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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The impact of a wish
Born with cystic fibrosis, Ailish's wish for a family holiday came true in 2005.
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.
WA's first wish child
Emma Prout beat the odds twice, overcoming a liver tumour and a stroke.
Did you know...
- To travel somewhere special with the family
- To have a puppy best friend
- To have a gaming computer, iPhone or laptop
- To meet a celebrity
- To have a cubby house, or special place of their own
1. The Wiggles
2. Favourite AFL team/player
4. John Cena
5. Katy Perry
- To go to the Gold Coast
- To go to Cairns
- To go to Sydney
- To go to the snow
- To go on a cruise
- Freyja’s wish to save the Dugongs
- Fred’s wish to go to a galaxy far, far away to find BB8 and R2D2
- Sophie’s wish to shrink like Alice and have a mad hatter tea party
- Dara’s wish for the ultimate puppy experience
- Archie’s wish to have a cubby house with chickens
Donate to help more wishes come true
There are currently more than 800 seriously ill children waiting for a wish. Donate today to give hope and joy.
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