First Heritage listing for Wadeye

Department of Tourism, Sport and Culture

The Old Convent in Wadeye has been added to the NT Heritage register. It is the first heritage-listed building in the community.

The Old Convent was built in 1940 by Catholic Missionaries and local Aboriginal men, using native timber. It is one of several buildings that remain from the establishment of the Catholic Mission at Wadeye, then called Port Keats.

The elevated building is associated with Bishop Francis Xavier Gsell, Father Richard Docherty and Sister Magdalen McNamara, who all helped establish Catholic Missions in the Territory.

From 1941-1979 the Old Convent was home to the Sisters from the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. They also housed and educated Aboriginal children at the Old Convent until separate dormitories and a school were built.

The Old Convent was nominated to be heritage listed by the Thamarrurr Development Corporation in Wadeye, which hopes to create a heritage precinct that incorporates several of the buildings of historical importance.

As noted by Dianne Bensley, Acting Director, Heritage Branch, Parks, Wildlife and Heritage:

“In support of this Heritage nomination we received a letter from the Thamarrurr Development Corporation signed by more than 40 Traditional Owners. This is a great example of a community working together to safeguard a place of historical importance.

“Last year the Thamarrurr Development Corporation received a $100,000 Arts Trail Regional Stimulus Grant from the NT Government to carry out restorative works on the Old Convent building, and the community is logging and milling local timber for the works.

“Along with the Arts Trail Regional Stimulus Grant, this heritage listing will help the community further develop the Old Convent as a place of cultural keeping and learning for artists and visitors.”

As noted by Ralph Narbarup, Kardu Dimirnirn Traditional Owner:

“We are really happy that the Old Convent has been put on the heritage list, it’s a special building that needs to be taken care of.

“We’re looking forward to developing the building so that all the old stories can be passed on.”

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