The YMCA has been working in the Victorian community since 1853 providing recreation, camping, accommodation and community services. However, the humble beginnings of this great association started a long way from home, in old London town.

City Road


The YMCA was founded in 1844 during the Industrial Revolution in England, a time of great despair and poverty. George Williams, a drapery merchant, made up his mind that something had to be done. He gathered together a few friends to form a society that met regularly to support each other and gain renewed strength in body, mind and spirit. The group called itself the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). From its inception, through to the early 1900s, the focus was on the welfare of young men, and related social concerns.

In 1851, after first reaching America, the YMCA further spread its wings to Adelaide, Australia, on the back of the gold rush. From the mid 1930s to the early 1960s, the YMCA was forced by depression and world war to revert to the original foundations of social and community concern. The emphasis was on youth work, youth clubs, physical development, leadership training, education and welfare.

YMCA associations and branches can now be found all over the world.

YMCA milestones

Since reaching Australian shores, there have been some truly memorable moments in YMCA’s history, as well as standout occasions for Victoria. Here are a few of our favourites:

1853 - Branches of the London YMCA open in Sydney and Melbourne.

1855 - The World Alliance of Young Men's Christian Associations is established at the first International Conference of YMCA held in Paris. This makes YMCA the oldest voluntary international organisation in the world.

1876 - The Australian branches come together for the first 'Inter-Association Conference of the Australian YMCA'.

1882 - YMCA assists in the establishment of the Salvation Army in Melbourne.

1891 - James Naismith invented basketball in an attempt to interest pupils in physical exercise during winter months.

1909 – The first YMCA camp is organised.

1910 - Father's Day first celebrated at the Spokane YMCA in Washington.

1930 - Juan Carlos Ceriani from the YMCA of Montevideo, Uruguay, invented the sport of futsal as a synthesis of three indoor sports, handball, basketball, and water polo.

1978 – The Village People release the song ‘YMCA’.

2003 - 400 people attend the 150th Anniversary celebrations of the YMCA at Melbourne Town Hall.

2006 - YMCA Bridge Project is established to assist young people transition from custody into the community.

The YMCA community

YMCA Victoria as we know it today is a community association offering programs and services throughout Victoria. We work as part of a national movement of 15 YMCA Associations. We work closely alongside these other Victorian associations:

  • YMCA Ballarat – ballarat.ymca.org.au

  • YMCA Geelong – geelong.ymca.org.au

  • YMCA Grampians Region – grampians.ymca.org.au

  • YMCA Whittlesea – whittlesea.ymca.org.au

The YMCA has come a long way since forming in 1840. To be part of the YMCA, you no longer need to be young, male, or Christian! Rather, we are committed to providing opportunities for all people to grow in body, mind and spirit. We also provide a strong focus on professional and personal development for our team and patrons.