The name Signadou derives from a legend associated with Dominic de Guzman, who founded the Dominican Order in the 13th century. Praying for guidance in his life's work, Dominic was given a "sign of God" (Signe de Dieu) directing him to teach the truth throughout the university towns of Europe.
Following the tradition of Dominic, the Dominican Sisters assumed the work of education and established schools and colleges in five continents.
In response to the invitation of the Catholic Bishops, the Sisters came to Australia from Ireland and England. They arrived in 1867 and established their first school in Maitland, New South Wales.
The Teacher Training College for Dominican Sisters was founded in Maitland in 1926. After the devastating Hunter Valley floods of 1955, the College was relocated to Sydney. In the late 1950s, the Major Superiors of the religious orders of women in Australia, in a move to centralise and rationalise their teacher training, asked the Dominican order to admit sisters of other religious orders to their College. The Dominicans agreed and the College was moved to Canberra. The College was opened by the then Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies on 24 March 1963.
At the end of 1990 the Signadou Dominican College of Education formally handed responsibility for the College and its operations to Australian Catholic University (ACU).
A new “welfare hub” for the community was opened in September 2005 when Blackfriars was officially opened by ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries.
Blackfriars was acquired by ACU in partnership with the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn in 2004. It underwent a substantial renovation program and now houses staff and students of the University, as well as the offices of the Catholic welfare agency Centacare Canberra and Goulburn and the Institute of Child Protection Studies. Blackfriars has helped the University’s researchers, students and staff to work in partnership with other key organisations to improve the lives and prospects of children and adults in Canberra, Goulburn and beyond.