Our History

St Dunstan’s church is named after the one time Archbishop of Canterbury, who loved music and the arts.  In many paintings, he is featured with a harp, an angelic instrument.  St Dunstan’s, Camberwell, carries on the musical tradition as a ‘church that sings’.

Our purpose as a parish is to live in Jesus’ words that ‘I came that you might have life in abundance’.  This includes understanding what Jesus’ gift of life means for us as a community and making the most of Jesus’ gift of life by reaching out through our services, fellowship and mission activities.

St Dunstan’s the Church

In 1925 a windswept paddock of wet onion grass, with a few residences nearby, was selected as the site for a new parish church in East Camberwell. Although initially described as St Hilda’s Riversdale, the new parish became known as St Dunstan’s as a tribute to St Dunstan (928 – 988), one time Archbishop of Canterbury.

The first building was a temporary wooden church building which sat where the vicarage now sits at the front of the property.  While that was being built the vicar of the day, The Rev. Oliver Brady, conducted services in the homes of parishioners.  The first service in the new building was held on 1 August 1926.

A new brick church and parish hall were completed and dedicated in 1930 by Archbishop Head.  The parish received generous donations of furniture and furnishings at the time and this practice continues to this day.  A new two-story home was built as a vicarage after the temporary wooden church had been removed and moved to St Mark’s, West Reservoir.  Interestingly, a pilgrimage to the site took place during the 80th Anniversary Celebrations in 2006.

An Anglican Day Kindergarten was launched in the mid-1940s which has continued to provide a high standard pre-school education for generations of local children ever since.  A purpose built new kindergarten building was erected in 1973.

Two tennis courts were installed on the land behind the vicarage in 1948.

Much-needed restoration and renovation to the church building was completed in 1976 which has facilitated the cycle of worship and other events at St Dunstan’s to this day.  A generous gift from a benefactor in the 1970s enabled all outstanding debt to be discharged.

A booklet, Fifty Years at St Dunstan’s 1926 – 1976 was published celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the parish, and the building was consecrated by the Most Reverend Dr. Frank Wood, Primate and Archbishop of Melbourne.  The distinctive mural on the outside wall facing Wattle Valley Road was designed and crafted by Mrs. Eva Schubert using a sgraffito technique.  It depicts St Dunstan and his harp which is our current logo.

In 2016 the parish celebrated its 90th anniversary together with the Mother’s Union (80 years) and the Kindergarten (70 years).

We are a loving and faithful community offering hospitality and friendship to all who enter through our doors.  We have a myriad of activities which take place during the week which we encourage you to read about on this website or enquire about by contacting the parish office.

PS: the progeny of the onion grass is still to be found in the lawn at the front of the church despite the ravages of recent drought years!!

( Thanks to Mr. Peter Wright for his assistance in compiling this brief history of our parish.)


St Dunstan was born near Glastonbury in England. He attended school at Glastonbury Abbey. The era into which he was born was known as ‘The Dark Ages.’  The monasteries were in decline and the monastic way of life was virtually nonexistent.

Dunstan was a member of quite a prestigious family and was often in the company of royalty.  He was well favoured by King Athelstan who reigned (924/25 – 939 CE) after Alfred the Great and before Edmund the Elder.  However, his popularity with royalty made him unpopular with his peers and colleagues at school, so much so that they conspired successfully to have him expelled from Glastonbury.

After this, he spent time with his uncle, the Bishop of Winchester.  Later, after a period of illness, he decided to become a monk; he studied Scripture and gave up his life of wealth for a life of prayer.

Edmund the Elder recalled Dunstan to his royal court in 940CE but he still experienced resentment and jealousy and once again he was expelled.  However, the king had a change of heart and installed Dunstan as the Abbot of Glastonbury with a promise to furnish him with the resources to develop the Abbey and restore monastic life.

It was Dunstan’s desire that the church be an educator for the people.  He also introduced measures which would improve monastic life through educational reform.

He was made a Bishop in 957CE and then elected as Archbishop of Canterbury in 959CE.  He brought a peace in England which had not been known for years and served to unify the population’s loyalty to the king.

From 975CE his role in public life lessened and he returned to his former life as a monk.  He died on Saturday, 19 May 988CE after a short illness and was buried near the altar at Canterbury Cathedral.  As a reflection of his popularity, he was declared a saint very soon after his death.  May 19th is universally observed as The Feast of St Dunstan.

History paints Dunstan as a formidable man of the church.  He was also known as a creative genius, progressive educator and spiritual leader.  Also being renowned for his skills with metals and is today the Patron Saint of Silversmiths.