Mission Australia to celebrate Sydney City Mission’s 160th birthday

Mission Australia to celebrate Sydney City Mission’s 160th birthday

On 11 July, Mission Australia will celebrate 160 years since Sydney City Mission first opened.  The day kicks off Mission Australia’s Founding Purpose Week, when staff will celebrate the charity’s work.

Sydney City Mission was founded by British immigrant businessman, Benjamin Short, on 11 July 1862 with prominent community members including John Fairfax, and clergy from various denominations. It was based on the same model as London City Mission.

Mr Short was distressed by the poverty and deprivation he saw on the streets of Sydney.

At that time, there was no income support safety net.

An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald covered the meeting held to establish the Sydney City Mission at Temperance Hall on Pitt Street. 

Echoing Mission Australia’s Founding Purpose, the Chairman opened the meeting by reminding those gathered that the immorality of the lower classes should not be their focus, instead they should consider the conditions that cause it.

Benjamin Short then implored the crowd to support the Mission’s founding, “the Christian Churches of Sydney cannot be held guiltless if they neglect to stretch out a helping hand to rescue those who are perishing around them,” he said. 

A resolution was then passed founding the Sydney City Mission with the “design of this society is to promote the extension of Evangelic religion, without reference to denominational distinctions”. Sydney City Mission would seek to seek to “promote the present and everlasting welfare of the degraded and outcast.”

Decades later during the recession of 1890 and the Great Depression of the 1930s, Mission halls overflowed with people in need. Over time, City Missions adapted and changed how they cared for those who had fallen on hard times. What started out as handouts and ‘soup lines’ were replaced with structured programs that look at the causes of problems and seek to find and advocate for long-term solutions.

In 1996, Sydney City Mission merged with other City Missions in Adelaide, Perth, Wagga Wagga, and Wollongong to form Mission Australia, with Brisbane joining Mission Australia in 1998.

Sharon Callister is Mission Australia’s CEO.

“Mission Australia truly stands on the shoulders of giants. Certainly, none of us would be serving people at their time of need through Mission Australia if it wasn’t for Benjamin Short’s action, compassion and vision 160 years ago,” she said.

“Everyone at Mission Australia remains committed to achieving our goal to end homelessness and ensure people and communities in need can thrive. While we celebrate our past, we look forward, doing all we can to change the futures of thousands of people across Australia who are currently vulnerable and in need of care and support.  

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