From its earliest days as Granma’s, a crisis youth refuge in rural Ingleside supported by local service clubs and operated by a volunteer group calling themselves The Godmothers, The Burdekin Association has evolved over the years in response to changing ideas about the needs of disadvantaged and homeless youth and those who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Over time, the refuge was handed over by the volunteers to the Manly Warringah Youth Accommodation Association and continued to operate as an eight bed crisis center until, following a review, it was closed down in 1997. Through the 1990s, the association also ran Birkley Cottage in Manly, providing a six bed therapeutic medium and long-term refuge accommodation, and a Youth Housing Scheme at Dee Why operating 17 beds of semi-supported housing.
Recommendations following the review saw a radical reorganisation of the whole service which has ultimately created the unique and innovative service that is known as Burdekin.
In 1998, the association was renamed The Burdekin Association Inc. after former Federal Human Rights Commissioner Brian Burdekin. Brian wrote the 1989 ‘Our Homeless Children’ report which detailed child poverty and abuse in Australia, and criticised governments for failing to look after children in their care.
The primary aim when integrating the association’s existing services and the development of new programs was to create an accommodation, care and support continuum which is responsive to the individual needs of a diverse range of young people (12 to 21 years) and their families. It involved putting together a range of flexible and innovative programs which reflect the immediate and changing needs of young people and families to create a supportive local infrastructure. To achieve this, a client-directed case management approach was essential, as was a commitment to team work and cooperation and collaboration with local agencies.
The change of approach allows the organisation to work with more difficult clients, including those with drug dependence, mental illness and self-harming behaviour. The individual nature of service provision, combined with a flexibility of approach, a commitment to creative solutions and appropriate expectations, greatly enhances the ability to work with challenging young people. Our Case Managers work across all program areas giving them the opportunity to develop strong relationships with young people and their families.
The Community Care Program was developed and began accommodating young people in March 1997. During the same period the Early Intervention and Family Support and Outreach, After care programmes were trialled. Collaboration on a range of intra-agency projects were progressing, including the establishment of a pregnant young women and young parents’ accommodation project. The physical transition of all staff to a central office in Dee Why was completed in November 1997.
By 2000 we were recognised by the Department of Community Services as one of the most progressive supported accommodation services in NSW.
The association moved into new office premises in Brookvale in February 2004 to accommodate the increase in staff and meeting facilities required. We were the second organisation to gain accreditation through the Office of the Children’s Guardian in 2004. We received a Certificate of Registration as a community housing provider under the Housing Act 2001 (NSW) as a class 4 provider in 2009.