It was approaching Christmas in 1922 and a group of five weary businessmen stopped at the Woolpack Hotel in Parramatta.
It had been a tough slog journeying back to Sydney from the Blue Mountains – so a little refreshment was called for.
Over their cool drinks, a lively discussion ensued about the gifts their children would get for Christmas and how fortunate they were to experience all the joys of the season. That got them to talking about poverty – and in particular the extent of child poverty in Sydney.
They wondered: how would Christmas be for these children? Some of the men didn’t think the problem was as big as the others claimed – so they agreed they’d research it and then come back together to share their findings.
“A good education provides disadvantaged children with the chance to change their futures for the better.”
Their investigations confirmed poverty was rife across Sydney and the effects on children were dreadful. It wasn’t too long after that the five of them turned up at an orphanage with sweets and gifts. A grateful Matron was looking for a name for the boys to thank.
“They can thank Smith,” said one of the businessmen. “Yes,” agreed another, “Smith, we’re all Smiths here.”
Of course, The Smith Family organisation has changed dramatically since then but some things have stayed the same, namely:
- Poverty remains a huge problem in our country;
- our organisation still helps children in need;
- we research the problem we seek to solve and use evidence to craft our solution; and
- we continue to promote humility in the act of giving.
However, there is one vital element which has changed significantly. The Smith Family’s support is no longer welfare oriented. Today, we focus on supporting the educational attainment of children in need.
The premise, supported by evidence, is that a good education provides disadvantaged children with the chance to change their futures for the better.
Today our programs are well embedded in places like Wagga Wagga - as they are in 93 other communities in every state and territory.
I’m thrilled we are now in a position to grow the reach of our Learning for Life program. Every child on our program receives financial, personal and programmatic support – for the duration of their education – in an effort to ensure they attend school regularly, progress through school to complete Year 12 and achieve post-school engagement in further study, training or work.
By June 2020 The Smith Family will be doubling the number of young people supported in Wagga Wagga, from the current 600 to 1,200 students.
In my experience, people in rural and regional Australia really understand the power of working together to tackle problems.
In close-knit communities like Wagga you’re more likely to know someone dealing with adversity and so there seems to be a greater willingness to help. There’s a shared understanding around the benefits of ‘pitching in’ – of working together to resolve issues.
And that’s a good thing – because in Wagga Wagga, as in many communities around Australia, there are young people who are facing some pretty big challenges.