This unit explores the history of the Catholic Church in Australia in the following topics: earliest contact with Terra Australis via European exploration in the 16th-18th centuries; the first permanent, originally lay led community in Sydney; Catholic personalities, spiritual styles and cultures; the foundation of the episcopal hierarchy in 1842 and its extension across the continent; key 19th century issues of the clash of visions between the English-led Benedictines and the Irish secular clergy, the role of Roman decision-making in the resolution of these conflicts and the education question; Catholic participation in 20th century debates surrounding labour controversies, war, conscription, Irish nationalism, the depression and communism; the Church’s relationship with non-Catholic traditions, first sectarianism and then ecumenism; the transformation of the social face of Catholicism under the impact of the Second Vatican Council, post-world war two mass migration and secularisation.

Unit code: CH9202C (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Situate the history of the Catholic Church in Australia within the context of the wider developments in Australian society


Assess the key themes and personalities that helped shape the growth of the Church in Australia from early colonial times.


Trace the origin of many of the debates in Australian public life that often revolved around the place of religion in society


Interpret the various documents of Church teaching within the context of Australian Catholic history.


Evaluate the distinctive place of religion within the wider context of Australian history.


Analyse and interpret both primary and secondary sources in a critical fashion and demonstrate competence in the methodologies and conventions of advanced research in the discipline of history


Lectures, seminars and site visits

Indicative Bibliography

  • Ayres, Philip. Prince of the Church: Patrick Francis Moran 1830-1911. Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2007.
  • Campion, Edmund. Australia’s Catholics: The Contribution of Catholics to the Development of Australian Society. Melbourne: Viking Press, 1987.
  • Duncan, Bruce. Crusade or Conspiracy? Catholics and the anti-Communist Struggle in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2001.
  • Hogan, Michael. The Sectarian Strand: Religion in Australian History. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin Books, 1987.
  • Massam, Katharine. Sacred Threads: Catholic Spirituality in Australia 1922-1962. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1996.
  • Niall, Brenda. Mannix. Melbourne: Text Publishing Company, 2015.
  • O’Donoghue, Frances, The Bishop of Botany Bay: the life of John Bede Polding, Australia’s first Catholic bishop. London: Angus and Robertson, 1982.
  • Dowd, Chris. Rome in Australia. The Papacy and Conflict in the Australian Missions, 1834-1884. 2 vols. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
  • O’Farrell, Patrick. The Catholic Church and Community: An Australian History. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 3rd revised edition, 1992.
  • O’Farrell, Patrick. Documents in Australian Catholic History. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1969.
  • Turner, Naomi. Catholics in Australia: A Social History. 2 vols. North Blackburn, Vic: Collins Dove, 1992.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

5,000 word essay

5000 50.0
Seminar or Tutorial

1,000 word seminar paper

100 20.0
Written Examination

One hour documents examination (1,000 words)

1000 30.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-10-17 16:42:08 +1100