The building has an interesting history in that the funds for its construction came largely from residents then living in the vicinity of St. Kilda, Toorak and Domain Roads who were not Catholic. When the South Yarra Parish formed in 1887 it was granted a block of land on Punt Road for a church, not far from where the Anglican Christ Church now stands. The Parish Priest, Fr John Francis Fitzgerald, considered the block too far away from where the largest concentration of parishioners live, which was near the Jam Factory on Chapel Street. He obtained permission to sell the land in Punt Road, and was able to purchase the allotments in Fitzgerald Street on which St Joseph’s Church and associated buildings now stand. This however created a problem. Many of the wealthy families around St Kilda Road had Irish servants and nannies who wanted to attend Sunday Mass, which meant they were often away from work for well over two hours because of the lengthy walking distance to the church in Fitzgerald Street.
Enquiries were made about the possibility of erecting a chapel-of-ease closer to their employment, but the parish heavily in debt had no funds available. During 1914 as the First World War was about to begin, the employing families then established an appeal and gathered sufficient money to buy the present Bromby Street allotment and to build a sizeable chapel on it that Archbishop Thomas Carr (Melbourne) opened on 21 February 1915.
A further point of interest linked to the church is associated with the outbreak of the Second World War. When hostilities began the twenty boys of the Vienna Mozart Boys Choir was stranded in Melbourne as enemy aliens and were unable to sail back to Austria. For the duration of the war they were billeted in Melbourne. They joined the newly-formed St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir, but a few of them billeted in South Yarra attended Sunday Mass at Bromby Street and accompanied the Mass with their magnificent choral singing. After the War in gratitude for the welcome that the choiristers had enjoyed at the Bromby Street chapel the wife of the Austrian ambassador requested permission to give the church a new façade, replacing the small porch that had served as its entrance until that time. The design of the new façade adopted that of many village churches in Austria.
The Centenary festivities included a Mass at 10.30 am on Sunday, 15 February 2015, followed by an outdoor lunch. A special guest was Fr Barry Caldwell, who was one of the last diocesan priests to have ministered in the South Yarra Parish before the Augustinians came there in 1976. During the morning Maragaret Queally, one of the long-time parishioners, gave a short history of the church and its community.