At Bethlehem College we foster confident and independent young women of faith, who are creative and collaborative thinkers, sharing a love of learning and striving for excellence. They are courageous in mind and deed and are global citizens with a genuine concern for others.
Our college motto is “ESTE FIDELES” – “Be Faithful” – and it is an ideal for all of us as we strive to be faithful to God, to ourselves, and to each other. Respect and concern for the individual and her needs is central to life at Bethlehem.
Be Faithful “Este Fideles”
I look to the future, at what I might be,
I pray to the Lord to stay close to me
And plant in my heart now the vision to see
In the end – it’s all up to me.
As we step into tomorrow, we hold in our hearts
a hope in the future, in all that we are.
And believe our lives will go far,
And believe in who we are.
So let’s pray that the laughter and sunshine will fall,
And each new day will find us living God’s call.
A call to be faithful, a call to be strong,
And remember – Este Fideles.
We step into a new day, and all that it holds,
Pray that our friendships be ones that grow old.
We give to each other a blessing of peace
As we go, with hearts that all know
There’s a long, long way to go.
BETHLEHEM College began on 26 January 1881 when the Sisters of Charity established a high school in Goswell Cottage, located at what is now 125-127 Elizabeth Street, Ashfield. In 1882, they moved the high school to two cottages in Bland Street and also established a convent there. Original enrolments were low, probably less than twenty. The significance, however, was that this was the first high school for girls in the inner western suburbs. From early times a broad curriculum was offered, with special attention to cultural subjects such as music.
Religious Knowledge, Physiology, English Literature, Geology, Ancient History, Art, Modern History, Needlework, Latin, Drama, French, Music, Geometry, Physical Education.
With about 80 pupils by 1900, the school soon outgrew the original buildings, and in 1906 these were replaced by a new n school building and an assembly hall. Opening the new buildings, Cardinal Moran recommended the name Bethlehem College. From this time until the late 1950s primary students (including some boys) were also enrolled. In 1914, when there were 200 students and 10 teachers, the school became a registered secondary school under the name Bethlehem Ladies’ College. By the 1920s its classes extended to the Leaving Certificate. Bethlehem expanded gradually to 265 pupils in 1950, and there were various extensions to the buildings, including a new convent in 1927 and Aikenhead House in 1938. Helping this consolidation was the Ex-Students’ Association, founded in 1918.
Dramatic growth occurred in the 1960s when the Wyndham reforms to secondary education were being introduced. The curriculum changes were accepted confidently, because Bethlehem College had always offered a broad secondary curriculum. Bethlehem was one of the first girl schools in Sydney to build science laboratories thus demonstrating an innovative approach to curriculum delivery in its early days as well. The biggest problem was the increased enrolment, which mushroomed from 381 secondary girls in 1960 to 726 in 1969. This was partly due to the increased demand for secondary education, but more importantly because the Sisters of Charity agreed that Bethlehem College would be a regional girls’ high school.
By 1970 there was a need to limit enrolments, which were coming from about ten surrounding parishes. The rapid expansion required more classrooms and specialist buildings. Fortunately, the beginnings of government funding helped in the provision of a succession of new buildings and extensions from the 1960s through to the ‘Eora’ technology block of 1992, named after the Aboriginal people of the Ashfield area. Funding also allowed the employment of many more lay teachers, who gradually assumed more responsibility in the school.
At the end of 1991 the Sisters of Charity ended their 110 years of leadership of the school and the CEO, Sydney appointed Mrs Joy Short as the first lay Principal. In October 2005 a building project was completed which included the refurbishment of the music performance and rehearsal space, a commercial kitchen, design and technology workshops, a new careers centre and canteen and lift for disabled access. Following this further refurbishments occurred which included the administration area, college chapel, science laboratories, gymnasium and outdoor sporting facilities. To support the College the Archdiocese of Sydney funded the building of the College Hall which is a joint facility utilised by both Bethlehem and De La Salle College. The multipurpose Hall has a seating capacity of 1500 and is a centre for the performing arts, sport and other whole school events. The first official function to take place in the Hall was welcoming the World Youth Day Cross and Icon on Holy Thursday 2008. The Hall was Blessed and Opened by Archbishop George Pell in November 2008.
Bethlehem College continues as a prominent regional girls’ high school in inner western Sydney offering a selective stream for gifted students and scholarships in the performing arts. The college has continued its innovative practices in Science Education engaging in a Scientist in Schools Program with CSIRO. The federal government funding project Building the Education Revolution was approved in April 2009 to further refurbish the College creative arts facilities.
In 2018, it was 100 years since the formation of the then named Bethlehem Ex-Students’ Union. From that time, it has provided a social network as well as a means for ex-students to support the Sisters of Charity in their service to the school and the wider community.
After some years’ hiatus, the Association was re-formed in 2011 with the revised Constitution aiming to provide opportunities for the Ex-Students of Bethlehem College to maintain a relationship with the school that nurtured them as well as a relationship with each other.
As it was in the beginning, the Association also aimed to celebrate the significance of the Sisters of Charity as founders of the College and as women who had a significant impact on the students they taught.
At the celebration of our 100th Anniversary in September 2018, all past presidents of the Association, from its inception to the present time, were acknowledged and honoured for their contribution by a stalwart Bethlehem ex-student and long-time committee member herself, Cathy Bosotti (Russo, LC 1963). At the same event, a presentation on 100 years of working-class achievements of the college students was rivetingly delivered by Maureen Cleary (Whelan, LC 1962). Both presentations are included above.
In order to respond to the wishes of ex-students canvassed in a survey in late 2017, it was decided that special events would be celebrated, rather than having an Annual Reunion.
We wish to maintain the practice of helping former classmates renew and continue to celebrate their friendships together. Special celebrations, in addition to self-organised class get-togethers, will hopefully facilitate this.
An electronic database of ex-students has been established with its currency and accuracy relying on ex-students themselves making contact with the Association to update any details. Our contact details are below. A biannual newsletter has traditionally been emailed and current and previous newsletters are included above. From 2019 it is anticipated communication will be via email only.
The Association has traditionally presented the outgoing Year 12 students with a Bethlehem Ex-Students badge and given them one year’s free membership to the Association. A special award, the Este Fideles Award, is also presented to a Year 12 student of outstanding qualities and achievements. In 2018, it was impossible to choose between two worthy recipients. We hope to continue this tradition into the future.
The cost of membership to the Association is $20 per annum. Part of this fee goes directly to the College Breakfast Club which provides a nutritious breakfast a number of days in the week for those students who otherwise come to class hungry.
The fee also enables us to finance awards, pay for printing and postage and support the college community in whatever way we can.
Telephone: 0409 986 740
Bethlehem College Ashfield
18 Bland Street,
Ashfield NSW 2131
Phone: 02 9798 9099
Fax: 02 9799 4105
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