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Victoria - Glossary Term

City Mission (c. 1854 - )

  • 'A haven of refuge'

    'A haven of refuge', c. 1924, courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive.

c. 1854

The first mission to be established in Victoria was the Melbourne and Suburban City Mission, founded in 1854, to tackle the economic and social upheaval caused by the gold rushes. In the nineteenth century, working class communities in the inner city were seen as 'dark' and 'foreign', and thus an appropriate field for mission. By the 1880s, all major Christian denominations had established missions, and the care of children and unmarried mothers was an important area of activity. Organisations like Melbourne City Mission and the Mission to the Streets and Lanes established institutions including female rescue homes, boy rescue societies, orphanages and ragged schools. The first half of the 20th century saw an expansion of denominationally based mission activity, with many inner-suburban churches reconstituting themselves as mission districts. These suburban missions provided one of the foundations for social work in the city of Melbourne. In the postwar period, missions took on a more secular role, and were important providers of child welfare services. In 2010, several of the community services organisations providing out-of-home care have their roots in nineteenth century City Missions.


Online Resources


'A haven of refuge'
'A haven of refuge'
c. 1924
National Film and Sound Archive


Sources used to compile this entry: Swain, S., 'Missions', in eMelbourne: the city past and present, Department of History, University of Melbourne, 2008,

Prepared by: Shurlee Swain and Cate O'Neill