Our story began in 1924 when Dr Lorna Hodgkinson – a remarkable Australian of great dedication and vision – established the Sunshine Institute.
Lorna was the first woman to receive a Doctorate at the prestigious Harvard University, USA. As a teacher herself, Lorna was passionate in her belief that people with an intellectual disability should be supported to learn and lead meaningful lives and not be locked up in hospitals for the mentally ill.
This belief was in direct conflict with the government’s policy of the time, and also with the broader social norms of the day. Taking matters into her own hands, in 1924 Lorna leased (and later purchased) a large house and land at Gore Hill on Sydney’s Lower North Shore, naming it the Sunshine Institute. It opened as a residential school with just six children with intellectual disabilities later that year. By the time of Lorna’s death in 1951, more than 60 students were living and studying at Gore Hill. Prior to her death, Lorna had converted the institute to a non-profit organisation under a board of trustees, to whom she bequeathed the bulk of her estate. At this time, the Sunshine Institute was renamed the Lorna Hodgkinson Sunshine Home. Over the years, the organisation continued to expand, always staying true to Lorna’s philosophy of supporting and caring for people as individuals.
By the late 1970s, Sunshine began looking at ways to move away from institutional living. In the two decades that followed, a number of units and homes were purchased, and many of the people we supported made the transition to living in group homes. In the early 2000s, the Gore Hill site was sold to help fund Sunshine’s expansion into community based living.
Today – rebadged as Sunshine – we continue to deliver services to over 600 people across Sydney and Central Coast.
As we celebrated our 90th year in 2014, we continue to be inspired by Lorna’s mission of demanding a better life for those we support. We achieve this by continuing to develop our key service areas of Community Based Accommodation & Supported Living; Community Access; Supported Employment; Transition to Work; Flexible In-Home Respite; Centre-Based Respite & Children’s Flexible Respite, and by extending and developing new services such as the Community Justice / Pro Social Activities Program.