Our History

Founded by Dr Philomena Joshua our story began in the 1960s, offering material aid and pregnancy counselling services.

It was out of Dr Joshua’s house in Box Hill (Victoria) where a group of volunteers, determined to support vulnerable pregnant women and mothers with babies, set up the first pregnancy support phone service.

Dr Philomena Joshua, at the launch of the history book “Caroline Chisholm Society: Our Story So Far” (October 2019)

A few years later, Mrs Pat Coffey (OA) living in Shepparton at the time, established a volunteer service also responding to the needs of pregnant women and mothers and their families.

Within a decade, the two networks would come together and taking their inspiration from Caroline Chisholm becoming an incorporated, accredited and registered community service that it is today, carrying on in the spirit and intent of a group of women with a vision to make a difference in the lives of women and children.

Inspired by our namesake, Caroline Chisholm was a changemaker successfully advocating for immigrant women and family welfare during the 19th century in Australia.  Undoubtedly an Australian heroine, Chisholm was a social reformer dedicated to improving the living conditions of single women and women with children arriving in the new colony of New South Wales.  Providing practical assistance including housing, work and social protection – as well as agitating for change on behalf of women and their children.

For over 50 years, we are and remain grounded in the heritage and tradition of our founders, and inspired by Chisholm, the Society continues to provide a range of programs and services for some of the most complex and vulnerable families in Victoria.

Today, working from three sites, the Society is recognised as a specialisation in the field of family services working to prevent the need for child protection involvement for thousands of women and their children who might otherwise have entered or experienced the trauma of out of home care.