Our history - The Smith Family
The Smith Family was founded in 1922 by five businessmen who identified a need and responded accordingly. In many ways, this typifies who we are today - an organisation that is enterprising and evidence based.
Throughout the past 90 years, we have continued to review the needs of disadvantaged children and families and responded accordingly.
The beginning of The Smith Family
Shortly before Christmas in 1922, five Australian businessmen were returning from a trip to the Blue Mountains. They debated whether everyone was enjoying the Christmas spirit but rather than go on their opinion only, they established that there was disadvantage and decided to do something about it.
They believed that all children should be able to join in at Christmas so they went to an orphanage where children were without the love of families surrounding them and gave them the joys of Christmas - toys and sweets. They were happy to do this anonymously and when the matron asked them their names so that the children could write a letter of thanks, one of the men replied:
"Er .. Smith."
"What about the others?" asked the matron.
"They're Smiths too," replied the man "We're all Smiths. We're The Smith Family..."
And so The Smith Family came into existence.
How did we get to where we are today?
The Smith Family has continually evolved to respond to the needs of disadvantaged Australians.
During the Depression of the late 1920s and early 30s, The Smith Family assisted with the food and clothing needs of thousands of Australians as unemployment soared and responsibility for the care of children and families fell to organisations such as ours.
In 1933 when rheumatic fever became a major health issue affecting children, The Smith Family set up a special hospital to care for them. Mt Arcadia operated in North Parramatta until 1958.
The 1970s saw The Smith Family react to the needs of refugee families fleeing war in Vietnam and Timor and supporting the residents of Darwin recover from the devastation inflicted by Cyclone Tracey.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s The Smith Family was spending more than ever before on direct financial relief - in many cases to generations of the same family. We asked our emergency help clients what they believed needed to be done to put an end to intergenerational disadvantage. They replied "help us help our children to get an education."
"Help us help our children to get an education - so they can help themselves."
This is what our clients told us back in 1987 when we asked what we could do to help them above and beyond what we were already doing. Our response was to set up EDU-CATE for students in the junior secondary years. The program was designed to ensure kids didn't miss out at school just because of their family's financial situation.
During the 1990s the program was extended as Learning for Life. During 2011/2012 our work reached more than 106,000 disadvantaged children and families across Australia, helping them to access opportunities so that they can create better futures for themselves and break the cycle of disadvantage.
Today, Learning for Life is as much a strategy for The Smith Family as a stand-alone sponsorship program. In addition to offering students financial scholarships, the program also provides personal attention through qualified staff and volunteer mentors and access to other support in the area of reading, financial and computer literacy.
To celebrate our 85th birthday, we produced a special birthday report called 'Our History'. Charting The Smith Family's journey from 1922 through to the present day, this report reflects on the history of The Smith Family as an innovative and pioneering social enterprise.