Our Story

Tenison Woods College has a rich history, stretching back to the early days of settlement in the South East of South Australia, where Fr Julian Tenison Woods and Mother Mary MacKillop established the first Parish School in Penola in 1866.

Tenison Woods College was formally established in 2001 as an R-12 Catholic Co-educational College as a result of the combined efforts of the Parish of Mount Gambier, the Boards and community of Tenison College and St Paul’s Primary School.

The site Tenison Woods College occupies was once part of a pastoral holding, Moorak Station. In the late 1920’s the Parish of Mount Gambier purchased part of the remaining property from the Pegler family with the intention of establishing a secondary school for boys. That school, which began in 1931, was known as Marist Brothers’ Agricultural College.

The Sisters of Mercy began teaching in Mount Gambier in 1880 and moved into the Penola Road Convent in 1908, at that stage called St Joseph’s Convent of Our Lady of Mercy. In 1952 the Parish School of St Paul’s was merged with St Joseph’s to become Mater Christi College, however in 1969 the primary section once more became St Paul’s School with secondary education functioning independently as Mater Christi College.

In 1972 Tenison College was formed following the merging of Mater Christi College and Marist Brothers Agricultural College. In the ensuing years since, both St Paul’s and Tenison College emerged as significant Catholic educational institutions within the South-East of South Australia.

The amalgamation of St Paul’s Primary School and Tenison College in 2001 formed Tenison Woods College, starting a new chapter in the history of Catholic Education in the Mount Gambier region.

Under the leadership of Principal David Mezinec, Tenison Woods College today is an enterprising Catholic School providing excellence in education for all students. The College has a strong commitment to educating all students to achieve their personal best in academic, spiritual, social and sporting achievements.

Read more about our history.



Father Julian Tenison Woods

Father Julian Edmund Tenison Woods arrived in the South East of South Australia in 1857. He was 24 years of age, had been in Australia for three years and had experienced seven years of Catholicism and three months of priesthood.

His parishioners were spread throughout 2,000 square miles from the Murray to the coast and west to the border. They were either squatters, servants, shepherds, storekeepers or workers attached to one of three townships of Penola, Robe and Mount Gambier.

He remained in the area for ten years, ministering and serving the people of the South East until 1867 when he was recalled to Adelaide.

Father Woods’ books and scientific articles are still consulted today and his contemporaries widely accepted and respected his theories and opinions in the area of botany, geology, marine biology, geography and paleontology. In all, he wrote six books and had over 200 articles on scientific observations published.

Deeply troubled because so many poor children had no access to any education, Father Woods determined to set up a series of Catholic schools in the South East.

We believed that his high ideals of scholarship and concern for the poor provide a worthy inspiration to encourage our students to meet the challenges of the future.

Read more about Father Julian Tenison Woods.

Tenison Woods College respectfully acknowledges the Boandik people are the First Nations people of the Mount Gambier South Eastern region of South Australia and pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, past, present and emerging.