Ardoch Youth Foundation’s work began in 1988, when a Year 11 student experiencing homelessness approached her welfare coordinator at Ardoch Windsor Secondary College, Kathy Hilton OAM, for help to complete her education.


Our HistoryThis bright 17-year-old girl had become homeless as a result of a distressing family breakdown, and was coming to school from the shelter of a Brotherhood of St Laurence clothing bin. Kathy assumed that there would be experts to help, but could find no support at a time when the problems of youth homelessness were not recognised or understood. Seven government agencies identified themselves as having some responsibility; but none had a pigeonhole that quite fitted the case. As Kathy said later, "There was no recognition that homeless kids might even want to be at school.” Kathy took on the responsibility to support the young girl herself and engaged her networks and then the local community to help and was able to support her in meeting meet both her basic needs and her learning requirements.

Word soon spread. Within five years, hundreds of young people experiencing disadvantage came to the school asking for help to complete their education. They who were facing such issues as homelessness, poverty, family breakdown, drug abuse, violence, unemployment, mental illness in their families, social isolation, learning and language difficulties.

As Kathy continued to help many more vulnerable students who were homeless or living in extreme poverty with their families, Ardoch Youth Foundation was born (incorporated in 1992). Ardoch Windsor Secondary College was closed in 1992 as part of state education cuts but the charity grew quickly, lobbied government to tackle youth homelessness and developed early intervention and prevention programs, supported by a strong support network of community and corporate volunteers to help disadvantaged children and young people to reach their potential through education. Through Ardoch’s focus on early intervention, the work was extended to primary schools and then the early years to achieve the most impact and break the cycle of disadvantage for children in areas of high need through access to education, targeted learning programs and support to meet individual needs.

Since those early days, Ardoch Youth Foundation has grown into a national organisation working from early childhood education right through primary and secondary schooling to make education a reality for over 12,000 Australian children and young people each year. Ardoch 's vision is that every child’s and young person’s potential is realised through full participation in education and our focus has broadened from youth homelessness to any disadvantage that presents barriers to education for children and young people - from socially isolated families experiencing generational poverty to the needs of refugee families where children have experienced trauma and have had little formal schooling before arriving in Australia.