Sister Teresa Dunlevie

Principal 1918 – 1944

Born in Adelaide in 1884, Ellen (Nellie) Dunlevie attended St Aloyius College for her entire schooling.  From there she studied at Adelaide Teachers’ College and then joined the South Australian Department of Education. She taught for seven years before entering the Convent on April 26, 1913.

After joining the Convent she became known as Sr Mary Teresa and was the first nun in South Australia to gain a Bachelor of Arts Degree.

In 1918 she was appointed Headmistress of SAC, a position she held until 1944. She was the first old scholar of SAC to be appointed to this role. Under her direction, the college developed from a comparatively small school to one of the leading girls’ colleges in Adelaide. Part of this development was the introduction of an official college uniforms incorporating the distinctive colours that remain part of the college uniform today.

Sr Teresa was responsible for many innovations as she encouraged the ideas and use of the skills and talents of every teacher. One example was the introduction of one of the first Montessori kindergartens in the state with Sr Carmel Bourke, and Commercial classes to meet the expressed needs of the students with Sr Brigid Walsh. Her progressive approach saw the expansion of the curriculum to include such subjects as Art and Eurythmics.

Under her, education was designed to develop the whole personality and give to the children the opportunity of cultivating the talents with which they were endowed – religious, intellectual, artistic, physical. Sr Teresa was a prime mover in the formation of the Catholic Girls’ Sports Association and she introduced an annual Sports day on a grand scale, the first Catholic Girls’ School to hold one.

After her retirement as Headmistress in 1944, Sr Teresa continued to teach at SAC before moving to Mercedes College where she died in 1958 aged 74 and was buried at West Terrace Cemetery. In 1995, what was originally known as McAuley House was renamed in memory of Sr Teresa.

Neville Stapleton
Archivist, St Aloysius College, 2020

Sr Teresa Dunlevie
Sr Teresa Dunlevie, St Aloysius College Archives Archives