In 1983/84, a committee of parishoners from Ingleburn and Macquarie Fields held a series of meetings aimed at establishing a Catholic secondary school which would be accessible to students living in the northern part of the Macarthur region. The committee then invited a representative from the Catholic Education Office and Brother Clarence Cunningham to meet with them to explore the possibilities of implementing this process.
A submission was put to Bishop Murray (Bishop of Wollongong) who approved the development of the school.
Negotiations with the Carmelite Fathers resulted in the present site (bordering St Andrews Road and Spitfire Drive at Varroville) being chosen and, following a number of submissions to the Commonwealth Government, a capital grant was allocated and work on Stage 1 began in September, 1985. The first group of students (145) had already commenced their secondary studies at John Therry Catholic High School at Rosemeadow, so the first group of students to actually begin at Mount Carmel were Years 7 and 8 in 1986 (a total of 292 students).
Brother Clarence Cunningham was appointed as the first principal of Mount Carmel High School. At the time, Brother Clarence was the principal of John Therry High School and had been its principal since its inception in 1981.
An outstanding feature of Brother Clarence's life as a teacher is the number and variety of places he has been principal. He was first appointed principal in 1950 at the age of 26, when, for three years, he led the secondary school at Bondi Junction. In 1953 (and continuing to 1956) he was the founding principal of the School at Ayr in northern Queensland. This was followed by principalships at Villa Maria, Hunters Hill (1958-59), Kieta in Papua-New Guinea (1960-65), Maitland (1967-71), Honiara in the Solomon Islands (1972), St. Gregory's at Campbelltown (1975-80), John Therry High School at Rosemeadow (1981-85, founding principal) and Mount Carmel High School (1986-90, founding principal). Between 1992-94, Brother served as Assistant Principal at Benedict Senior College at Auburn. In 1990, Brother Clarence was honoured with the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his services to religion and education. Brother Clarence sadly passed away on 18th August 2011.
The co-educational nature of Mount Carmel High School was important for Brother Clarence since, in his words, "The co-education takes the rough edges off the boys and the girls learn to behave like ladies". The staffing of the school was undertaken by Sister Angela Grant who, with Brother Clarence, was able to select a staff to commence the school.
On Monday, February 10, 1986, the students arrived. The opening of the school had been delayed for two weeks due to the loss of seven working weeks due to wet weather. The initial meeting was held at the Parish Centre and then students moved up to the school. The only buildings available were the completed Technics and Toilet Blocks, and the partially completed Library Block. Three classes shared the Library Block. Work continued on the rest of the school buildings.
Brother Clarence remained Principal of Mount Carmel High School until the end of 1990. In 1991, Brother Neville Solomon became the school's second principal. Under his principalship, the building program begun under Brother Clarence continued. Site changes included the covered awnings over the Art-Music courtyard and main Quadrangle, the Year 12 Classroom Block, the upgrading of the computer laboratories in the TAS Block, the inclusion of commercial kitchen facilities in the Hospitality / Food Technology Block, and the initial construction of the Champagnat Centre. The latter building is one of the most important building projects to date. The school had, since its inception, clearly suffered from the lack of a school hall. School meetings were held in the Quadrangle; prize nights were held at the St. Gregory's Auditorium; and school musicals were held, again, at St. Gregory's Auditorium or the Glenquarie Centre. Finally, in 1996, work began on Mount Carmel's own school hall on the site opposite the Administration and Hospitality / Food Technology Blocks.
In the six years that he was Principal at the school, Brother Neville attempted to create what he called a "culture and a symbolic environment". In Brother's words: "It is a culture which celebrates the best of learning, the best of sporting endeavour which has favoured the less gifted, included all students in its programs, made strong efforts in vocational education and generally tried to stand for something. That "something" is the value of a God centred, Christian life. It is given via a sound and structural religious education program. It is handed on through Mass, liturgical celebrations, assemblies and good works. It is the way we do things around here."
Brother Neville became active in the extracurricular life of Mount Carmel. At liturgies, Brother would be seen leading the singing at school liturgies while playing his electronic organ. In this area of music, Brother instigated and became involved in the development of the school band and school musical productions.
Brother Roger Burke became Principal of Mount Carmel High School in 1997. Previous to his appointment as Principal, Brother Roger had been Principal at Saint Francis Xavier's College at Hamilton (near Newcastle).
In his first year at Mount Carmel, Brother Roger made evangelisation the theme for the year. Evangelisation is the bringing of the Good News of Jesus into every human situation. The idea was very well expressed by the founder of the Marist Order, Marcellin Champagnat (1789-1840), who made it his mission to "make Jesus known and loved".
Brother Roger very often stressed the "sacredness of the school day" and the necessity for all students to give proper attention to their schooling. The idea behind the "sacredness of the school day" was the minimising of interruptions that faced students while at school, ensuring that they received maximum time with their studies.
On Friday, September 12, 1997, the Champagnat Centre was blessed and officially opened by Bishop Phillip Wilson. The selection of the name, Champagnat Centre, came as a result of a competition held for the naming of the new venue.
The photograph (left) shows Bishop Phillip Wilson (Bishop of Wollongong) and Brother Roger Burke (Principal) inside the Marian Chapel on the opening of the Champagnat Centre.
The lead up to the day and the day itself were notable for the high involvement of both staff and students. They were involved in the composition of a new school prayer, in the creation of a large banner which now hangs in the Centre on the right hand side of the main stage, in the preparing and serving of lunch for over four hundred guests, and in the liturgy which involved a traditional Filipino Candle Dance symbolising the light of Christ in the word of the Gospel.
A taped message from Brother Neville was played during the ceremony inside the Champagnat Centre. Brother Neville was unable to attend the opening ceremony due to study leave overseas at the time.
The Champagnat Centre consists of two parts. At the front of the centre is the Marian Chapel, highlighted by a large blue stained glass window and wireframe sculpture of the crucified Christ. On the floor of the chapel is a large blue carpet incorporating the school badge. The larger part of the Centre consists of a gymnasium / assembly area which can seat over one thousand people. All school assemblies are now held in this part of the Centre. The Centre is also a classroom for PDHPE classes; and is also used for Parent - Teacher Interview Days, music recitals and informal parent-teacher meetings.
At the end of 1998, work began on new extensions to Mount Carmel. Two science rooms were added to the Science Block (in the space between the Science and TAS Blocks), and four rooms were added to the back of the Year 12 Classroom Block to make it a Seniors Block for both Year 11 and 12. All six rooms were ready for use at the start of Term 3, 1999.
As a Great Jubilee event, a time capsule was buried outside the School Office on Mount Carmel Day, 21 July 2000. The capsule, organised by Mr Anthony Fisher and his Year 10 History Class, contains memorabilia of the year 2000. It is due to be re-opened on Mount Carmel Day, 2050.
A plaque on the wall above the place where the time capsule was buried reads as follows:
Another significant Jubilee event was the unveiling and blessing of the Jubilee Mural, mounted on the wall above the Rose Garden. A simple, but very significant, ceremony was held at the school on Wednesday, 22 November (2000).
The Mural was unveiled by Councillor Fred Borg, Deputy Mayor of Campbelltown, and blessed by Fr Tadgh Tierney, OCD, School Chaplain.
The Mural depicts the major themes of this year's Great Jubilee and is the work of Art Teachers, Ms Sharon Attard and Ms Theresa Agius, and the Art students of Years 8, 9 and 10.
On Monday, June 25, 2001, work began on a large building program that would affect a large part of the school. This program involves the establishment of:
- a new set-up for the teaching and learning of PDHPE, Music, Drama and Dance in the form of an extension to the Champagnat Centre
- a new School Library to be formed by combining the present library with the current administration block
- a new Administration Centre near the top turning circle
- a new facility for Special Education to be formed by converting the current Music area.
This building program came as a result of a survey carried out by the Mount Carmel High School Building Committee in July 1998. This survey "School Needs for the Future" highlighted the need for a larger library, a larger administration block ideally located at the front of the school, and up-to-date facilities for the teaching of Drama and new dance subjects.
Brother Roger remained Principal of Mount Carmel until the end of 2001. His departure from Mount Carmel signalled a very significant event in the life of the school: the formal end of the association with the Marist Brothers that began when Mount Carmel began in 1987. Because of a shortage of brothers, the Marist Brothers were unable to supply a religious replacement for Brother Roger, necessitating the appointment of a layperson as Principal. The new principal was Mr John Barrington who had been at Mount Carmel between 1990-1998 as Religious Education Co-ordinator and Assistant Principal.
The significance of this change was symbolised at the Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell, held at the Champagnat Centre on Sunday, December 9 (2001), when Brother Roger presented John a candle to formally end the role of the Marist Brothers and to pass on this role to a layperson.
Despite the change, and at the request of the Parents and Friends Association, Mount Carmel maintains its links with the Marist Brothers, ensuring that the Marist charism and Marcellin Champagnat remain a significant factor in the ethos of the school.
Students and staff began to use the new classroom block adjacent to the Champagnat Centre from the first day of Term 3, 2002. This building has 7 general purpose classrooms, dance room, drama room, PHP lab, two music rooms, 5 individual / small group rooms, PHP staffroom, Performing Arts staffroom and a Year Coordinator's office.