Wadeye community working together to preserve “special building”

The Old Convent in Wadeye has been added to the NT Heritage register, making it 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 buildings of historical importance. “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,” said Kardu Dimirnirn Traditional Owner Ralph Narbarup.

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

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.

“In support of this Heritage nomination we received a letter from the Thamarrurr Development Corporation signed by more than 40 Traditional Owners,” said Acting Director Heritage Branch, Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, Dianne Bensley.

“This is a great example of a community working together to safeguard a place of historical importance.”

Wadeye Old Convent 1940's to 1970's