Mary Ward, the Englishwoman who began the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lived from 1585 – 1645. Before she died there were Loreto Convents started throughout England and Europe. Later schools were opened all over the world.
In 1875 Mother Gonzaga Barry led a small group of Loreto nuns (as they came to be known) to start the first Loreto school in Australia in Ballarat, Victoria. From their base at Loreto Abbey in Ballarat, the sisters established parish schools in Portland and South Melbourne (1880s), followed by Loreto Schools in Sydney (1892), Perth (1897), Adelaide (1905), Melbourne (1924) and Brisbane (1927). They were also requested to staff and administer additional parish schools.
The Loreto Sisters arrived in Western Australia in 1897, opening a school in Adelaide Terrace, Perth and later purchasing Loreto Osborne, Claremont. The sisters bought land for Loreto Nedlands when they were asked to open a University College for Women. However, the request to provide a school for the newly opened Nedlands Parish was seen as a greater need and a school was built and opened to pupils in 1931 by the Loreto Sisters.
The pupils from Adelaide Terrace were invited to move to Loreto Nedlands in 1937. The amalgamation of Loreto Osborne and the Jesuit school of St Louis formed John XXIII College in 1977. Loreto Nedlands maintains its distinctive place as a co-educational primary school, the only Loreto school currently in Western Australia.
Today the following Loreto schools cater for girls Kindergarten to Year 12: Loreto Kirribilli, Sydney; Loreto Mandeville Hall, Melbourne; Loreto College Marryatville, Adelaide; and for girls Year 7 to Year 12: Loreto College, Ballarat; Loreto College Coorparoo, Brisbane; and Loreto Normanhurst, Sydney.
In Western Australia, Loreto Nedlands provides co-education for students from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 6.
Associated Loreto colleges are John XXIII College, who provides co-education for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 and the former Loreto Portland School, founded by Gonzaga Barry is now Bayview College Portland, Victoria.