About Dunlea Centre


About Dunlea

Fr Thomas Dunlea (1894-1970) founded Boys’ Town at Engadine, in 1939. His immediate source of inspiration was the movie about Fr Edward Flanagan (1886-1948) who founded the original Boys’ Town in 1917 at Omaha, Nebraska, USA . Both Fr Flanagan and Fr Dunlea drew inspiration from St John Bosco (1815-1888), whose work with disadvantaged youth began in Turin, Italy , but has since spread world-wide.

St John Bosco is the Founder of the Salesian Society of Priests and Brothers who, since 1952, have been responsible for the work of Boys’ Town.

Boys’ Town has undergone many changes over time as it has continued to respond to changes in society and the emerging needs of youth and families. In 2010 responding to the community need for a residential girl’s unit Boys’ Town Engadine became Dunlea Centre and established the Margaret unit to also help young ladies in need. Today as Dunlea Centre it is a comprehensive service to adolescent children and their families who are at risk of family breakdown, but who want to restore their relationships.

Dunlea Centre provides family and individual therapy, academic and life skills education, and residential care for both boys and girls. Family Preservation and Restoration is the focus of the Dunlea Centre’s program. Dunlea Centre is also an out of home care service and students live-in from Monday to Friday, thus allowing the children and their family some space to bring about necessary changes.

A Family Focus

Dunlea Centre works in partnership with families to help bring about this change. The philosophy of Dunlea Centre is based on the belief that every person is unique and specially valued in the eyes of God. Its inspiration is derived from its founder, Father Thomas Dunlea, who believed in the worth of every individual regardless of race, creed or socio-economic status. He believed that there was no such thing as a `bad’ child; circumstances lead them into difficulties, and different, more positive circumstances could redress this.

The practical method of working effectively with young people follows the Salesian tradition of Don Bosco who believed in prevention, kindly presence and an atmosphere characterised by acceptance and warmth. Over time at Dunlea Centre, this approach has been adapted to include specific therapeutic intervention in the lives of children and their families.

Salesian Approach and Style

The Salesian `Preventive System’ lies at the heart of Dunlea Centre, influencing, animating and directing all interactions with the students. The Salesian approach known as the `Preventive System’ was originally developed by Don Bosco in his work with young people at risk during the 19th Century Industrial Revolution in Italy and has been evolving ever since by the Salesians in their numerous works around the globe. In English, the word `preventive’ has negative connotations. It has overtones of stopping things from happening. In Italian – the word is very positive – it means `standing beside someone to speak on their behalf, to be their defender, to encourage them, to have empathy for them, to help them grow.’ Crucial to this way of working with the young is the encouraging presence and an active involvement of all staff in the lives of the young people. Don Bosco encouraged his workers always to have the interests of the young at heart, to love what the young love, to be a friend to the young rather than a master whom they fear.

The Salesian approach promotes an atmosphere of kindness, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness. It is based on a fundamental belief and hope in the ability of all young people to change.

“The preventive system must be our characteristic: never harsh punishments; never words that humiliate; never sharp reprimands in the presence of others. Let our words be gentle, patient and loving; no sarcastic remarks; never strike anyone, even lightly. Let every Salesian make himself the friend of all and never harbour thoughts of getting even. Let him be quick to forgive and never rake up the past. Kindness in speaking, in working, in giving advice will win over everyone”.

(An extract from a letter of Don Bosco to Don Costamagna, 10/8/1885).

3 Reasons to donate to Dunlea Centre


Help Young People In Need

Dunlea Centre programs give young people with family issues the fundamental tools for better independent decision making in modern society.

Skills obtained at Dunlea Centre are transferable to independent living, employment, application in their family unit and society in general.


Preserve the Family Unit

Dunlea Centre is a family support service. This niche service enables personalised programs to encompass any family as a whole.

We offer a niche service, while remaining consistent and reliable. This is relevant as the Australian family unit is diverse.


Help Your Local Community

The increased demand from Australian families requiring assistance has the Dunlea Centre positioned as a relevant & much needed service.

As greater Sydney and the Illawarra pursue a broader socio economic spread the Dunlea Centre programs become more important.


The Dunlea Centre Team

Dunlea Centre is successful because of it’s expert team, skilled at transforming their superior knowledge into programs for young people.


Pictured above from left to right: Samanatha Dennis (Residential Manager), Paul Mastronardi (Executive Director), Kate McLaren (Family Services Manager), Craig Bratton (Business Manager)

To learn more about our team click here > 

Dunlea Centre Testimonials

  • The staff at Dunlea Centre have been amazing. Without Dunlea Centre, I’m not sure where my son would be today. He has matured enormously and is now able to understand and accept outcomes and consequences. Thank you.
    Parent, 2011
  • When I first came to the Dunlea Centre I thought to myself, “I can’t do this, I don’t want to be here”, but now after a year I am still here, and I would love to stay for longer. We’ve had a lot of fun.
    Former StudentDunlea Centre
  • I came to the Dunlea Centre as I was having troubles at home with my parents, I would sometimes not come home. I also needed a break and a fresh start at a new school. I only started recently but so far I have learnt to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and to drink plenty of water. Eating healthy gives you more energy during school and you feel better. Also, I’m learning to help people more doing chores and cleaning up after myself.
    Former StudentDunlea Centre
  • “ I came to the Dunlea Centre because things were not going well at home or at school, I was fighting with my mum as well. The Dunlea Centre has been able to help me with being comfortable with myself and they have helped me with my anxiety. This has been the biggest change in my life so far. I think this has happened because the staff actually care about my school work and home life.”
    Former StudentDunlea Centre
  • “I came to the Dunlea Centre because my mum moved and left me with my dad. I was sleeping in his van down the road. Mainstream school didn’t suit me either. The Dunlea Centre has helped me in many ways. They have bought me shoes and clothes. They have helped me with my schoolwork and finding a job. I have really enjoyed cooking in the commercial kitchen and all of the FUN activities such as surfing, gym, gymnastics and canoeing. My most memorable moment was when I surfed for the first time and I was good at it. I will always remember that experience because it made me feel good about myself. ”
    Former StudentDunlea Centre

Valuable Dunlea Centre Supporters

Dunlea Centre Mailing List
Subscribe now for the latest News, Programs & Appeals!
We respect your privacy.