Discalced Carmelites of the Australia Oceania Region


This is a brief overview of how the Carmelite Monasteries of women came to be founded in this region. We have a custom of calling our Monasteries ‘Carmels’. ‘Carmel’ is a biblical word, derived from the Hebrew 'karem' meaning a 'vineyard' or 'garden'. When the suffix 'el' is added for the Divine name, it takes on the meaning of 'the garden of the Lord.' ‘Carmel’ is also a biblical symbol for beauty and fruitfulness; it is used by the spouse in the Song of Songs (7:5) in order to praise the beauty of the Beloved. We want our Monasteries to be truly ‘gardens of the Lord.’

Renewed Expansion

St. Teresa died in 1582 and as early as 1604 her Nuns were establishing themselves in Paris, France.  Some of Teresa’s closest and most revered nuns were amongst the Foundresses.  By 1618 twelve Carmels had been established in France including one at Limoges founded by Venerable Isabelle of the Angels who was one of the original group from Spain.


In 1654 the Carmel of Limoges founded another Carmel at Angouleme in the Department of Charente.  As with many of the French Carmels it was suppressed in 1792 during the French Revolution.

It was re-established in 1854 from the Carmel of Lectoure. One of its first Postulants was Julie Philomene Portet who entered in 1856 and became known as Sr. Mary of the Cross.

Missionary  Spirit

The Marist Fathers were active in the Diocese of Angouleme at this time as well as in their Foreign Missions in Oceania and elsewhere.  A strong sense of prayer and sacrifice for the Missions took root in the Carmel of Angouleme.  Mother Mary of the Cross, then Prioress, felt inspired “to found a Carmel, but as far away as possible in a place where one had never existed before.”

What could be further away than Sydney, Australia!

Australia, the Land of their Heritage.  1885

On 31st May 1885 the Sisters set out from the Carmel of Angouleme en route to Marseilles where they were to board the Oceanien for the long and arduous voyage to Australia.  They were in the care of two Marist Fathers also traveling to Australia.  The Oceanien sailed into Sydney Harbour on 30th July 1885. The Nuns went to Villa Maria, Hunters Hill to a small cottage which the Marist Fathers made available to them.

The Warren

Within six months the Nuns inadvisably sank their funds into the purchase of a large mansion known as “The Warren” on the banks of the Cooks River at Marrickville.  This proved a disastrous venture and ultimately the Nuns lost it, vacating it on 14th June, 1900, the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Abandon Australia  -  Never!

Following this disaster, several Carmels in France, along with Archbishops and Cardinals demanded the Nuns return to France.  Cardinal Moran agreed with this and booked their passage, but the Nuns, with Teresian determination, refused to go!  They remained in Australia and increased and multiplied!

Wardell Road

In 1902 the Nuns moved to a six acre property on Wardell Road, Dulwich Hill.  The previous years and many ensuing years were times of real poverty and struggle.  A committee of devoted and generous hearted people laboured and raised funds for the Nuns.  With this help the Nuns added a new section of building in 1911 which enabled them to establish the canonical enclosure.  In 1918 they built the chapel and cloister section.


These extensions of the building became necessary to meet the increase in vocations to the life.  From as early as 1888, only three years after the arrival of the Nuns in Australia, applicants began joining the Nuns.  The first of these was Emily Stapleton, known as Sr. Mary Agnes of Jesus.

St. Therese of Lisieux

With the promotion of the Cause of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in the first decades of the twentieth century, a renewed interest in the life of the Carmelite Nuns was manifested throughout the world.  The Carmel in Dulwich Hill also experienced this growth in numbers. 

Expansion within Australia and beyond

  • In 1922 the Carmel of Dulwich Hill made its first foundation in Melbourne at Hawthorn, relocating at Kew.
  • In 1927 the Carmel was founded in Brisbane at Auchenflower, relocating later at Ormiston.
  • In 1933 Christchurch, N.Z. was founded.
  • In 1935 Perth (Nedlands) W.A. followed.
  • In 1937 Auckland, N.Z.
  • All of these Carmels were founded in such a brief time from the Carmel at Dulwich Hill.
  • In 1966 Dulwich Hill founded the Carmel at Goonellabah, Lismore, NSW.
  • In 1935 Melbourne Carmel founded in Adelaide at Glen Osmond.
  • Glen Osmond in turn founded in Tasmania in 1948 at Longford, later relocated at Launceston.
  • Christchurch, N.Z. founded the Carmel at Apia, Western Samoa in 1959.
  • Apia founded the Carmel at Wallis Island in 2003
  • Carmel in Papua New Guinea was founded from Autun, France in 1934, firstly at Kubuna, relocating at Yule Island and later at Bomana near Port Moresby.
  • In 1976 the Carmel of Bangkok, Thailand founded at Dardanup in Bunbury Diocese, W.A., later relocating at Gelorup.
  • In August 1986 the decision to request the Holy See to suppress the monasteries at Dulwich Hill and Parkes led to the formation of a new community at Varroville.  This was formally ratified 23 January 1987, Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph.

To find out more 

To find out more about the individual Carmels select a community from the menu on the left. To contact one of our communities go to the Contact Details page.