Where it all began
On 9 December 1892, Sister Caroline Amy arrived in Brisbane to begin the work of the Society of the Sacred Advent (SSA). She had come from Clewer in England, from the Community of St John the Baptist, and had answered a plea for assistance from the Vicar of St John’s Pro-Cathedral in Brisbane, the Reverend Stone-Wigg. Sister Caroline Amy’s dedication and faithfulness saw the community quickly grow and a strong ministry focusing on the needs of women and children was established. In 1906, Mother Emma took over as the Superior, a position she served in until her death in 1939.
Education in Queensland in the nineteenth century was a two-tier system, with schools run by the government and by churches. By 1860, financial aid to church schools was abolished, resulting in the church's establishment of a network of church schools offering the very best teaching. The Sisters' educational philosophy was based on religious principles and never narrowly academic, seeking to actively educate "the whole personality - physical, mental, spiritual - that the girls may live to their fullest capacity."
The SSA were responsible for the establishment of several schools throughout Queensland including St Aidan's (established in 1929), St Margaret's (established in 1895) as well as St Michael's in Brisbane, St Catherine's in Warwick, St Anne's in Townsville, St Gabriel's in Charters Towers, St Mary's in Herberton and St Faith's School in Yeppoon.
The first move by the SSA to establish a school in the western suburbs of Brisbane was made in July 1927. In October 1928 a house (on 2 acres) was listed for sale in Corinda close to the railway station, and Reverend Canon Barrett brought this to the attention of the Sisters of the SSA who then decided to purchase the property. St Aidan's officially opened on 4 February 1929 by Bishop Henry Frewen Le Fanu with seventeen enrolments.
Mrs Christine Hartland was the first Headmistress and held that position for 19 years until 1947. She upheld the view that education for girls needed to equip them for life. She managed the school operations as well as teaching students. She was assisted by two other teachers and the Sisters visiting weekly for religious instruction. She stated "The school and I grew together." She was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and trained as a teacher at Leeds Training College where she met Elisabeth Hauptman who later became the Sister-in-Charge in St Aidan's.
At a time where teachers in the State system were required to resign after marrying, the Sisters sought to reject this trend and appoint Christine Hartland (who was already married) anyway. They were 50 years ahead of their time.
Mrs Hartland had always upheld the view that education for girls needed to equip them for life, that it was "not so much a matter of academics and sport, but of character". Her vision and leadership reflected the Sisters' concerns for excellence in education in a caring environment where each individual girl would be nurtured and shaped by Christian values to achieve her potential.
During the Great Depression many schools suffered loss of enrolments. Even church schools were not spared, except for St Aidan's, which actually experienced growth during this time, reaching 134 enrolments by 1934 thanks to the purchase of a second house in 1932 to cope with expanding numbers.
This was a promising start for the school and reflected the considerable commitment by Sister Elisabeth, a reserved and brilliant classic scholar with a Masters degree from the Girtin College in the University of Cambridge, and Mrs Hartland, the first Headmistress Christine Hartland, and Reverend Canon Barrett. The three leaders had a very successful partnership and were wonderful role models for the students from, day one.