The Southern Cross : May 2012
www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross May 2012 Page 5 news | An important part of South Australia's history relating to the social welfare work of Australia's first saint, Mary MacKillop, has been documented and displayed by an Adelaide businessman. When Mr Vin Kean first heard that his Adelaide BMW showroom was located on the site of the House of Providence, which Mary MacKillop and her order established to provide support and shelter to the underprivileged, he wanted to make sure the information was accurate. A committed Catholic with a strong interest in history, Mr Kean organised a meeting in August 2010 with the Sisters of St Joseph provincial leader, Sr Marion Gambin, and historians Sister Marie Foale and Sister Patricia Keane. He then commissioned a thorough search of the Lands Title archives to uncover documentation which proved that the site was, indeed, owned by the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart Inc and the Catholic Church Endowment Society from 1905 to 1951. The house at 31 West Terrace was sold to the Commonwealth when the Sisters relocated to larger premises at Cowandilla. The Memorandum of Transfer located by Mr Kean states that the land was bought for 1,545 pounds on April 11 1905 when it became available as a deceased estate following the death of Elizabeth Santo, the wife of prominent Adelaide businessman and politician Philip Santo. Once he had the proof, as well as additional information about the history of the site, he commissioned Mr Chris Tillett of Tillett Memorials to create a plaque set in granite stone and featuring a photograph of the two-storey bluestone building, as well as recognition of St Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. "This site (the corner of West Tce and Phillips St) had to be recognised," Mr Kean told The Southern Cross. "This is about what Mary did in this city that we are all part of...the Adelaide gaol was less than a quarter of a mile from the residence and the West End brewery was 300 yards away up Phillips Street. "The West End of the city had people who were less fortunate, and the Sisters took them in and fed them, clothed them and even gave them a bed if they needed it." The intensely private Mr Kean said the plaque had nothing to do with his business but rather was about verifying a piece of history in our life-time. The house was, in fact, the only property owned by the Sisters in the City of Adelaide. Although they had other enterprises and schools in the city, they were rented. A small ceremony was held in March to unveil the commemorative plaque that has been mounted in front of the Adelaide BMW Showroom. Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson and Sister Marion Gambin unveiled the plaque in the presence of the Sisters of St Joseph community in South Australia and friends and supporters of the order. Retired Supreme Court judge Mr Kevin Duggan QC spoke about Sir Josiah Henry Symon, a distinguished lawyer, politician and advocate for women's rights who arrived in South Australia from Scotland in 1866 and lived in the house at 31 West Tce before selling it to Philip Santo. Sr Marion Gambin said Mary MacKillop's motto of never seeing a need without doing something about it was the driving force behind whatever the Sisters did. This included establishing the House of Providence to provide care and shelter for needy Adelaide women, especially the frail aged. She said between 1868 and 1905, the Providence, which rented any houses it occupied, moved eight times because of increasing demand for places and/or rising rents. In 1905, the diocese and the Congregation purchased the house at 31 West Tce, and, for the first time in its 37 year history, the Providence had security of tenure. "Today's Josephites and the Catholics of Adelaide are very grateful to Mr Kean for his sense of history and the steps he has taken to acknowledge the charitable works begun by Mary MacKillop and Julian Woods in Adelaide in the 1860s and now being carried out in so many parts of this country and beyond," said Sr Marion. "This plaque will stand, not only as a memorial to the Josephites' work, but also to Mr Kean's generosity in setting it up on his property." UNVEILED: Mr Vin Kean (centre) at the unveiling of the plaque with Mr Kevin Duggan QC, Archbishop Philip Wilson, Sr Marie Foale and Sr Marion Gambin. Uncovering the West End's past By Jenny Brinkworth The Providence, West Terrace, Adelaide 1910. Sisters pictured (L-R) are Elizabeth Etheridge, Claude Riddell, Adrian Rigg, Modesta Noonan and Hilda McNamara with aged guests on the verandah.