.
The charism of the Sisters of Charity is to share the love, tenderness and concern of Christ with all whom we meet, seeing Christ in everyone. Both the fourth vow and the charism played a central role in the life of Mary Aikenhead.
The legacy of her spirit and commitment to the poor has inspired generations of Sisters of Charity as well as many lay people. It has also inspired generations of staff and students from the College as they strive to live out the motto of the College “Este Fideles”, which means “Be Faithful”.
Our college motto is “ESTE FIDELES” – “Be Faithful” – and it is an ideal for all of us as we strive to be faithful to God, to ourselves and to each other.
At Bethlehem College we foster confident and independent young women of faith, who are creative and collaborative thinkers, sharing a love of learning and striving for excellence. They are courageous in mind and deed and are global citizens with a genuine concern for others.
Our parish, St Vincent’s Catholic Church Ashfield, was established in 1894 under the pastoral care of the Congregation of the Mission, known as The Vincentian Priests and Brothers.
Parish Priest Fr Joti Bilowalu CM is the College Chaplain and presides over all College and Precinct liturgical celebrations.
For more information on our Parish or to contact Fr Bilowalu, see St Vincent’s Catholic Church Ashfield.
Sunday: 8am, 10am and 6pm; Polish Mass: 12 noon
Proudly Part of the Community of Sydney Catholic Schools
Our school is part of a system of over 150 low-fee Catholic schools in the Sydney Archdiocese.
Sydney Catholic Schools are thriving Catholic communities that ignite a love of Christ through excellent teaching and learning to empower students to reach their full potential.