Sr Janet Lowe

Since 2003, many at St Aloysius College, especially students of Refugee and Indigenous backgrounds, have benefited from Sr Janet’s enormous contributions to their and their family’s wellbeing. The development of Sr Janet’s compassion and understanding, as well as her wonderful practical skills, of course began much earlier.

Most of Janet Lowe’s education was with the Sisters of Mercy. After attending St Thomas’ school, Goodwood, then St Cecilia’s, now part of the SAC Performing Arts building, Janet studied at St Aloysius College for Years 8-12.

In 1960, Janet joined the Sisters of Mercy and lived at the Angas Street Novitiate for three years. At that time the third storey of the Dunlevie building was used as sleeping quarters for the novices and postulants, which meant that students could not venture upstairs. 1963 and 1964, saw Janet living at the Erindale Convent and at this time she began tertiary studies for her teacher qualification.

Mercedes College, Springfield, became her home in 1964, where she taught mainly Year 8 and 9 Maths and Science. At that time Mercedes College had ninety boarders, so as well as teaching, her other duties included supervising meals, bedtime and weekend yard duties.

Ten years later, Sr Janet was moved to Tenison College at Mt Gambier where she was also in charge of boarders, though they were fewer in number and only boarded during the week.

Sr Janet Lowe (left) with her two sisters
(Sr Janet Lowe (left) with her two sisters, St Aloysius College Archives)
Sr Janet in the Kimberley
(Sr Janet at Luurnpa Catholic School, Wirrimanu (Balgo) 1983, St Aloysius College Archives)
(Sr Janet Lowe 2021, St Aloysius College Archives)

Sr Janet’s appointment in 1983 to Luurnpa Aboriginal School in the East Kimberley, Western Australia, was the beginning of what would be a lengthy and rewarding engagement with Indigenous communities. The community had asked specifically for a Catholic school and for Kukatja language to be taught. This year was spent preparing for the new venture by attending many courses such as mission formation, cross-cultural learnings, language courses and Aboriginal learning styles. The intrepid Janet travelled by truck with the elders from Wirrumanu (Balgo) to many local communities in northern Australia to learn how they ran their community schools.

From 1984, Janet spent five years teaching secondary girls at Luurnpa and learning much about their culture. From there, she moved to Port Augusta and taught in the Indigenous section at TAFE for three years before being asked to return to the Kimberley. In 1993, she began ten years at Kururrungku Catholic school at Billiluna, which is situated at the top end of the Canning Stock Route and a short distance from Wolfe Creek crater. Education ranged from Preschool to Adult Education. Facilitated by distance education from Notre Dame University, the teaching assistants and clerical staff were able to gain qualifications.

Knowing the importance of education and having gained invaluable experience in remote settings, Sr Janet came to St Aloysius College in 2003 to support Aboriginal girls but the role soon expanded to include refugee students. Janet has been a remarkable font of wisdom and common sense which, combined with her strong mercy values, has enriched all those who have come in contact with her.

By Sr Janet Lowe and Carolyne Williams, 2021