• Organisation

Sydney Rescue Work Society


The Sydney Rescue Work Society was formed in 1890 to ‘take over, continue and strengthen the Rescue Work for seven years usefully and beneficially carried on by Mr G.E. Ardill and his philanthropic co-workers’. It ran numerous refuges and homes for women and children in Sydney and surrounding suburbs. From 1911 until at least the 1950s it was based at 141-155 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. It changed its name in 1982 to Communicare.

George Edward Ardill was a printer and Gospel preacher who, in 1882, opened a Women’s Refuge known as the ‘Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women’. With his wife Louisa, he then initiated the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army, which ran the Home of Hope, the Discharged Prisoners’ Mission and the Open All Night Refuge.

The Sydney Rescue Work Society was a non-denominational body founded on the principles and teachings of the New Testament. It campaigned for temperance, the reform of alcoholics and prostitutes and the protection of infants, women and girls. Ardill, a printer, produced a newspaper called The Rescue to lobby for funds, thank his numerous supporters, and report his successes in rescuing ‘the fallen’.

The Sydney Rescue Work Society grew rapidly under Ardill’s energetic guidance. By 1911 the following agencies were actively serving the community under the Society’s control: South Sydney Women’s Hospital; Bethesda Home for Waiting Mothers; Training School for Midwifery Nurses; Adoption Agency; Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women; a day nursery and crèche in the City; Open All Night Refuge for Women; Jubilee Home for working and unemployed women; Roslyn Hall Babies Home, Rockdale; the Society for Providing Homes for Neglected Children, with homes at Camden and Liverpool; and a general relief agency that dispensed money and clothes to the needy.

Sydney Rescue Work Society institutions were run on the cottage model, which was expensive and required high levels of staff. The Society’s finances were frequently precarious and Ardill financed many of his operations with profits from the commercial laundry in the Home of Hope, and fees from training midwives in South Sydney Women’s Hospital. He was criticised for this, and for using the labour of pregnant women in the laundry. However, the Society was a major force in the city’s charitable networks, at least until Ardill’s death in 1945.

By the 1970s, the principal activities of the Society were the Commonwealth Street Mission, providing food, shelter and clothing for homeless and destitute men and women; Roslyn Hall Children’s Home, providing residential care for twenty children; Bethesda Home for Unmarried Mothers, providing accommodation and support for single pregnant girls; South Sydney Women’s Hospital, which placed special emphasis on the care of unmarried mothers; an Adoption Agency; a hostel for business girls; and a Department of Evangelism. In addition to these, it maintained a relationship with the homes operated by the Society for Providing Homes for Neglected Children.

The Sydney Rescue Work Society changed its name to Communicare Sydney in approximately 1982 and in 2011 began trading as Integricare Sydney. It has sixteen child care services, including long day care centres, pre-schools, family day care and OOSH centres. The records of the Sydney Rescue Work Society Adoption Agency are now held by the Department of Community Services’ Adoption Information Service. The Nursing History Research Unit, Sydney Nursing School holds registers from the Home of Hope [South Sydney Women’s Hospital] (1903-1905). Some records of South Sydney Women’s Hospital from 1947-1949 and 1950-1976 are held by the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick.

Whilst predominately focussed on long day care, family day care and preschool services for children, Integricare is considering ways to return to Ardill’s original mission of administering to the needy.

The Sydney Rescue Work Society was mentioned in the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices Inquiry (2012) as an organisation that was involved in forced adoption.

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