New life for the presbytery

After lying derelict for many years, the former St Vincent’s presbytery next to the church on Redfern Street is about to enter a new phase of life, as the transformation of the old building into a new school for Aboriginal children nears completion.

Redfern Jarjum College, sponsored by St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, on behalf of the Jesuits, will be a fee-free school. (Jarjum means “children” in the Bundjalung language).

“Jarjum’s mission is to educate urban Aboriginal children who are not currently participating or coping in mainstream primary schools and to alleviate the social, emotional, behavioural and health disadvantages of these children so that they can return to mainstream schooling, and to provide opportunities for them to pursue secondary education. It will serve girls and boys aged between 4 and 13 from Kindergarten to Year 6.

In partnership with the Redfern Aboriginal community and other community organisations, the growth of the children will be intensive and holistic. With a low student-to teacher ratio, care of the individual student will be at its heart. It will provide a culturally attuned and locally responsive approach to meet each child’s individual needs through social, spiritual, academic and emotional engagement with the child.

Jarjum will focus on the educational foundations of literacy and numeracy, along with building each child’s self-concept and self-worth. The school day will include transport to school, before school care, washing facilities and clothing, meals, health checks and after school activities. A key feature will be community development with parents and carers through opportunities to participate in school activities such as meal preparation, sharing stories and regular gatherings.

The success of Jarjum College will draw on the Jesuit and Catholic experiences in Aboriginal primary education and urban Aboriginal outreach programs.”

Redfern Jarjum College NewsletterEdition 1, June 2012

Art works by Bill Clements honouring Shirley Smith (Mum Shirl) and Fr Ted Kennedy are to be installed in the area between the presbytery and the church. The sculptures, pictured below, consist of a set of three bronze reliefs entitled “Sanctuary”, and a portrait of Mum Shirl.

Helen Waters, first visitor at Fr Ted Kennedy’s presbytery at St Vincent’s Church, Redfern
(600mm x 200mm)

Mum Shirl and the City
Mum Shirl comforting the afflicted
(600mm x 200mm)

Image of Fr Ted Kennedy
(600mm x 200mm)

Mrs Shirley C. Smith M.B.E., A.M.
(1500mm x 940mm x 960mm without stone plinth)

For more information see BILL CLEMENTS, A Sculptor’s Tribute to Mum Shirl and Fr Ted Kennedy on Redfern Oral History.

Frank Brennan SJ writes in Edition 1 of the Redfern Jarjum College Newsletter:

A Touch of History

In the late 1970’s, a group of Jesuit novices would come from Canisius College at Pymble and live at Redfern for a couple of months each year. We were very raw, and a touch anxious. In 1976, I was one of the group. Four of us lived in “a dive” in Great Buckingham Street. We would spend the day in and around the presbytery with Fr Ted Kennedy. At first I was terrified. Ted opened his door to all comers, including those who were drunk or affected by drugs. He provided a home for the homeless, and a place of belonging for the most alienated on the streets of Redfern.

I had the plumb job: I was Shirley Smith’s driver. Each day I would drive Mum Shirl to court, or to prison, or to the homes around Redfern looking for people to go to court or to report to police for parole. Shirl would issue instructions and give advice – with great authority and with a love that embraced all. In court, her word was gospel; on the streets, it was fail-safe; and in the presbytery, it was maternal. The Sunday eucharist in St Vincent’s Church was a reminder that God so loved the world as it was in its brokenness that He sent His own son in complete self-giving love. Fr Ted and Mum Shirl incarnated the mission and the call for all of us.

I am so pleased that their images will greet all comers to Jarjum College. Ted and Shirl will welcome the learner and commission the taught to go forth and make the world a better place.

The St Vincent’s Presbytery building has social and historic significance as the residence for 30 years of Fr Ted Kennedy, and by implication its recognition as “home” to the local Aboriginal community. The Presbytery also has local Aboriginal significance in its contributory role in the establishment of Aboriginal organisations; The Aboriginal Medical Service and Aboriginal Housing Company; and by its association with the first urban Aboriginal Lands Rights acknowledgement in the local government area. Fr Ted Kennedy along with Mum Shirl, an Aboriginal Elder, are well remembered for their work with the Aboriginal Community in Redfern.



If you are able, please consider making a donation to Redfern Jarjum College to help complete the installation of these sculptures. All gifts are tax-deductible.

Donations must be accompanied by a statement that they are to be used for the art works, or better still, use THIS FORM, which has all the details.

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