St Stephen’s Church is a parish of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
The earliest inhabitants of the land on which St Stephen’s stands were the Wurrundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. St Stephen’s is proud to acknowledge the Wurrundjeri as the traditional custodians of the land.
Melbourne was settled in 1836, and was a district of New South Wales until separation in 1851. In that year gold was discovered near modern-day Ballarat, leading to an unprecedented boom of immigration and development. By the time these things were happening, the pioneers had already built St Stephen’s on the top of Richmond Hill.
Richmond was the outer-East of early Melbourne, and was the location of much of the city’s early industrial development. Favourable geography, with a good deal of dry land and easy access to the Yarra River, meant that the area was rapidly built up.
The early neighbourhood included many of Melbourne’s earliest pioneers. David Mitchell, the stonemason who built many of Melbourne’s prominent buildings, lived in the parish: his daughter was Dame Nellie Melba, the first Australia to become a global phenomenon. Other early neighbours included Peter Lalor, one of the leaders of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion, George Fincham, Australia’s first organ builder, and Squizzy Taylor, Melbourne’s answer to Al Capone. Richmond was the home of Channel 9, the first television station in Australia. The first television broadcasts were of the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Richmond has always had a varied social profile, spanning from the very rich to the very poor. St Stephen’s has been here for all of them.
St Stephen’s has always demonstrated a strong commitment to the community throughout its history. The parish enjoys warm relationships with neighbouring St Ignatius and Richmond Uniting Church. The three churches on the hill collaborate on numerous projects.
Our tradition of positive engagement continues with current concern for social justice issues, especially for those who are disadvantaged and marginalised in the community. Our people are involved in many outreach activities in the local area, such as food services.
During 2010 St Stephen’s undertook the first stage of a renovation program. The aim of this phase was to deal with deferred maintenance, and to modernise facilities within the church building to allow greater flexibility of layout. This has enabled the church to be used more effectively for community events such as concerts and meetings, as well as providing greater versatility of liturgical arrangements.