Make-A-Wish Australia celebrates 35 years of creating joy Make-A-Wish Australia celebrates 35 years of creating joy

Creating joy together for 35 years

In 2020, we celebrated 35  years  of wishes coming true for Australian wish kids!

35 years of wishes

Make-A-Wish Australia was  founded  in 1985 with a mission to grant inspirational, life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.

Together, our incredible volunteers, partners, supporters and friends have granted more than 10,000 extraordinary wishes since then and counting.  

Make-A-Wish Australia wish kid Tara

35 years, thanks to you

Simply put, wishes wouldn’t exist without you  -  our community - and we'd like to thank all the members of the Wish Force (past and present) for believing in the power of a wish and creating a lasting impact on the lives of sick kids, their families and communities.

The story of how it all began

Make-A-Wish Australia was founded on 26 November 1985 at the Queen Victoria Medical Centre in Melbourne. 

Inspired by the work of Make-A-Wish America, our local founders  shared the universal aspiration to grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses – known then as ‘terminal’ illnesses.  

> How it began

First wish

Within the first year, a dozen applications were posted in (this was before the rise of the internet, email and even fax!) with the first wish ultimately granted for a Melbourne teenager, Shawn Cleland. 16-year-old Shawn was living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and  wished to see his favourite football team in action. His sister Nicole remembers Shawn "dreaming in red, white and blue", the colours of his Footscray heroes – and how his life, while tragically cut short, inspired others.

> Shawn's story

Make-A-Wish Australia's first wish kid Shawn sat with the Western Bulldogs

The memories are always there, you never forget that one day and how much joy it brought.

Nicole sister of Shawn, the first Australian wish recipient

Inspirational wishes

Fast forward 35 years and Make-A-Wish has granted more than 10,000 wishes to children all over Australia.

Every wish is as individual and unique as the child who imagines it, from the simple to the seemingly impossible – we’ve made unicorns fly, sent kids to the moon and even managed to deliver some wishes safely during COVID.

Make A Wish Australia Children's Charity - Dwayne on his wish to go to the moon with the team from Qantas

Life-changing impact

Wish impact studies from around the world show that a wish is a powerful life-changing experience that gives hope and joy to sick children, many of whom go on to live with (and even beat) their illness.

And for everyone involved, from the volunteers to our community partners and friends – wishes have a remarkable, uplifting and positive impact, well beyond the wish itself.

Make A Wish Australia Children's Charity - Female volunteers kneeling down with a wish kid

Thank you

To our  amazing  volunteers  all over the country helping to fundraise and bring wishes to life, our 35th  birthday gives us the opportunity to thank you for your dedication and commitment.

To  our  loyal  partners and supporters, who  go  out of their way to support  Make-A-Wish, we wouldn't exist without you. 

We thank you all for your outstanding efforts.

To all our  incredible  wish children,  past and present - who  continue to  inspire us every day.

And to  our  extraordinary wish ambassadors - who are willing to  share their stories  of courage, resilience and the impact of their wish, so that other children may benefit from a wish too. 

We  salute  you.

Three cheers to  our  wonderful  national patrons  Melissa Doyle  and  Robyn Moore, who champion Make-A-Wish at every opportunity.

To all of our generous  ambassadors and friends  who go  above and beyond  to brighten the lives of seriously ill children - you are an inspiration.

We thank you for all your outstanding efforts.

35 years of inspirational stories

Make-A-Wish Australia's first wish child Shawn sat in Western Bulldog colours

The brave Bulldog who wished first

The first wish in Australia was for 16-year-old Western Bulldogs fan Shawn.

Adelaide's own wish man

Frank Jackowiak helped start Adelaide's Make-A-Wish volunteer branch in 1986.

Lester the Wishmaker

Former baker Lester has seen something special rise in Bundaberg: the town's own Make-A-Wish branch.

Make-A-Wish Australia wish kid Ailish

The impact of a wish

Born with cystic fibrosis, Ailish's wish for a family holiday came true in 2005.

Human of Make-A-Wish Australia Stephen

The day a tough guy melted

Fearless former footballer Stephen Rowe has exposed a heart of gold in his 27 years volunteering.

The girl who never gave up

India's wish trip to meet the cast of Gossip Girl helped save her life.

Make-A-Wish Australia wish kid Emma

WA's first wish child

Emma Prout beat the odds twice, overcoming a liver tumour and a stroke.

Wish children whose images feature on this page:

Tara, 15, osteosarcoma - I wish to meet Selena Gomez
Shawn, 16, Duchenne muscular dystrophy - I wish to watch the Footscray Bulldogs play in Sydney
Dwayne, 5, refractory epilepsy - I wish to go to the moon with Batman