Our founders

Dr John Singleton

Dr John Singleton

Dr John Singleton (1808–1891) arrived in Melbourne just before the Victorian gold rush in 1851. He was a medical practitioner, Christian philanthropist, evangelist and passionate reformer. In 1869 he established the Collingwood Free Mission Medical Dispensary; he was instrumental in the creation of the Children’s Hospital; he set up night shelters and longer-term accommodation in the inner city for people experiencing homelessness; he also worked for the humane treatment of those in gaol, becoming known as the "prisoners’ friend". Many of the services operating in the communities of Victoria today owe their genesis to Dr John Singleton’s foundational vision and work.

Pictured to the left: Dr John Singleton, courtesy of the State Library Victoria. Creator Thomas J.J. Wyatt fl. 1857-1885, photographer.

Hester Hornbrook

Hester Hornbrook was Melbourne City Mission's president from 1856 until her death in 1862, and one of its founders. Born in the West Indies, she had arrived in Victoria in 1849. Among her many charitable works was her involvement in establishing a 'Protestant Refuge' for prostitutes who wished to begin new lives. She was best known for founding a system of 'ragged schools' – basic education, particularly 'instructing the word of God', for children who were too poor, dirty or otherwise marginalised to attend any other type of formal education.

After her death she was remembered with respect and love by fellow committee members of Melbourne City Mission: 'In meetings of committee her firmness of purpose, purity of motive, simplicity of aim, unwavering trust in the Divine promises, prayerful dependence on God, fearlessness in encountering difficulty, excellency of wisdom, and her spirited, joyous and hopeful manner - all rendered her an invaluable councillor and guide'.

Mrs Hornbrook worked tirelessly to raise funds for Melbourne City Mission – visiting house to house to collect money and writing letters when poor eyesight and general infirmity restricted her movements.