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MacKillop’s history extends back to 1854 when the Sisters of Mercy, Christian Brothers and Sisters of St Joseph began their work in Australia, establishing homes for children who were orphaned, destitute or neglected, and for families in need of care and support.

Between 1854 and 1997, more than 100,000 children were cared for in one of eight orphanages or homes established by the three congregations. Our history is a rich tapestry of many threads: an historical snapshot of Catholic welfare in Victoria and the broader social and economic trends that influenced it, interwoven with the many heartbreaking stories of children separated from their families, women fleeing the stigma of unmarried motherhood and those that offered them unconditional care.

Over the years, as the original model of institutional care evolved into residential care, foster care and family support services.

Twelve years after it was established, MacKillop Family Services expanded its footprint into NSW when Christian Brothers agency, Edmund Rice Community Services, became part of our organisation. This growth continued in 2013, when we began delivering out of home care services in WA.

In 2016, Cara, an organisation with a rich history of service delivery to vulnerable young women and children in the child protection system transferred its business to MacKillop. This was soon followed by the transfers of three organisations to MacKillop in 2017 – MacKillop Rural Community Services and MacKillop Seasons (both established by the Sisters of St Joseph) and St Joseph’s Cowper, a former ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Today, we work across New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Despite our growth, we have never wavered from our deep commitment to social justice. Like our founders, we continue to be inspired by the visionary values of Mary MacKillop, Catherine McAuley and Edmund Rice.

Holding onto Hope

In 2004 ‘Holding on to Hope – a history of the founding agencies of MacKillop Family Services 1854-1997’ was published providing an insight into Catholic welfare history as seen through agencies managed by the Sisters of Mercy, the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of St Joseph.

Written by Jill Barnard and Karen Twigg, the book charts the struggles these ministries endured in providing care and support for marginalised children, mothers and families over many generations. It traces the path of institutional care for vulnerable children and young people, initially in large orphanages and then, as congregate care was abandoned, through a range of child and family services.

It features insights and interviews with 70 people, including parents who gave up children, orphanage staff, and the children who spent time in these various institutions.

Holding on to Hope’ is available to buy either directly from MacKillop Family Services, 237 Cecil Street, South Melbourne Vic 3205, or by mail order.

The book sells for $40 (hard copy) or $25 (soft copy), plus $10 for postage and handling.

To order a copy please call (03) 9699 9177.