YMCA NSW History

YMCA was founded.

During the Industrial Revolution in England, a large divide existed between the rich and the poor, and living conditions were notoriously terrible. Working conditions, especially for young boys and girls, were inhumane. George Williams, a 22-year-old drapery merchant, decided that something had to be done to bridge the gap and give hope for those in need. He gathered together a few friends to form a society that met regularly to support each other and gain renewed strength in body, mind and spirit. The group called itself the Young Men’s Christian Association and so the YMCA was established. The organisation was formed as a Christian organisation as the name indicated; dedicated to promoting Christian values and from the beginning solely for Men, focused in improving the religious condition of young men.

YMCA Annual Appeal Launched

In 2013 YMCA NSW had its first YMCA Annual Appeal. This event involved kicked off at Rosehill Racecourse, a historic event in the progression of the YMCA’s history. The YMCA Annual Appeal, which was held during the month of June, is a cause-driven “face-to-face gift solicitation” where we – the YMCA – ask each other and our members to contribute to our charitable work. It is the time we give our staff, members and patrons the opportunity to support financially the charitable work we provide to those less fortunate in our community. The Appeal collectively raised $40,000 with a total of 73,000 conversations across NSW.

English YMCA Member Meet to...

A group of migrant men from the London YMCA met together with others similarly keen for the advancement of evangelical Christianity. They met with Mr J.G.J Davies in Gloucester Street in Sydney to discuss the formation of the first YMCA in Sydney without realising a group of men in Melbourne were also planning the same thing. The group made special reference for the YMCA in Sydney to be ‘conducted on similar lines to the Associations of Great Britain to continue the work that the association had been conducting in their motherland. The recorded minutes from the meeting on that date state that they met for ‘the formation and establishment of an association’. One of the key reasons for setting up a Y in Sydney was loneliness as many of the English Migrants felt homesick. Further the nomadic nature of work that was available made constant travel a regular occurrence. Below is an extract from the first minute book: ‘ The Young Men’s Christian Association conducted on similar lines to the associations o Great Britain would, under the blessing of God, become a great advantage to the young men of the colony. The following pledged themselves to use their best exertion for the formation of such an association’. Link to the Y today: One of the key reasons for setting up a Y in Sydney, was loneliness which was a links interestingly to how the modern day YMCA NSW tackles the ‘21st Century Diseases’ of depression and loneliness.

23 Men Form the YMCA

Similar to the Board or General Managers meetings we hold today; Twenty-tree men pledged themselves to form an Association and to be a committee, with John J.Davies as Hon. Sec. Pro tem, to frame rules ’ – ( J.T Massey) This was considered a ‘provisional committee’ forming the association with the following officers; President – The Hon. John Fairfax Treasurer - Mr James Comrie Hon Secretary - Mr J.J Davies Some of the names of the 23 gentlemen who were present are listed below; J.S Perry, David Jones, T.J Thompson, Edward Hunt, James Waugh, James Comire, J.S Adams, Rev. Joseph Beazley, John. D Langley, Samuel Goold and John J. Davies. Link to the Y today: This was the first formal recognition of the organisation we have today in NSW. The 23 men that formed the YMCA could be considered the ‘Founding Fathers’ of the organisation in NSW.

Opening Lecture by Rev. King

The opening lecture of the YMCA was given on this day by Rev. George King at St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. Rev. George King focused on his vision for the association and what commitment its members were making when joining. He spoke of the perils of ‘idleness and drunkenness’ and the need to ‘bring within the reach of youth moral appliances healthful mental exercises and religious instruction ’. In the early days of the YMCA; these lectures or ‘scriptures’ were one of the main things the Y did linking back to their original reasons for forming the Y in Sydney; which was to improve the religious condition of men. These lectures were attended by young men. Quotes from Rev. George King’s opening speech; ‘To win the mind away from vulgar and degrading scenes if amusement which court attention at every corner of our streets – and provide for newly-arrived immigrants for the bosom of a family the doors of a quiet little asylum where literary refinement, social converse mutual instruction and occasional lectures- to provide youth of this place with facilities for study-moral and scientific teaching. Our object is MAN, to bring within the reach of youth moral appliances healthful mental exercises and religious instruction.’ ‘ Let not the humblest despair of rising to most honourable ranks… when a youth goes into the streets from his lodging house he beholds nought on the right or the left but public houses to invite him… If ever there was a period of history in this country when such an association was it is the present. High wages because of gold allows them to spend three or four days a week in idleness and drunkenness. I fondly hope, under the auspices of this institution, the gold discovery which has been dreaded as a curses will be converted into a blessing’ ‘Let no man presume to join this association unless he has the courage to enter upon this path… We take the basis … the word of God – Now a word to the members- this generation seems to be blessed with societies of a philanthropic character- there is a danger of occupying elsewhere what should be reserved for our Redeemer- That this association may prosper let it be commenced with prayer”. – (JT Massey) Link to the Y today: Although we don’t brand ourselves as a ‘Christian Organisation’ we still run an Out of Hours School Care Service at St Andrews Cathedral, and still focus on healthy living which really was at the crux of Rev. George King’s statements.

'But why Only Sydney?'

After the launch of the YMCA of Sydney, a Sydney Newspaper the ‘Illustrated Sydney News’ published an article about the organisation and how so many organisations are coming forward ‘to aid and encourage such a course of action’ but wondered ‘why only Sydney’. It encouraged the YMCA to expand its services not only across the state but to neighbouring island nations . Link to the Y today: The Y recently changed their name from YMCA of Sydney to YMCA NSW to represent our growth and service of the whole state, not just Sydney.

The Sydney Empire Reports...

With the YMCA of Sydney ( now known as the YMCA NSW) a couple of years old The Sydney Empire reports that the YMCA is contributing its quota to the general improvement of society, a glowing account on the organisation in its infant stages . Link to the Y today: Recently, Premier O’Farrell commended on the Y’s Contribution to NSW and reaching its targets. Claiming government can’t do it all alone.

The Y's first fundraising event

The YMCA of Sydney was making “real progress”, with the small group who had met together in St. Paul’s Churchyard growing and gaining momentum. Prayer meetings, discussions, classes and fellowship caused the Y to progress. Donations and contributions were sufficient for maintenance, but larger premises were soon needed. Members enthusiastically set about to secure additional funds. A successful bazaar was held, which raised £925 (equivalent to approximately $70,000 today). The funds raised from the event allowed the members to purchase an expensive premise near Bathurst Street, net to the Bank of NSW, in 1859. However, the success of the bazaar proved to be the undoing of the Association; in the following year subscribers, considering that the organisation was no longer in need of donations, ceased to contribute. The new premises were given up, the furniture was sold to pay debts and the library was stored and later sold, although some of the proceeds were afterwards recovered and used in Association work. Link to the Y today: This event provides a direct link to the way the Y operates today as a self-funded charity that seeks external funding to expand rather than survive .

Early Days of the Breakfast Club

Young Men concerned by the lack of a Christian Group met with Rev. J. E Vetch the Minister of Point Piper Congregational Church and formed the ‘Young Men’s Breakfast Meetings’, on the 26 January 1962. Following the formation of the breakfast club, the group of young men went out on the first Sunday of April to the Domain and Hyde Park to give homeless people breakfast. On the first day they brought food to 17 men and three women who were homeless. These continued monthly and expanded, with some meetings having 70 to 80 people present. Link to the Y today: This can be seen as a variation of Breakfast Club the Y run today.

Reformation of the YMCA of Sydney

The success of the Bazaar proved to be the downfall of the Association; as members felt that the organisation no longer needed their contributions. Unfortunately this led to the selling of their premises and the YMCA being temporarily dormant. However, a meeting was called for all those favourable to the re-establishment of the Young Men’s Christian Association. After a series of odd and unrelated events, ‘somehow the Y.M.C.A was reformed’. One of the main reasons for the push for reformation was concerns surrounding the lack of a Christian Organisation. This is considered the commencement of the present YMCA of Sydney. In order to get back up and running again, they ran a kiosk at the Centenary Exhibition. These decisions were made by the management team at the time; headed up by the Hon. Secretary Mr R.F. Jay. Link to the Y today: Many people don’t know that the YMCA actually went to a brief period of non-existence.

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