No. 179 - The Carmelite Monastery at Launceston - "It is not I who locks them in"

The Discalced Carmelites or Barefoot (sandalled) Carmelites were formed in the 16th century following Saint Teresa of Ávila’s initiation of reform of the 12th century Order. The first Carmelites in Australia arrived in Sydney in 1883. By the mid 20th century, all States apart from Tasmania had established Carmelite communities. In 1948 this changed when the Archbishop of Hobart, Dr Ernest Tweedy, enabled the establishment of the Order in Northern Tasmania. 

The first 'convent' was established at Longford with the expectation that a monastery would be built at West Launceston. The Longford monastery was housed at Longford Hall, a century old building which was remodelled to meet the requirements of an enclosed Order. In June 1948 eight Carmelite sisters arrived at Launceston by air from Adelaide.

A report in the Advocate described how the sisters would live:

“The sisters…. will now be seen by no one except close relatives, to whom they may speak through a grille. At other times a curtain will be drawn across the grille. They will spend eight hours a day in prayer and four to six in domestic duties and will speak only during recreation periods. One of their chief activities will be the making of vestments and other articles for the church. They will tend their own vegetable and flower garden, and milk two cows. Two unenclosed nuns, or Touriere sisters, will do the shopping and outside business.”

With the Longford monastery refurbished, the sisters were enclosed following a ceremony conducted by Archbishop Tweedy on Sunday 13 February 1949. This was reported in The Advocate:

“In today’s ceremony the sisters took part in a procession to the benediction service, conducted by Dr Tweedy in the monastery chapel, and then veiled and returned to the gates of the monastery and locked themselves in to begin their life of prayer, mortification and sacrifice”. 

Dr Tweedy explained the purpose of enclosure:

“We hear people speak disparagingly about our religious sisters. They often say, ‘Why the waste of a young life? Why cannot they be out in the world doing something instead of closing themselves behind a barrier?”.

Tweedy continued:

“The object of the enclosure is so that they can give themselves completely to God and receive full contemplation of Him. It is true they might go out into the world and engage in active work, but the work of prayer with God is the greatest of all works. The enclosure is not put up to keep the nuns in. It is put up to keep you out. It is not I who locks them in. I merely present the key to the sisters, and they lock themselves in”.

The community moved to the present monastery built in the hills of West Launceston in April 1975 at the request of the then Archbishop Guilford Young in order to be nearer the priests and people. 

On December 14, 1991, the Carmelites completed observance of the fourth centenary of the death of the great Carmelite mystic, St John of the Cross. On that date, Archbishop D'Arcy formally consecrated the chapel.

The parish priests in Launceston supply daily Mass, which a small regular congregation also attend.

Links of interest:

Solitude nothing new for nun's of Launceston's Carmelite Monastery - ABC News 6 May 2020

The Carmelite Monastery at Launceston
The Carmelites at Launceston

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Interior photographs of the Monastery [below] are reproduced with the kind permission of  Carmelite Father Mariano Agruda; General Councillor for the Far East (East Asia and Oceania) The Order of Discalced Carmelites.

The Nuns' Choir 

The Vestments made by the Nuns

The Nuns' "alpargatas" (hemp sandals)

St Teresa's Oratory

A view of the Infirmary wing from the inside Garden

The Refectory

The Hermitage

Inside the Hermitage

The Sanctuary

The Public Oratory

The Chapter Room 

The Prioress and Sub-Prioress seats in the Choir


Mercury Saturday 28 February 1948, page 4
Mercury Wednesday 9 June 1948, page 5
The Advocate Tuesday 15 June 1948, page 2
Examiner Tuesday 15 June 1948, page 2
The Advocate Monday 14 February 1949, page 3

Fr. Terry Southerwood: Launceston's Catholic Story (1838-2001); 2001 Launceston.


  1. I lived near the Longford convent in the late 60s and often met one of the elderly unenclosed Nuns when we roamed around the convent grounds, my Dad who was a Longford policeman would regularly check their car for them.


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