Cabra Dominican College Established 1886
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In 1868, at the invitation of the Bishop of Adelaide, seven Dominican sisters came to South Australia and opened a school for both boarders and day students in Franklin Street, Adelaide.

In 1886, the boarders moved to a new school, the present Cabra Dominican College.  The new site, now a busy suburban area, was then regarded as country, being a large area of bare, unoccupied land, somewhere to the south.

Because the Sisters had come from Cabra, one of the leading educational establishments in Ireland, it was decided to call the new convent and school, Cabra.

The foundations of the first building were laid in March 1885, and by the end of the year the northern and western wings of the main building were completed at a total cost of less than eight thousand pounds.

In February 1886, the school opened with nine Sisters caring for 37 boarders and 3 day girls in the High School and 71 boys and girls in the Intermediate School.

At the end of sixty years these numbers had grown to 93 boarders and 232 day pupils.  Recent changes include the closing of the lower grades, accepting boys (1978) and the closure of the Boarding House (1999).  At present there are over 1000 students, with equal numbers of boys and girls.

From the beginning, a broad curriculum was introduced and during more than a century of its existence, the College has made every effort to keep pace with changing needs and educational developments.

To cater for changes, as well as for increasing numbers, additional buildings have been erected at intervals, such as the Chapel, the Library, Caleruega Hall and facilities for specialist subject areas.

The original Convent has been modified to house the College Administration, the St Mary's Unit for mildly intellectually handicapped students, a Music complex, and most recently an extensive Computing suite.

The founding Sisters were far-seeing in that they purchased a large area of land which has been so developed that, today, the many buildings are surrounded by lawns, gardens and shady trees, while within easy reach of the classroom are courts and ovals.

Cabra has the motto VERITAS, which highlights the purpose of the Dominican Order.  The existence of Cabra Dominican College is evidence of this purpose in action.

Veritas is the Latin word for Truth.  In Dominic's living of Truth, he accepted his God-given gifts and used them with gratitude and joy.  He acknowledged the intrinsic goodness of all created beings, animate and inanimate, and sought to free people imprisoned in ignorance, irrelevance and ugliness.

Through his encouraging love, many moved to a new and joyful acceptance of themselves as worthwhile and, in so doing, found themselves able to bring Christ to others.

When the original group of Dominican Sisters came to Cabra, they brought with them, and endeavoured to hand on to their students, a sense of the dignity and the beauty of life.  Early prospectuses show that the Sisters wanted to equip their students with a broad academic background which would enable them to take with confidence their place in society.

In addition, the Sisters saw it as important to encourage the arts of music, drawing, painting and literary skills, so that their students might be led to an intelligent use of liberty.

All of this was offered in an environment that acknowledged Christ's action in everyone's lives.

One hundred years later, all at Cabra can still be inspired by those initial efforts to offer a Christian education which focused especially on respect for the individual and in helping individuals to accept their personal gifts and to develop them.

Members of the Cabra Community seek to cherish that heritage and to give it expression in the daily life of the College.  Through the experience of shared values they will free each other to be persons fully alive, able to contemplate and to give others the fruits of their contemplation.

Living the Truth

The Dominican Sisters in South Australia 1868-1958

This book contains the story of young women from Ireland, England and Australia who together established a community of Dominican Sisters in Adelaide, South Australia.  It begins in 1868 when the first band of Dominican Sisters arrived in Adelaide from Ireland to found a boarding and day school for girls in the new colony.  Their work was eventually centred on Cabra, named after their mother house in Dublin.  In North Adelaide a second Dominican foundation was made from England in 1883.

The author of this book, Sister Helen Northey OP, was a member of the Holy Cross Congregation of Dominican Sisters until her death in 1994.  Using archival sources in Australia, Rome and Ireland, she explores the development of Dominican work in South Australia from its beginnings to the formation of an Australian union of Dominican congregations in 1958: its achievements and its weaknesses; its celebrations and its tensions; its leaders and its communal life.  It is a story of the adaptation of Dominican values and principles to a new country and a new society.

Sister Helen's work is a major contribution to the history of women's religious orders and to the history of the Catholic Church in South Australia.

The book is available from the Dominican Sisters Administration Centre in Adelaide.

The College Crest


Our school crest or shield is divided into 8 gyrons, meeting at the centre. It is black and white, the armourial colours of the Guzman family. Guzman was the family name of St Dominic.

Added to this shield is the white and black cross, worn by the Knights of Calatrava. St Dominic’s mother was of this family. The ‘flowering of the Cross’ represents the lily, symbolic of purity.

Above the shield there is a star, placed in memory of the brilliant star seen shining on St Dominic’s forehead at his Baptism.

The complete shield signifies that the Dominican Order has been founded for the defence of the Church.

The motto is ‘Veritas’ because a Dominican’s greatest work is to preach the Truth of God.