Who we are

Our History

The establishment of the many groups of Sisters of Mercy around the world began with Catherine McAuley and the founding sisters in Dublin, Ireland. From there they reached out to the world. Learn more of those first journeys of Mercy below.


Learn more of those first journeys by clicking the image.

Arrival in Australia and Papua New Guinea

The Sisters of Mercy first came to Australia in 1846 and to Papua New Guinea in 1956. Dedicated to serving people who suffer from injustices related to poverty, sickness or lack of education, we have continually endeavoured to respond to a range of local and global needs.

The leader of the first group of Sisters to land at Fremantle, Western Australia on The leader of this first Mercy community in Australia who landed in Fremantle on January 8, 1846 was Ursula Frayne who had known Catherine well and, in fact, was with her when she died. View the Ursula Frayne story HERE.

Following the establishment of the first foundation of Sisters of Mercy in Perth in 1846, foundations and communities of Sisters of Mercy spread throughout Australia and into Papua New Guinea.


As early as 1905, the Australian Bishops urged congregations of common origin to unite so that their capacity for the vital work of Catholic education, as well for as other ministries would be strengthened. Although since the beginning there had been a number of movements towards unity for the various Mercy congregations in Australia, a most significant step in this direction happened with the creation of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia (ISMA) on December 12, 1981. For thirty years, ISMA, which encompassed the 17 independent Australian Congregations of Sisters of Mercy and the Autonomous Region of Sisters of Mercy in Papua New Guinea (PNG), engaged fruitfully in God’s mission. From 2005 the Sisters commenced formally searching for the best way to nurture our unity and to strengthen our capacity for engaging in God’s mission of mercy.

Reconfiguring Mercy

The search involved much prayer, frequent theological reflection on the social needs of our time, careful study of the life and ministry of our founder, Catherine McAuley and her vision for religious life, and several comprehensive consultations in which all sisters were encouraged to participate.

In 2010, the congregations of Adelaide, Ballarat East, Bathurst, Cairns, Goulburn, Grafton, Gunnedah, Melbourne, Perth, Rockhampton, Singleton, Townsville, West Perth, Wilcannia–Forbes, as well as the autonomous region of PNG, decided to ask the Holy See for permission to relinquish our independence and to come together as one new congregation. Rome granted this permission in July, 2011 to become effective at the commencement of the First Chapter of the new congregation on December 12, the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland. The new congregation is known as Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

Today there are four groups engaged in the on-going work of Mercy – our Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG) and the Congregations of the Sisters of Mercy of Brisbane, North Sydney and Parramatta.

Learn more of the Australian journey of Mercy by visiting the link below.