Until 1959 St Christopher’s Convent at Manuka was the only secondary school in Canberra for Catholic girls. In 1959 St Christopher’s Secondary School was closed and was replaced by Catholic Girls’ High School, Braddon.
This school was intended to accommodate all Catholic Secondary girls in Canberra, but by 1961 enrolments were becoming so heavy that His Grace, Archbishop O’Brien decided that a new Catholic Girls’ High School had to be built in Canberra to cater for the southside secondary school girls.
Suitable land in the suburb of Griffith was made available by the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Interior.
Catholic Girls’ High School Griffith (as St Clare’s College was originally known) was blessed by His Grace, Archbishop O’Brien on Sunday 30 May 1965 at 2.30pm and was officially opened by Senator Gorton, the Minister-in-Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Research and Education.
The staff at Catholic Girls’ High School Griffith was provided on a regional basis in the same way as the enrolment was drawn from the southside suburbs of Canberra. The founding Principal was Sister Clare Slattery, a Good Samaritan Sister.
The Religious Orders staffing the primary schools, from which pupils proceeded to the new High School, also provided staff for the new regional High School at Griffith.
This arrangement was first effected at Catholic Girls’ High Braddon and was unique in Catholic schools in Australia as it maintained contact between the Order, the girl, and the Parish.
At the opening of the School, the Religious teaching staff numbered eight Sisters, comprising two representatives from each of the following congregations:
- Sisters of the Good Samaritan
- Presentation Sisters
- Franciscan Missionaries of Mary
- Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
- The Sisters of Charity joined the community two years later.
The enrolment on opening day, 2nd February 1965 was 183 girls in First and Second Forms (Years 7 & 8). These girls completed their primary schooling at schools in southside parishes. These schools were:
- St Bede’s, Red Hill
- St Christopher’s, Manuka
- St Peter Chanel’s, Yarralumla
- St Benedict’s, Narrabundah
They were later joined by the Sisters of Charity. The first lay staff members joined the four Religious Orders during 1965.
In 1965 Catholic Girls’ High School Griffith accepted only First and Second Form pupils. A year was added annually until by 1969 Sixth Form was opened.
The title of the school was changed officially from CGHS Griffith to St Clare’s College in 1980. The school was named after two significant women:
- Saint Clare of Assisi, who was considered to represent an ideal of womanhood
- Sister Clare Slattery, the founding Principal of the College.
St Clare’s College is now the largest Catholic girls’ secondary school in Canberra with a wide variety of subjects, a high academic standard and a commitment to the Gospel message.