Our first Catholic school was established in South Grafton by Mr Edward Tracey in 1860 and was funded by a national system that issued grants, books and materials. In 1880, The Public Instruction Act which envisaged free, compulsory, secular education in Australia was adopted. By this time the future of Catholic schooling was under serious threat. The Catholic Church was now challenged to find a new way of operating its schools.
Lismore parish priest Father Jeremiah Joseph Doyle, who would later become the first Bishop of Lismore, carried with him a dream to establish schools throughout the Diocese which would be staffed by religious communities. In 1883 the first religious order staffed school was established by the Brown Josephite Sisters at Swan Bay, a small settlement between Coraki and Woodburn on the Richmond River. With the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in 1884 and the Presentation Sisters from Ireland in 1886 schools continued to be established along the coastal strip. Over time, these pioneers were joined by other religious orders, the Ursulines, the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Good Samaritans, the Lochinvar Josephites, the Christian Brothers, the Marist Brothers and the Marist Fathers.
Located on Dawson Street behind St Carthage’s Cathedral, The Presentation Convent of the Sisters was opened by Mother Stanislaus D’Arcy in 1907. After an extensive renovation, the heritage listed building was reopened on 21 November 2014 and became the home of the Catholic Schools Office.