In 1894, the first town plan for the Ipswich region was conceived.  Centuries later, the borders have blurred, and the city of Ipswich now spans over 1000 square kilometres, housing over two-hundred-thousand people.  While the city expands into bushland, developing new neighbourhoods and shopping centres, one constant over the centuries has been the quaint, leafy, inner city suburb, nestled alongside the Bremer River, where historic Queenslander houses settle in between jacaranda trees.  Home to Ipswich’s Catholic precinct, and an ancient hill where Australia’s first people used to gather and teach, Woodend is not only a suburb, but a community.  

In its infancy, Woodend was bushland, and was the first coal-bearing land in the Ipswich area, which was subdivided into small coal allotments.  It housed the working-class families of Ipswich who would spend their days in the mines.  The community grew with more settlers and by the 1860s much of the bushland was cleared.  Schools were needed to educate the young settlers and by 1847, the first school in Woodend was opened.  The growth continued as Woodend welcomed the Christian Brothers and the Mercy Sisters who would go on to educate the working-class families and those eager to continue the Catholic teachings from their homelands. 

Community spirit can be built through hardships and triumphs.  In 1974 and 2011, Ipswich endured severe flooding, and for the tiny riverside community of Woodend, the water covered much of the streets.  Woodend’s flood history even dates back to the mid-1800s where Ipswich’s early settlers would need to help one another in dire circumstances.  Even though these events are devastating, it has seen the Ipswich community, specifically the community by the river, band together and build a stronger connection. 

The strong sense of community can still be seen today.  Hundreds gather every April at the Woodend Honour Stone on ANZAC Day, spilling onto Roseberry Parade as they pay respects to the names etched onto the stone of the soldiers from Woodend who fought and died in the World Wars.  The community can be seen every Sunday morning at St Mary’s Church as people park around the streets of Woodend and flock to their morning Mass.  And recently it was once again seen outside the steps of the church, as Woodend community members lined Elizabeth Street and applauded the Queens Baton Relay as it made its way to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.  

It’s easy to overlook a suburb. You can see it as old houses, a few schools and a church.  But for Woodend, Ipswich, its history is imbedded into the homes that housed the miners, the trees that withstood rushing flood waters, and the historic Cathedral that stands as a landmark for the city. Woodend is not just a suburb, but a community, and one that St Edmund’s is proud to call home.