Timeline of The Australian & Timor Leste Carmelites

Since arriving in Australia over 140 years ago, the Carmelites have dedicated themselves to help the community by providing pastoral and practical support. We’re committed to engaging and transforming lives and restoring the faith of those suffering from social and economic hardships. The Carmelites believe everyone deserves an opportunity for a better life and the chance to reach their true potential.


16 April 1881

5 Irish Carmelite Missionaries arrive in Gawler, South Australia to work among the large, impoverished community, primarily consisting of farmers and mechanics. They provide sermons and lectures and offer retreats and missions to the community.

7 May 1882

After many successful missions, Frs Butler and Shaffrey take charge of the Sandridge parish (including Port Melbourne and St Kilda), Victoria. In addition to establishing the new parish in Port Melbourne, in 1883 they set up a ‘night school’ for adults, teaching history, literature, art, and music to this group of largely uneducated people. During the Great Maritime Strike of the 1890’s, their soup kitchen keeps the dock workers and their families from death’s door.


In their public rooms, the Carmelites begin the nucleus of their Melbourne library with a collection of historical and practical books brought over from Europe. In 1928 the Carmelite Library is formally established in Kew to support men in training. In 1937 it is moved to the Order’s new monastery in Donvale where its collection continues to grow.

*The library was relocated to Middle Park in 2002 and here it remains to serve its mission to be a significant theological, intellectual, and cultural resource to the community. The library’s curated sub collections on Australian Aboriginal spirituality and inter-religious dialogue serve a broad readership in spirituality that draws from all ages and major religious traditions.

January 1902

The Carmelites move from Gawler to the Parish of Port Adelaide, South Australia. As in Gawler, in addition to providing pastoral support, they work extensively in educating young working people to complete their education.


With an initial group of 3 students in 1928 the demand for Australian vocations increases and in 1937 the Whitefriars Monastery Seminary opens in Donvale to house 18 community members including students.

22 March 1930

Fr Robert Power becomes the first Commissary General of Australia and the seed for the independent Carmelite Province of Australia is planted. He is renowned for his expertise and passion for education, as he had been fundamental in establishing a night school for young labourers back in Dublin, Ireland.

1 January 1937

The Order continues to expand into other states when the Archbishop asks the Carmelites to take over the parish of Coorparoo, Queensland. Here they establish both a church and school to support the community.

13 September 1948

An independent Australian Province of Carmelites is formally established, and Fr Edmund Nugent is appointed Head of the Province.

January 1956

Following the pattern of the Irish Carmelites, the Australian Carmelites aspire to be of service as missionaries in other countries. Frs Morganti and Dowd, and Br Parsons travel to Zimbabwe to support the Irish Carmelite Mission serving poor people in rural areas there.

January 1956

Sees the foundation of parishes in Hilton (Perth), WA, and Wentworthville, NSW. Wentworthville expands rapidly and within a few years 2 large schools are built to support the heavily migrant community.

January 1961

Whitefriars College, a Carmelite secondary school for boys, opens in Donvale in response to the demand from local families for schools to educate their children in the tradition of the Catholic faith. The school provides new opportunities for the Carmelites to work with the community in education. The school is still open today and over the years has educated over 11,000 students.

March 1973

Once again, a desire to serve people in growing mission areas leads the Carmelites to travel to the mission parish of Sumbul in North Sumatra to support the rapidly growing community of Indonesian Carmelites.

29 January 1977

Sancta Sophia, a Carmelite retreat centre, is founded to promote interreligious dialogue, especially through the practice and teaching of meditation. The centre is a place of gathering, meditation, silence, and creativity. It closed in 2020 after the death of Carmelite, Ken Petersen.


The Carmelite Development Ministry is established as an outreach to address the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Australian community, helping people to navigate the pressures and challenges of everyday life. Originally known as the Society of Our Lady Mount Carmel, in 2009 it became known as the Carmelites of Australia and Timor-Leste.

8 May 2001

The Australian Carmelites vote to incorporate Timor-Leste as part of the Australian Province. 3 months later, during a visit to Timor by the Prior Provincial and other friars, the Carmelites formally accept responsibility for the Timorese Carmelites and the Zumalai Parish located in a rural region on the southern coast of Timor-Leste.

2 August 2004

The foundation for the first Carmelite Seminary in Timor-Leste is established in Dili. Young Timorese candidates for the Order no longer need to travel to Indonesia for additional training. The Carmelite training program prepares highly motivated young men to provide pastoral care to traumatised communities, or to work in leadership roles across the wider Timorese society.

24 September 2004

The Province name is formally changed to the Province of Australia and Timor-Leste to demonstrate solidarity with the Timorese.

29 July 2009

Launch of the Carmelite Centre by Fr Stanhope. The centre aims to facilitate spiritual journeys, providing spiritual nourishment, and creating calmer and hope-filled lives.

2 September 2019

Carmel Impact is formally established. The charity builds on the Carmelites’ eight century legacy of serving humanity, and the last 20 years working with impoverished communities in Timor-Leste. Its goal is to transform lives through education and community programs.

Make a difference in the world!
Every action has its impact.

Carmel Impact’s education programs in Timor-Leste contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals of: No poverty; Good health and wellbeing; Quality education; and Gender equality. 

You can make an immediate difference by actively supporting community development projects in rural Timorese communities. All donations over $2.00 made to Carmel Impact are tax deductible.