The Presentation Sisters were founded in 1775 by Sister Nano Nagle to meet the needs of the poor in penal Ireland. They came to “the ends of the earth” in Australia in 1866, in Victoria in 1873 and in Dandenong in 1912.
Traditionally, Presentation Sisters in Australia have reached out to poor families through education in Primary Schools, Secondary Colleges and Tertiary Institutions.
Today Presentation Sisters and Associates are in every continent across our globe and work to address the “cry of the poor and the cry of the earth” through a variety of social justice initiatives.
From the 1980’s the Sisters were engaged in pastoral ministries in Dandenong and surrounding Catholic Parishes. This long and broad experience led to a particular concern for those women who were becoming more and more isolated within an apparently lively community.
During 1993 research was undertaken into the causes of this situation and into the agencies and groups which were attempting to respond to emerging needs. Some of the causes identified were – marriage breakdown, domestic violence, mental illness, unemployment and underemployment which led to dependence on social security. The enormous changes in migration patterns in Australia were reflected in a dramatic way in the multicultural nature of the local community and, in turn, the Wellsprings community. In response to this reality, and after consultation with the many services which were being offered by the public and community sectors, it was decided to set up Wellsprings as a place which attempts to meet the need not already being met by existing agencies.
In 1994 Wellsprings opened its doors one day per week as a Drop-in Centre offering a friendly environment for women to meet in a non-threatening, homely venue. As the number of women attending the Centre grew, a holistic program was developed addressing the physical, emotional, spiritual, recreational, educational and skill based needs of the women. These programs were offered to encourage and empower women to grow in self esteem and learn about the wide variety of opportunities available to them in the community.
The large number of Refugee and Asylum Seeker families who have moved into the Dandenong area call for new and creative responses to a wide variety of needs, and the centre has evolved to provide programs to meet these needs.
From that beginning the Programs have gradually increased to the point where the centre is now open 5 days a week and caters for approximately 300 women weekly. Wellsprings has fully qualified staff and a large number of well-trained volunteers.
The Presentation Sisters were founded in 1775 by Sister Nano Nagle, to continue her work in education and outreach. Nano had earlier established schools for the poor in penal Ireland where access to education and employment was limited. Her hope was that education would enable the poor to engage more fully with life. In addition to her schools, Nano visited the poor in their homes, offering practical care and support.
Responding to a cry for help to staff Catholic schools that came from “the ends of the earth”, Presentation Sisters travelled from Limerick, Ireland to Victoria in 1873. Another group of Presentation Sisters arrived in Victoria in 1883, having first travelled from Kildare, Ireland to Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 1874. The Presentation Sisters soon established and supported primary and secondary schools across Melbourne and country Victoria, including Presentation College Windsor, and Star of the Sea College, Gardenvale. They responded to needs as they emerged.
One such need was in the growing community of Dandenong in 1912. Invited by Fr John Gleeson, of St Mary’s Parish, Presentation Sisters Patrick Considine, Fidelis Burgess and Angela Bourke travelled to Dandenong that year to found a convent at 71 Langhorne Street and establish St Mary’s Convent School. Their resources were few, but the Sisters were generously supported by the local community. The school flourished under the Sisters’ care and was, from the beginning, a place which offered compassion and welcomed diversity.
As Dandenong and its surrounds expanded in response to successive waves of migration, Presentation Sisters established or helped staff primary and secondary schools in Noble Park, Dandenong North, Doveton and Endeavour Hills. This reflected a broader commitment that saw Presentation Sisters and their colleagues provide excellence in education in the inner south-eastern suburbs, on the growing rural-urban and western fringes of Melbourne, and in country Victoria. In each case, the Sisters strove to provide the very best in learning opportunities, respectful and inclusive of culture and tradition, and responsive to the particular needs of individuals and communities.
In the 1980s, opportunities arose for the Presentation Sisters to respond in new ways to emerging community needs. From their experience in pastoral ministry and parishes grew the dreams for Wellsprings for Women and Presentation Family Centre. Each is a welcoming, supportive and caring place.
In 2014, Presentation Sisters Victoria transitioned the governance of Wellsprings for Women, Presentation Family Centre and Star of the Sea College to Kildare Ministries.
Today, Presentation Sisters in Victoria continue to work in education in diverse ways, and are active in parish and pastoral work, community development, chaplaincies, welfare and counselling, support of the sick and aged, adult and family education, spiritual direction, ecological justice and spirituality, and actions for justice and aboriginal reconciliation.
They are part of a global community of Presentation Sisters active in more than twenty countries around the world, “committed to bringing forth a sustainable society founded on respect for Earth, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.”
The City of Greater Dandenong, in honour and recognition of Ann Halpin’s priceless philanthropic efforts, named a public space in the heart of Dandenong after her. Halpin Way is in the heart of Dandenong’s dining precinct and creates a prime public realm link between the Dandenong station and the city.
Ann Halpin became aware of the isolation of many of the women in the area and after completing a Diploma in Community Development set about to create a safe place for women to come together for social connection and this developed into Wellsprings for Women which opened its doors in 1994. Ann believed in encouraging lifelong learning and so the various programs were set in place. Ann worked tirelessly for the community and became the Citizen of the Year in 2009 for the City of Greater Dandenong, was recipient of the Australia Day Award for the Holt Electorate in January in 2010, for outstanding service to the local community, and was honoured in the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2010 as an inspirational Woman.