Sophia Mundi Inner-City Steiner school was founded in 1985 on the initiative of a group of parents seeking a Steiner (or Waldorf) education for their children. It has grown to be a school of around 200 students from playgroups for mothers and infants, an associated kindergarten, and Prep through to Class 12.
The school campus is now situated amongst the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of the natural bushland overlooking the Yarra River and the Collingwood Children’s Farm in Abbotsford.
The school is now a tenant of the Abbotsford Convent Foundation, the organisation which is growing the arts, cultural and education precinct on the site of the former Abbotsford Convent. It is of huge value for the school to be situated in a precinct with artists, galleries, dance studios, theatres and workshops.
St Mary’s History
It is presumed that Reed Smart & Tappin were the architects of this building as it resembles the Convent and the Annexe buildings. Built in 1911 it housed the older ‘preservites’ who were voluntary admissions.
The majority of those girls worked on the farm. Post WW11 migrant families boarded their daughters in St Mary’s whilst they found their feet in Australia. The younger ‘preservites’ were based in the orphanage St Joseph’s – a building that was demolished to make way for the Good Shepherd nursing home in Clarke Street.
School Facilities History
Sophia Mundi has leased facilities in and around Abbotsford since 1985.
The school moved to the St Joseph’s Technical College campus in Nicholson Street Abbotsford in 1990. By the late 1990s the Nicholson St campus housed classes 1-12 and Preps, with the Little Sophia Kindergarten adjacent on the corner of Little Charles Street and Mollison St.
The Prep garden became a great feature of the Nicholson St site over the years, with a magnificent weeping mulberry tree, chook pen and a living climbing frame made from olive brances which sprouted into olive trees.
The courtyard at Nicholson St was renovated with sandpits, crabapple trees, a huge free form climbing frame and a baskeball court. The upper and lower halls saw a series of terrific plays, all of the year 12 project presentations as well as Eurythmy and musical performances.
Many members of the school community were active in the fight to save the Abbotsford Convent as part of the Abbotsford Convent Coalition and meetings of the ACC were held in Sophia Mundi’s rooms. When the Abbotsford Convent Foundation was set up, Sophia Mundi became one of the ACF’s foundation tenants, extensively rennovating the St Marys building and part of the Mercator building to house classes 1-7, and moving in during 2006. Following the move, the school community worked extensively on the grounds of St Marys, establishing sandpits, the climbing frame and renovating the tennis courts. The Kindergarten moved to Abbotsford St in Abbotsford in 2005 when the landlord sold the kindergarten property.
In 2009, the landlord of the Nicholson St Campus, the Catholic Archdiocese, indicated that Sophia Mundi’s lease on the St Joseph’s Technical College site may not be able to be renewed. This began a two year search for new facilities for the senior school and the Prep class. The school investigated and made proposals for more than 10 different existing and new buildings within Abbotsford before the new proposal for a new building within the courtyard of St Marys at the Abbotsford Convent, together with the renovation of the derelict swimming pool to become a playground and community meeting space was accepted, in December 2011. The building project, which was funded under the BER (Building the Education Revolution) was completed in July 2012 with the opening of the four new classrooms and the playground/ community meeting space in August 2012.
The school’s state of the art science laboratories were built in the derelict “blond brick building” – the Mercator Annex – from June 2012 and opened in October 2012.