Catholic Church to cater for growing population in Sorell

By Catherine Sheehan

The Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart recently purchased 63 hectares of land at Sorell, one of Tasmania’s oldest towns, with a view to building a school, a church, and social and affordable housing.

The land is situated 25km north-east of Hobart and boasts stunning water-front views.

“It’s one of the most significant purchases we’ve made in 25 years,” said Archdiocesan Executive Director of Administration and Finance, Chris Ryan.

The Archdiocese had been keen to establish a Catholic school in Sorell for the last 20 years to cater for the growing population but had struggled to find the right piece of land.

The purchase came about in typical Tassie style, during a casual chat between mates at the local netball courts. While watching his daughters play netball one Saturday morning, Mr Ryan struck up a conversation with a long-time acquaintance who mentioned he was looking to sell his 63-hectare property in Sorell.

“Providentially this one came up and it was just meant to be,” Mr Ryan said. “Everything about it was just right.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous said the intended use of the land by the Archdiocese would be a “very significant development” for the Catholic population.

“It’s a rapidly growing area and the Church is making provision for the future with the intention of establishing a school, a church and presbytery, and affordable housing.”

“This will enable the Church to provide a more effective service to the growing area of Sorell and the peninsular.”

The Archbishop said the current Catholic church at Sorell was inadequate in terms of its size and a larger one was needed.

Executive Director of Catholic Education Tasmania, Dr Gerard Gaskin, said he was “excited” by the intended development of a new school at Sorell.

“It’s an opportunity to build another school that will be tailored to the needs of the region,” Dr Gaskin said, adding that it was yet to be decided whether the school would be primary only or Kindergarten to Year 12.

Dr Gaskin said the vision for the development would most likely include more than just a school, and would hopefully cater for the ongoing need for allied health professionals for students needing extra support such as speech therapy or psychological services.

“You could have consulting rooms or offices for CatholicCare or any of the other agencies.”

“To have a location that could be used to house an entire Catholic outreach in that area would be extremely helpful.”

Currently the closest Catholic school to Sorell is St John’s in Richmond, Dr Gaskin pointed out.

“We need to think creatively about making sure that Catholic schools are accessible within reasonable distance of population centres.”

The location of the new school would also allow for an alternative form of schooling, such as farm-based schooling or outdoor activity-based education, he said.

“We’ve got a master plan, this whole project and the land forms a very important part of that because it’s basically the greater Hobart area. It’s basically demographic growth and therefore an opportunity to provide Catholic education and a larger Catholic footprint outreach.”

Ben Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of Centacare Evolve Housing, said the intention was to build around 400 to 500 social, affordable and privately-owned residential units on the site.

The land was in the “only growth corridor” in Sorell, Mr Wilson said, and there was “a huge need for housing and education” development in the area.

The land, which includes sections of coastal overlay and Indigenous cultural heritage sites, needs to be re-zoned before planning can begin. Currently the Archdiocese is awaiting re-zoning approval from the Tasmanian Planning Commission.

Mr Ryan said building on the site was unlikely to commence before 2026.

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