As an authentic Catholic school community, Holy Spirit College is committed to supporting disengaged and marginalised young people to develop knowledge, skills and abilities to engage confidently in a range of domains of human culture, including spirituality and religion. The objective is that students are equipped to critically interpret and evaluate culture so they might be active contributors and not mere passive community members.
While responding to young people’s broad educational needs and requirements, Holy Spirit College contributes to their personal formation through its Catholic culture, provides opportunities for developing language, understanding and skills to engage with spiritual concepts and experiences and offer a supportive environment for students’ living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Each Campus has its own identity within the context of the College’s Vision and Mission, its underlying principles and in consultation with the key stakeholders including staff, students, families and community groups.
Holy Spirit College is administered under Cairns Catholic Education Services. As a Catholic school within the diocese of Cairns and under the administration of the Cairns Catholic Education, Holy Spirit College Catholic is accountable to the state and federal governments and its local communities to meet all the learning and teaching requirements. It has distinctive goals and features which derive from a core of philosophical and theological foundation central to the ethos of Catholic education and the mission of the Church. As a school funded under the Special Assistance Schools provisions Holy Spirit College has a unique place in Cairns Catholic Education to be a place of learning, opportunity and achievement for students who would otherwise remain disconnected from mainstream education. In this way Holy Spirit College represents a core mission of the Church to truly make a difference for the poor and marginalised. Like all schools under the direction of Cairns Catholic Education it will offer quality learning and teaching, an educational experience that embraces ‘living life to the full’ and an environment that is safe, welcoming and inclusive.


The naming of the College underwent a process of discernment and negotiation; following the process Bishop James accepted the recommendation of Holy Spirit College. The name reflects the mission of the school. The college is developing as a positive, supportive place for young people to re-engage in education. It is a safe place where staff build right relationships and work compassionately with young people and their families. It is also part of the wider Diocesan mission of working with and for all people. Pope Francis said that ‘True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need’. This venture is one of courage and one of great hope. Holy Spirit College provides an opportunity for disconnected young people to engage in a life changing journey within a Catholic environment. The school is responding to this call from Pope Francis in working with students experiencing marginalisation and it is envisaged that the name reflects this uniqueness.
‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God.’ (John 14, 16 – 17)
‘But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power and you will be witnesses for me …to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8)


The College emblem is that of a dove with fiery wings; this is a combination of two powerful symbols of the Holy Spirit.
The dove is an emblem of purity and innocence (Matthew 10:16), the form of the dove was assumed on this occasion to signify that the Spirit with which Jesus would be endowed would be one of purity and innocence. Another symbol involving the dove comes from the account of the Flood and Noah’s ark in Genesis 6:8. When the earth had been covered with water for some time, Noah wanted to check to see if there was dry land anywhere, so he sent out a dove which came back with an olive branch in her beak (Genesis 8:11).
Symbolically, the story of the dove tells us that God declared peace with mankind after the Flood purged the earth of its wickedness. The dove represented His Spirit bringing the good news of reconciliation with God. In Luke 3:22 at Jesus’ baptism it is described “And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him.” It is significant that the Holy Spirit was pictured as a dove at Jesus’ baptism, thereby again symbolizing peace with God.
The Holy Spirit, when assuming a visible form, adopts that which will be symbolic of the thing to be represented. At Pentecost, He assumed the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) to signify the miraculous powers of language with which the apostles would be endowed and the power of their message. In the same way, His appearance as the dove symbolizes the gentle Saviour bringing peace to mankind through His sacrifice.


Holy Spirit College services a number of different communities; students come from those described below as well as others. Some students have come from the Torres Strait Islands to attend the campuses in Cooktown and Cairns; during weekends and breaks they live with local extended family members.
Cooktown is at the mouth of the Endeavour River, on Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland where James Cook beached his ship, the Endeavour, for repairs in 1770. Both the town and Mount Cook which rises up behind the town were named after James Cook. It is approximately three and a half hour drive from Cairns or a 45min flight from Cairns. Cooktown has a population of around 2300 people. while about another 4,000 in the region use it as a service centre. Visitors enjoy the delightful tropical environment, the historical connections, and use it as an access point to the Great Barrier Reef, the Lakefield National Park, and for fishing.
Cooktown has a public library, bowling green, swimming pool, golf and turf clubs, historic cemetery, Chinese shrine, James Cook Museum, Botanic Gardens with walks through to the beaches, Grassy Hill lighthouse, and an Events Centre which sits between Holy Spirit College and the Cooktown State School. The Information Centre and an Environment Display are in Nature’s Powerhouse in the Cooktown Botanic Garden. Charlotte Street is the main shopping and heritage precinct.
Cooktown is of particular interest to botanists since the time of James Cook’s visit when extensive collections and illustrations were made of local plants. It is situated at the junction of several vegetation zones including tropical rainforest, sclerophyll forests, sandy dunes and lagoons.
Cooktown is a service centre for the district including the Aboriginal communities of Hopevale, 47 kilometres (29 mi) to the northwest, and Wujal Wujal, 72 kilometres (45 mi) to the south.In the local language, Guugu Yimithirr, the name for the region is Gangarr which means “place of the rock crystals”. Cooktown is also the first time that the word Kangaroo – ‘Gangurru’ was recorded. Along with Holy Spirit College Cooktown has a P-12 state school and a P- middle school Christian College.
Hopevale is a township situated 46km northwest of Cooktown and is located in a valley surrounded by native bushland, mountain ranges and coastal plains. Hopevale has a population of approximately 1500 people. The Lutheran Church established the community in 1886 and still has a strong presence in the community. Due to a lack of reliable water supplies at Elim, the community moved to its current site about 20 km inland.
In 1986 the community became the first to receive a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) and formed the Hope Vale Aboriginal Council. Hopevale is home to thirteen clan groups and mostly speak Guugu Yimithirr. Hopevale is also a pilot site for the Cape York Welfare Reform. The Department of Main Roads has upgraded the Endeavour Valley Road between Hope Vale and Cooktown to all-weather access. There is now only 13 kilometres of unsealed road between Hope Vale and Cooktown, making access to Hope Vale a scenic and enjoyable drive. Students attend either Cooktown P-12 or go to boarding schools to complete their high school education.
The community of Wujal Wujal has existed on the site for many hundreds of years and is set around the highly sacred waterfalls of Wujal Wujal meaning ‘many falls’ in the local language. Wujal Wujal is located in the Bloomfield Valley inside the World Heritage Area some 170km to the North of Cairns and 70km South of Cooktown Lutheran Missionaries came in 1886 and Wujal Wujal remains largely a Lutheran Community. The population is around 480 people. The main clan group languages are Kuku Yalanji, Kuku Nyungul and Jalunji. No alcohol is allowed in Wujal Wujal. Wujal Wujal is a dry community and is considered a restricted area. Penalties apply for having alcohol in Wujal Wujal- these penalties apply to all people residing in, travelling through, visiting or working in the restricted area. Wujal Wujal students attend school at Bloomfield River State School which is a P-7 school. Generally, when young people from Wujal Wujal reach high school age they need to move to boarding schools down south to complete secondary schooling.
The Cairns Region is located about 1,700 kilometres north of Brisbane. The Cairns Region is bounded by the Cook Shire and the Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire in the north, the Coral Sea and the Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire in the east, the Cassowary Coast Region in the south, and the Tablelands Region in the west. The original inhabitants of the Cairns Region were the Kuku Yulanji people, the Tjapukai people and the Walubarra Yidinji people. Cairns is named after William Wellington Cairns, former Governor of Queensland. European settlement dates from 1876 when the township of Cairns was established to serve miners heading for the Hodgkinson River goldfield 80kms west of Cairns. The estimated residential population of the Cairns urban area in 2016 was 157,847. Cairns is a provincial city, with a linear urban layout that runs from the south at Edmonton; to the north at Ellis Beach. The city is approximately 52 km (32 mi) from north to south; it has experienced a recent urban sprawl, with suburbs occupying land previously used for sugar cane farming. By 2036 the population for Cairns is projected to increase to 244,083 people.
Cairns experiences a tropical climate, specifically a tropical monsoon climate as it has a wet season with heavy monsoonal downpours which runs from November to May. Most of the rainfall occurs from December to March. There is also a relatively dry season extending from June to October, though light showers can occur during this period. Cairns’ mean annual rainfall is just over 2,000 millimetres.
Tourism plays a major part in the Cairns economy. The Cairns region is the fourth-most popular destination for international tourists in Australia after Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Holy Spirit College is situated in Moignard Street, Manoora. Manoora forms the inner west suburbs of Cairns alongside Manunda and Mooroobool.

Why Holy Spirit College?

Catholic Education Services in the Diocese of Cairns considered the establishment of a Special Assistance School (SAS) ‘Holy Spirit College’ in Cairns and Cooktown in 2010.

Early consideration of the concept recognized an opportunity for a Diocesan contribution to “Closing the Gap” strategies, an outreach into the more remote regions of the Diocese, and a further contribution of the Catholic mission to serve the disadvantaged and marginalized. It was felt that Catholic Education in Cairns with nearly 10,000 students in 26 schools and colleges, and with an established system of management, reporting and accountability, had the capacity to develop an additional service for outreach to disengaged young people.

In 2010, the Diocese produced its Pathways for Life document: An overview of strategic vocational proposals for 2010-2014. In this document Flexible Learning Centres (FLCs) were identified for further investigation and it was recommended that there should be an exploration of the feasibility of a flexible learning educational service in support of disengaged and at risk students in the City of Cairns run by the Cairns Catholic Education Services. This resulted in two scoping studies by James Cook University – the first identified the need for a small residential facility in Cooktown for Indigenous students while the second study found a largely unmet demand for education for disengaged students in the Cairns area.

The findings of these studies progressed the discussion and resulted in a trial of a flexible learning program in Cairns in 2011 in partnership with Youth Justice in the Department of Communities. There has also been consultation regarding a similar program in partnership with the Gungarde Aboriginal Corporation in Cooktown.

The Diocesan Board of Governance Education, at its June 14, 2011 meeting gave in principle support to the concept of a Special Assistance School and asked for a Business Case to be developed. In 2012 the Non-State Schools accreditation Board approved the application for ‘Special Assistance School’ accreditation for Moignard St Manoora, Cairns and for Cooktown on the cnr of Amos and Burkitt streets, also for 32 Quarantine Bay Rd Cooktown.

The Cairns Diocese received $9million from the State Government for the building of two sites in Cairns and Cooktown. Building commenced in July 2014 on both sites. The completion for Cairns was in May 2015 and Cooktown in July 2015. While the Cairns Campus, in Moignard Street, was not completed for the start of the 2015 school year, the staff decided to open the school to young people and hold classes in the half of the site which was completed. At the same time staff employed to assist with the establishment of the Cooktown Campus established an Outreach Program to engage with young people in the Hopevale and Wujal Wujal communities. Both campuses enrol students in years 7-12.

Today Holy Spirit College is an inclusive environment which is open to young people who are disengaged from ‘mainstream’ schooling. It offers individualised secondary education programs. The ‘Holy Spirit College’ provides a variety of innovative teaching and learning practices that acknowledges young people’s complex education and social needs and empowers them to identify and pursue individual transition to adulthood, further education, employment and importantly a connection to the community. Staff at the College are multi-disciplinary in response to the diverse needs of young people and their families.