History

YWCA is a proudly feminist organisation, pushing and advocating for bold, systemic change – just as we always have. For almost 140 years we’ve been marching on the front line, mobilising communities and actively pushing for women leading change.  

Over the years, we’ve made significant progress – from our courageous founders to the important steps we continue to take today to improve the lives of women. See where we’ve come from and discover how we’ll build on our past to create a future where all women and girls are equal, safe and respected. 

Timeline

  • 1880 – Mrs Mary Jane Barker launches the YWCA of Sydney, the first permanent YWCA in Australia, to help migrant women – “the shop girls, factory hands and domestic servants” – who were extremely vulnerable to exploitation. 
  • 1880 – Lady Colton establishes the YWCA of Adelaide, which began as a social group for young women.
  • 1882 – YWCA Melbourne is formed under the honorary leadership of Miss Sarah C. Booth, with the goal of the ‘spiritual, intellectual, and social improvement of young women’.
  • 1888 – During the Great Depression, Felicia Hopkins establishes the first YWCA in Queensland – Rockhampton – to provide a space for women to thrive and find community.
  • 1907 – YWCA Australia is formed as the national association across Australia. 
  • 1920 – YWCA Perth is established to create opportunities for women and girls to achieve their full potential by offering study scholarships. 
  • 1944 – YWCA Albury Wodonga is formed to provide leave houses for the comfort and use of service women during World War II.
  • 1947 – YWCA Broken Hill is formed, led by a progressive group of women, calling for local community members with an interest in mind, body and spirit to connect.
  • 1969 – YWCA Darwin is formed to provide safe and affordable accommodation for young women travelling for work.
  • 1984 – Y Hotel, now Song Hotels, officially opens its doors – an Australian first, this profit-for-purpose business reinvests into our community programs.
2015 – National merger is discussed
  • 2009 – YWCA Victoria launches Social Housing Victoria, to manage existing Y housing properties, support women and develop affordable housing solutions. 
  • 2015 – YWCA Member Associations around the country discuss and evaluate the YWCA National Merger.

2018 – YWCA becomes a united, for-purpose national organisation with the Adelaide, Albury Wodonga, Broken Hill, Darwin, New South Wales, Perth, Queensland and Victoria branches joining YWCA Australia to support women across Australia.

2018 Merger – eight member associations become one