Our history

Our story began more than 130 years ago, when one energetic Scotsman man was determined to make a difference. Here are some of the highlights and milestones along the way:

Auckland’s first City Missioner, Scots-born Duncan Macpherson was known for his forthright personality, exceptional energy and determination to help those in need – based on his fiercely-held humanitarian beliefs and his Christian faith.

Late 1800s
Auckland baker, James Leslie, left behind a bequest to establish an orphanage. Leslie Presbyterian Orphanage opened in 1911, followed by other Presbyterian children’s homes in the Auckland region.

Between 1914 and1927, Auckland Presbyterian social services grew steadily under the energetic leadership of Frank Jeffreys. Frank’s work included visits to court, prisons and hospitals. He and his wife also converted their Devonport home into a large children’s home.

Another champion of Auckland’s poor and needy was Sister Esther. One of the first women JPs in the city, she was awarded an MBE in 1919 and officially became part of the Presbyterian support organisation in 1931.

Presbyterian homes for older people were established in Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, beginning our reputation for high-quality aged care. Over the years, many of these became retirement villages with hospital and residential care as well as separate units.

Miss Laura Cribb bequeathed the Cribb Farm in the Waikato for a residential home for needy children and a training place for older boys and girls in farm management. The farm was sold in 2000 and the proceeds were used to set up the Laura Cribb Children’s Fund which supports our services for children and families.

Auckland Presbyterian Orphanages and Social Service Organisation (as we were then known) was incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act on 31 March 1954.

Family centres were set up to provide community-based support for children and their families. Over time, these family centres replaced our long-term residential care for children.

From now until 2000, the Glenburn Centre in Massey, Waitakere City, provided a short-term residential educational facility for children with particularly challenging behaviour.

The St James Centre in Central Auckland was closed as part of a move to focus on working with children. For 40 years it had provided emergency assistance to the homeless, including shelter, food and crisis counselling, and budgeting advice.

We renamed our aged care facilities the “Macpherson Group” in honour of our founder. The “James Family” name was adopted by our child and family services due to its ‘every day’ appeal as well as its Scottish and religious connotations.

PSN started a two-year pilot of a new model of restorative home-based support for older people. Trialled as CommunityFIRST, this new ‘ageing-in-place’ service was aligned with Government strategy, client feedback and growing international evidence about the benefits of positive ageing.

The University of Waikato released the results of an independent study that endorsed the James Family approach.

We launched the “Enliven Positive Ageing Services” brand for our new home and community-based support services for older people. We also sold our residential aged care facilities to focus on ‘ageing-in-place’ services.

We started work on reconfiguring our home and community-based support service for people under the age of 65 with disabilities and injuries.

Our child and family services division was rebranded “Family Works Northern” and an office was opened in Albany – taking the number of branches in the Upper North Island to ten. The Ministry of Health released the results of an independent study which endorsed our restorative home-based support service model for older people.

Based on a comprehensive scoping project in the East Auckland area, a new Family Works site was opened in the heart of Panmure.

Our service for people with disabilities was rebranded Coactive Collaborative Disabilty Service, signaling a partnership approach with our clients. And a new Enliven service called Homelink was established on the North Shore, helping older people who have become socially isolated from the community.

We extended our work with families and children through new appointments of child advocates, family violence prevention advocates, social workers in schools, court counsellors and Strengthening Families coordinators – as well as a Community Mission Advisor to encourage parishes to reach out to their communities with coordinated acts of kindness and neighbourliness.

PSN was recognised as one of the best places to work in New Zealand as a finalist in the large organisation category (400+ employees) of the JRA Best Workplaces Survey. New Enliven day programmes began in South Auckland and Tauranga to add to those already providing social interaction for older people in Hamilton and Whakatane.

We helped set up PresCare, a new partnership between the Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Support to respond to the needs of children, young people and their families.