Our history

The beginning, 1906 -1920s

Presbyterians have had a concern for children since the Otago settlement began. Church deaconesses had 14 children living with them in a George Street flat when Presbyterian Social Service Association (PSSA) opened a children’s home in 1906.  It began its work with residential care for children whose parents were unable to care for them for various reasons.  The children’s homes were quickly expanded and continued until the 1980s. 

In 1918 the Association began its Services for Older People with the building and opening of Ross Home in North East Valley, Dunedin.


The 1930s depression was tough for everyone, including social services, but with community and church support, we were able to continue.


The outbreak of World War II caused further strain. By the end of the 1940s the Association’s work with children placed it at the forefront of developing trends in care.


Services for Older People expanded. In 1953 Iona Hospital and Home in Oamaru was built and opened; Ross Home expanded. 


St Andrews Home, Melville Street was established. Discussion on the possibility of providing care for elderly in Balclutha culminated in the opening of Holmdene in 1965.

The 1960s also saw the establishment of a home for intellectually handicapped women in Corstorphine and St Luke’s Hospital in South Dunedin. 

Hospital chaplaincies in general and mental hospitals were developed.

Counselling and life education began in 1967 with the opening of the Cameron Centre in Dunedin.  This was a joint venture with First Church of Otago.


Further expansion saw the opening of Ranui in Alexandra in 1973.

Continuing with our tradition of Services for Older People, we opened Taieri Court in Mosgiel.  In 1980 a decision was made to engage in more community and parish liaison work. 

There was particular emphasis placed on Child and Family Care work and the appointment of a Director of Child and Family Services reflected this change of direction.


In March 1984, the name Presbyterian Social Service Association was changed to Presbyterian Support Services Otago. (It has since been shortened to Presbyterian Support Otago).

A major upgrade of Ross Home was completed with community support.


The 1990s heralded major changes for Presbyterian Support.  Changes in Government policy in the area of pre-adolescent care led to the closure of the Glendining child care complex – the end of an historic era but the beginning of a new focus in preventative work with children.

Capital expansion projects during the 1990s included major redevelopment at Iona and the merging of three homes – Corstorphine, St Andrews and St Luke’s – into a new purpose-built complex at Kew, now named St Andrews.

New Presbyterian Support premises on the Moray Place frontage in the grounds of First Church was completed in late 1990.  It centralised all sections of Presbyterian Support Otago.  Presbyterian Support Centre’s  location and design with well equipped meeting spaces, has helped to provide easy access to services for Dunedin-based clients.

A child mentoring programme known as the Buddy Programme began to play an important part in our community family services.


At the close of the 1990s, increasing emphasis was placed on reconnecting with church and society, through community mission and advocacy in our expanding welfare services. The establishment of a Community Mission Director in 2001-2006 demonstrated the increasing importance of this programme direction.  “How Much is enough”, “Old, Cold and Costly”, “With My Boots on”, “Can we do Better? are widely used publications on income adequacy and housing in Dunedin.

The commitment to the region was enhanced with the purchase of Elmslie House in Wanaka, our seventh residential aged care facility in Otago.

Hospital chaplaincy services completed a transition to ecumenical hospital chaplaincy, no longer supported by Presbyterian Support Otago.

In 2001 YouthGrow, a land-based job scheme for unemployed youth, originated from conversations regarding the need to engage young people who had been using the foodbank and receiving benefits unable to find work for a variety of reasons. YouthGrow, along with welfare services, community social workers, personal and public advocacy, the Buddy programme, counselling and group work are all now part of the nationally branded Family Works.

Positive ageing services to enable people to live in their own homes rather than in residential facilities were a major development throughout the decade.  Enliven became the name for all our community-based positive ageing services in Otago.

In 2006 Presbyterian Support Otago marked its centenary . A full history “Making a Difference” was published.

Just Housing Otepoti Dunedin became a Trust operated by Presbyterian Support Otago and built four social housing units adjacent to the Wakari Church.


The Wanaka Retirement Village opened in December 2010.  It is the third retirement village now owned and operated by Presbyterian Support Otago. It offers a continuum of care adjacent to Elmslie House.  Smaller clusters of ownership units operate at Ranui in Alexandra and Columba Court in Oamaru.

The recession was keenly felt this decade and more clients sought emergency services and food year-on-year.  As always, Otago residents responded with great generosity.  

YouthGrow has made a shift in direction so that now it is a youth development project, offering job skills and personal development for up to 18 young men and women.

Family Works Community Development became a philosophy that aims to strengthen communities, thereby providing a nurturing context for families.  Significant successful work is being carried out in North East Valley and Pine Hill.  Social work services have been established in Oamaru.

Further research into income inadequacy and housing was published in 2012 and 2014 under the "Voices of Poverty" and “Out In the Cold” titles.

As a result of a Southern DHB decision Presbyterian Support no longer delivers funded home and community services for older people.

Some of the Enliven Services that remain are:  Day Activity Programmes (Club Enliven in Dunedin, Mosgiel and Central Otago), Enliven HomeShare (for people with dementia in Central Otago), Visiting Volunteers, Family Carers and Individualised Funding.

In 2013 the Kirkness Hospital Wing at Iona in Oamaru was extended, bringing all our homes and hospital up-to-date.

In 2016 the Enliven brand was expanded to include all of our residential aged care homes.

Today Presbyterian Support Otago looks forward to new expressions of care in our community.