Lou’s Place first opened its doors on 19 April 1999 with the official opening performed by John Howard, then Prime Minister, on 12 May 2000.
As with every new venture, many people contributed to Lou’s before this event. The idea began with discussions between two women – Lisa O’Brien and Ilse O’Reilly – who sought to use their skills acquired in the private sector to help other women.
A visit to Mission Australia led to a review of the needs of the local community. It soon became apparent that the gap in service at the time was day care – a place for women to go during the day to be safe from the perils of the streets or from the husband or pimp who beat them up the night before, or simply a warm and welcoming environment just to “be” in the company of other supportive women.
Ilse and Lisa soon teamed up with Pam Bartlett and Susie Manfred to make their vision a reality.
Ilse, Lisa, Pam and Susie approached targeted donors with a business plan for a women’s drop-in day centre and asked 28 families for committed funding for the first four years. Within a few months of their first visit to Mission Australia, Ilse and Lisa returned to Mission Australia with a funding commitment of $800,000.
The house in which Lou’s operates was purchased by four partners from Grant Samuel and leased to the Marmalade Foundation on favourable terms.
Ilse O’Reilly became the first chair of the association, which was named the Marmalade Foundation Inc., later to be succeeded by a public company, The Marmalade Foundation Limited. Ilse was followed as chair by Susie Manfred and then Jo Boney.
Even with committed funding, the cost of providing the array of services required by Lou’s client base remained prohibitive. A plan was hatched to staff Lou’s using the 80/20 rule – a small team of paid professional welfare workers managed by Mission Australia and supported by a larger group of volunteers sourced by The Marmalade Foundation.
To this day, Lou’s Place would not be operating without our dedicated volunteers.
Lou’s has been fortunate to attract substantial pro bono support, including legal advice from Blake Dawson as well as the contributions of a medical clinic run by Dr Bronwyn Gould and nurse Pearl Price. Specialist volunteers provide art classes, creative writing, music lessons, sewing classes, yoga and much more. The legal service, medical clinic and specialist classes have been a part of Lou’s from the beginning.
Lou’s Place was initially operated by Mission Australia in partnership with the Marmalade Foundation. The Marmalade Foundation provided the funds, Mission Australia handled day to day operations and a joint Management Advisory Board identified strategic direction and set policies for service delivery .
In 2004 Mission Australia agreed to fund 50% of operations with the Marmalade Foundation providing the balance and any extras. With the full support of Mission Australia, The Marmalade Foundation assumed sole responsibility for both operations and fundraising in July 2009. Julie Claridge became the first chair of the newly formed The Marmalade Foundation LImited, with Carol Berg following her as chair in May 2010.
In April 2012, we completed our 13th year of opening our door to help women who are homeless, in crisis or in need of support. We hope to keep the doors of Lou’s Place open for many years to come.