Our History


Fr Thomas Dunlea is appointed parish priest of Sutherland, a large and mostly rural area encompassing the Royal National Park.

Many of the families ministered to by Fr Dunlea lived rough in the Royal National Park.


With nowhere else to go, three homeless boys come to live at the presbytery, but Fr Dunlea eventually moves them to a rented house in Sutherland.

Within a few months, twenty-three boys and two live-in ‘house parents’ call the place home.


Neighbours complain about the number of boys (and their pets) living in the rental house and contact the health department.

Facing eviction from the health department, Fr Dunlea marches the boys from the Glencoe house to Loftus where they set up camp, calling it Boys’ Town.


The Bishop gives Fr Dunlea permission to set up a home for boys.

With help from donors, Fr Dunlea purchases a property in Engadine and converts the old buildings on site to dormitories, classrooms, and a kitchen/dining area.


The Bishop sends the De La Salle brothers to help with the running of Boys’ Town.

The De La Salle brothers help Fr Dunlea to provide a home for homeless and wayward boys, where they would feel loved and accepted, be educated, and learn a trade.


The Salesians replace the De La Salle brothers and Fr Dunlea goes on sabbatical.


Fr Dennis Halliday studies the social welfare of the boys at Boys’ Town and creates the seminal model of care, Parenting with Families in Crisis, that is used throughout Australia for two decades.


The Salesians step away from administration of Boys’ Town and the first lay director is appointed.


Boys’ Town Engadine ABN 75 114 343 756 established with a board of independent directors to take over the operations of Boys’ Town under license from the Salesians.


The student cohort changes to include young women, necessitating a name change from Boys’ Town to Dunlea Centre.


The Common-Sense Parenting program is implemented to help parents and carers better communicate with their young people.


Partnering with Boys’ Town in Omaha, Nebraska, Dunlea Centre embarks on training for an innovative model of care–the Teaching Family Model.


A structured after-care service, The Way Forward, begins to ensure young people and families have the support they need to continue positive outcomes once they leave Dunlea Centre.


Nine students graduate from the inaugural Year 12 program at Dunlea Centre.


Dunlea Centre is one of only a hand-full of accredited Teaching Family Model care-givers in Australasia.

The Teaching Family Model is an evidence-based and trauma informed best-practice treatment and approach to working with young people and their families in crisis.