In 1854, Fr Gerald Ward established the Society to assist people affected by the rapidly expanding immigrant population.
 
With the discovery of gold in 1851 and the rush to the goldfields of central Victoria, the population doubled and homeless, deserted children roamed the streets.
 
Fr Ward suggested that the main reason for the first Australian Conference was for “the protection of male and female orphans.”
 
In a submission to the government of the day, Fr Ward stated that the new Conference aimed at “the relief of the destitute, in a manner as much as possible permanently beneficial and the visitation of the poor families.”