UnitingCare Burnside celebrates 100 years of care

UnitingCare Burnside celebrates 100 years of care

Claerwen Little, Acting Director; UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families; reflects on a century of concern for the welfare of children.

How do you celebrate a centenary? The staff of UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families had a pretty clear idea: “We don’t want a fundraising dinner, we don’t want a monument, what we want is social change.”

Their wisdom has inspired our Centenary campaign, “… because children matter”. It celebrates our service users, staff and supporters. The essence of the campaign is to share stories from Burnside with people in the broader community. Stories to put a human face on complex social justice issues and identify ways forward.

Burnside is and has always been driven by a determination to make a real difference in people’s lives. We started 100 years ago with the vision of our founders, Sir James Burns and the Presbyterian Church. They had a vision of a better life for the “needy” children of the time.

As the first home for children opened on a hill in Parramatta, west of Sydney, the seeds of transformation began. They started with the idea that things could be done better, differently and that change needed to be made.

Over the years 17 more homes were built across 240 acres of land. Burnside became the largest provider of orphan homes in Australia.

Although it doesn’t seem too revolutionary now, at the time, the idea of building “a fully self-contained village with cottage-like homes” was truly visionary and a revolutionary concept. In 1947 book, The Story of Burnside, the Rev. Ronald G. MacIntyre describes Sir James as “blazing a track that became a highway for future generations”.

Throughout the latter part of the 20th century the board of Burnside saw the need to look beyond the hills of Parramatta and today delivers services across New South Wales in disadvantaged communities in south western and western Sydney, the central and mid north coasts and the far west. Our services include early intervention and prevention, family support, intensive child protection and care for children in out of home and residential care. Last year, more than 13,000 people across New South Wales benefited from Burnside’s services.

In 2011, our focus remains on the children and also their families. While we continue as a significant out-of-home care provider, we also work with families to help them create their own transformations.

The modern Burnside is built on our unshakeable belief that people are experts in their own lives and with support can achieve their own dreams.

Borrowing the courage of our canny Scots founders, we actively pursue quality, innovation and those revolutionary concepts that will make the most difference in children’s lives and lead to lasting transformation … because children matter.


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