Our History

Children First Foundation was established when a team of like-minded people shared a dream of a world where all children had access to excellent medical care when they needed it.

The early years

While undertaking volunteer work overseas in the early 1990s a young Moira Kelly AO saw a need for medical assistance for children injured in conflict in war torn countries. She appealed to hospitals and surgeons in developed countries for assistance and was delighted when surgeons in Australia responded to her call for help.


In the early years, an ever growing band of supporters and volunteers helped care for the children at donated properties in Melbourne and in the township of Kilmore, an hour from Melbourne. But as more and more children were referred for treatment, plans began to develop to establish a Foundation with a formal structure so that donor support would be managed appropriately and the work could expand and grow.

1999 – the Foundation is established

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of many people the plans eventually became a reality with the formal establishment of Children First Foundation in July 1999.  Rotary International District 9790 joined forces with Children First and at the same time Rotarian and Kilmore local Noel Baker and his wife Janis donated 45 hectares of land to the newly formed Foundation to build a home for the children.

An old house was donated and transported from Bright and a team, led by Rotary District Governor Geoff McIlvenna and Bernie Lamers AM re-built and fitted it out with donated materials and fixtures. The design of the house enables us to meet the complex needs of the children before and after surgery.

The 100 square home was opened by the then Governor of Victoria John Landy AC MBE in November 2011.

The Foundation is extremely grateful for the contribution of Rotary District 9790, generous Rotarians, suppliers, individuals and volunteers who built this special place and worked together to establish Children First Foundation.

In 2011, Moira Kelly decided to take a leave of absence from Children First.  The Foundation continued to support Moira until she chose to formally leave the Board in November 2013.

Today the Miracle sMiles program is responsible for transforming the lives of hundreds of children across the globe.

2008 – a new focus, closer to home

After nearly ten years of important international work, the Foundation recognised that many Australian families faced considerable financial challenges in caring for a sick or disabled child. So in 2008, we established the Between the Gaps program to support the families of disabled Australian children in need of mobility aids.

2011 – the next generation of caring begins

Moira Kelly AO ceased her active role with the Foundation in 2011 and formally left the Board in November 2013.

Our dedicated staff and volunteers now carry on the work of the Foundation. Our international program, Miracle sMiles, continues to change lives, and as our Between the Gaps program expands, we are improving the lives of more Australian children.

Whilst we celebrate the many amazing transformations in the lives of the children we’ve helped, we are ever mindful of the many children who are still waiting for their own life-changing experience.

With this in mind, we will continue to nurture our relationships with our valued program partners and share our vision with our generous donors and sponsors. We will work towards expanding our network of representatives in the home countries of the children who need us, and growing our relationships with leading medical institutions across Australia.

Although our organisation is small, the energy, commitment and hearts of all who are involved are very great indeed. We encourage you to keep up to date by reading our latest News.

Together, we look forward to bringing many more ‘miracle smiles’ to the faces of special children at home and abroad.