In 1981 Campbelltown’s population was beginning to explode and as the new Uniting Church we looked at what we could do in our community. The need for a program that treated children who had been abused was seen as a priority. Child abuse was only just beginning to be recognised. We set up a small program with a coordinator and women from the Church who went out and collected children who had been referred by Department of Community Services and brought them to the Church for play and a meal. We gradually expanded the program, fighting for government funds. A ‘Parent Program’ was added to the Preschool. The old Methodist Parsonage became no longer suitable for the program which had at least been given a name – The Cottage Family Care Centre.
UnitingCare Burnside provided $450,000 to build our current building and West Epping Uniting Church provided our first two buses. The Cottage won several awards for its work, including “The National Child Protection Award” in 1999.
At the same time we became aware of the lack of accommodation for homeless boys and approached the government for a house for this purpose. Again we started with people from the Church providing meals and sleeping overnight until youth workers could be appointed. Stepping Stone Community was established originally in Ruse but relocated to a larger house in Leumeah Heights. Many people in the Church have since served on its Board.
In the early 1990s the Church started a Living Skills Program which met with limited success but which showed the need for literacy skills in children who were slipping behind at school. This brought about the Literacy Centre which provides children who are experiencing learning difficulties with after school hours intensive support. A number of teachers from the Church have supported and directed the program over many years.
1992 saw the second National Child Protection Conference organised by the Cottage Centre, held at Campbelltown. Our particular interest was how we could prevent child abuse. At that conference speakers from the Kemp Foundation in Denver all agreed that the placing of a volunteer with a first time mother was the most effective way. We made presentations to government and were awarded a small grant to run a three year trial program, to be evaluated by the University of Western Sydney. The results indicated similar findings to those experienced in the US, and we renamed the program “Focus on New Families”.
In 1992 we responded to the needs of one of our congregation to provide accommodation for young people with a moderate intellectual disability. Once again there was nothing available in Campbelltown. A committee was appointed, a property purchased and over the next year a purpose built house was designed.
One of the highlights of the process were when 40 members of the congregation who came together on one day to demolish the old house. Despite numerous representations to government no funding was available for the staffing of the House. Being people of faith we were not put off and advertised for staff without knowing how we would pay them. On 24th December 1993 the government advised us they would supply some funds to get the project going. In February 1994 Hurley House opened with its first five residents.
In 1998 our five agencies had a budget of nearly a million dollars and we were finding it difficult to get volunteer treasurers for each agency. It was eventually decided that all agencies would contribute to the position of Finance Administrator. Three of the smaller agencies also agreed to share an Administration Officer. In the year 2000 a conference of all agencies agreed to come together as Campbelltown UnitingCare. From 1st January 2002 Campbelltown UnitingCare Board became the body responsible for the governance of the agencies. Colin Elliott, Chairman of Campbelltown Uniting Church, became its first Chairman. Management Committees of the individual agencies continued to supervise our programs and support the managers.
In 2013 we celebrated the 21st Anniversary of the Literacy Centre, with some of the original staff members returning to acknowledge the continued success of a program that makes a difference to the lives of so many children.
We are grateful that so many of our staff are dedicated to their jobs, clients and the people we support. UnitingCare now has 34 staff, 32 Management Committee members and 62 volunteers with an average turnover of over $1.5 million.
In July 2013, the Board made the decision to hand over all government funded services to UnitingCare Children Young People and Families and UnitingCare Disability and UnitingCare Burnside from July 2015. The Board felt it could no longer keep up with the government demands placed on small organisations covering a wide range of community services.
While we are a small agency within the Uniting Church, we offer that grass roots support and are a large family. We do try to affirm the love of God by drawing people together and working with others to build a caring Community in Campbelltown.