One hundred years ago, Evangeline Ireland (Sister Faith) found a young disabled girl left inside a chicken coop while her parents were at work. That incident led to her establishing Victoria’s first free kindergarten for disabled children: ‘Yooralla’ (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of love’).
By August 1919, contributions from Melburnians to the Million Pennies Fund, raised 83 512 pennies (£347/19/4). In today’s money $27 038; a very sizeable amount from a populace recovering from WWI. Yooralla evolved and developed over the following decades, along with the disability sector, to become one of Australia’s largest non-profit disability service organisations, supporting over 30 000 Victorians living with a disability.
In 1977, Yooralla merged with the Victorian Society for Crippled Children and Adults (VSCCA) to become the Yooralla Society of Victoria. Following amalgamation, the Yooralla Society of Victoria began providing services to all people with a disability, not just children.
Yooralla employs over 2100 staff throughout Victoria providing accommodation, respite, day services, therapy, recreation, education and self-advocacy to children and adults alike. They also provide an extensive range of assistive and communication technologies through their Brooklyn Independent Living Centre. Its services are developed in partnership with people with disability and their families and carers. It provides essential services for people of all ages and disabilities, regardless of how they acquired the disability.
Yooralla’s vision is to help achieve ‘a world where people with disability are equal citizens’. Its mission is ‘to provide quality, sustainable and flexible services that uphold human rights and create opportunities, empowering individuals to live the life they choose’.
Yooralla began offering small-scale residential accommodation (such as group homes or independent units) in the late 1970s, beginning with houses in Balwyn and Box Hill. Since 1979 numerous other houses have been established throughout Melbourne and regional Victoria.
In 1993, the Balwyn hostel complex closed and residents were relocated to new community-based housing in Box Hill. Yooralla’s last hostel was closed in 2002, and its portfolio for residential accommodation services is now entirely based on a community-inclusion model.
Yooralla also provides services in respite, community participation, learning, therapy, employment, education and independent-living support, for adults and children, using a social model of service.
On 12 February 2018 Yooralla officially turned 100. If you are interested in volunteering, download yooralla.com.au/volunteering-form