In late 1997, a meeting took place between Stephen Kilroy, Vicki Docherty and ATSIC Commissioner James (Jimmy) Wright. The meeting identified the need to have an Aboriginal Service specialising in the care and support of youth in the community. There was concern for the next generation moving forward whilst embracing their culture, and a gap in services offered by other local Aboriginal organisations was identified.
Jimmy saw the passion Steve Kilroy showed towards youth whilst involved with the young Aboriginal boxers at the Newcastle PCYC. At the time, embarking on establishing a new Aboriginal organisation was daunting, family, community and associates came together and incorporated Wandiyali ATSI in August of 1998.
The first significantly funded project for the organisation was ‘Hunter Koori Youth Service (HKYS)’. This service was able to be transferred over to Wandiyali after Steve had been employed by Samaritans as coordinator of the service. The Samaritans CEO of the time, Cec Sheval, nurtured Steve, the program and the establishment of Wandiyali as an organisation. The HKYS aimed at working with youth aged 14-25 years that were homeless or at risk of homelessness. This program was run from the old ‘Palais Royale’ in Newcastle City, with Steve the sole worker. In 2000, requirements of the HKYS grew and so too did Wandiyali’s employees, with Barb Kelly coming on board as the second HKYS support worker. Barb was an integral part of Wandiyali’s growth and remained with the organisation until October 2018.
Over the years the projects grew as did the organisation, with ongoing support from Samaritans. Within 5 years of operation Wandiyali had not only HKYS, but a parenting program “Burri”, Out of Home Care Mentoring Service (Wraparound), disability support services and managed AHO properties.
Some of the initiatives Wandiyali has been involved with over the years include: World Indigenous Youth Conference in New Zealand, where Steve Kilroy travelled with a group of youth to attend; Koori’s Vs Cops Surfing Competition at Nobby’s Beach, which then led to further involvement and major sponsorship of the Indigenous Surfest Competition.
Wandiyali’s break into larger services came in 2007 with the ‘Brighter Futures – Early Intervention’ program. The organisation became the lead Indigenous service for the program in Newcastle. With this growth, we saw Wandiyali’s employee numbers grow to approximately 25.
In 2010, in order to keep all of Wandiyali’s services under one roof, we moved to Griffiths Road, Lambton. From here, Wandiyali continued to expand its services by purchasing a child care centre in 2011, now known as ‘Wandiyali Child Care Centre’ (formerly Cathy Lynne Preschool) at Glendale.
2013 saw rapid growth with the organisation gaining interim-accreditation as an Out of Home Care Children’s Services Agency.
In 2018, our 20 year anniversary, we moved to Boolaroo that would serve as our head office.
In 2020, we outgrew our Boolaroo office and we made our biggest move yet! We moved to a 1,491sqm building in Elermore Vale that now serves as our head office.
Today, we have a wide range of services to cater for all levels of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Hunter and Port Stephens regions.
Hunter Koori Youth Service was a stepping stone for Wandiyali, with 3 employees. Today we boast nearly 80 employees. We would like to say “The rest is history”, however, Wandiyali continues to grow, achieve and strengthen.
We look forward to continuing to benefit the community, in an effort to ‘Keep our Culture and Community Strong’.