Our Works & Community


This organisation is not a service of the Archdiocese of Sydney. Please direct any query to the organisation directly.


What is L'Arche?

L'Arche is an international organisation which typically provides family-style homes and lifestyle support to people with an intellectual disability.

In Australia, a L'Arche community is usually formed by establishing a number of homes in a neighbourhood. Within this community, residents with a disability are encouraged to build their living skills in areas such as group living, work, recreation, spirituality and health.

Assistants, or support staff, and volunteers are an integral part of a L'Arche community, discovering and deepening their own spirituality while building relationships with all members of the community.

Each L'Arche community has an incorporated Board of Directors, responsible for the legal and financial aspects of a community.

Each local Board is, in turn, a member of the national Board of L'Arche Australia, which is a member of the International Federation of L'Arche.

Origins of L'Arche

A French-Canadian philosopher and former naval officer, Jean Vanier (pictured), living in France, welcomed two men with an intellectual disability into his home in 1964.

Although he did not plan to establish a large organisation (he believed he was limited by his car which would seat only five people!), this became the first L'Arche community.

The simplicity and poverty of that home attracted friends and support. Gradually, L'Arche grew - both in France and elsewhere - and today there are more than 120 communities in more than 30 countries.

In Australia, the first L'Arche community was established at Bungendore, near Canberra, in 1978. Today communities operate in Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, with another to open soon in Brisbane and plans to establish a fifth in Melbourne.

All are members of the International Federation of L'Arche, which takes it name from the Bible story of the Ark of Noah, and which symbolises a place of refuge. In French, the word also refers to the arch of a bridge, implying a bridging role for L'Arche to bring people together.

How We Work

Each Australian L'Arche community is made up of a number of households and/or independent flats.

The people with disability and a support team made up of Assistants live and work alongside each other. Together they aim to ensure the health and well-being of all who live in their community.
Assistants are not regarded as staff as such, since they are there to live and work with the people with a disability, but they receive a salary and are expected to contribute fully to the life of the community.
Surrounding the community is a network of friends, community members and a Board of Directors, with financial support coming from government, those who live within the houses, and from fund-raising.
Those with a disability are supported in their personal needs, to move into the wider community including the workplace, and to maintain contact with their family and friends.

What We Believe

L'Arche is based on a fundamental belief in the dignity of every person.

Our aim is to create communities which welcome people with an intellectual disability and those who choose to live with them, or support them.
Through this welcome, L'Arche seeks to respond to the distress of those who too often are rejected, and to give them a valid place in our society.
L'Arche also seeks to reveal the particular gifts of people with an intellectual disability.
While not providing an answer to the needs of all people with a disability, L'Arche provides an innovative model of supported accommodation in a community environment.
Central to the life of the community is the belief in the unique value and gift of each person with a disability, and in the spirituality within each one of us. This brings with it a way of living which is about mutuality and life-sharing.
In Australia, L'Arche is an ecumenical, Christian organisation. It is not aligned to any one church, and people are welcomed with the right to their own personal belief system.

L'Arche Sydney

L'Arche Sydney began when a group of people decided to build friendships with a number of people with an intellectual disability and their families. In January 1980, the group began meeting together for regular picnic outings.

A number of the people in the first picnic group were people with an intellectual disability who were living at Gladesville, a large institution in Sydney.

In 1983, the group was offered the use of a large house in Burwood, a suburb about 20 minutes west of the city.

Five people with a disability, several from Gladesville, and a number of Assistants, lived together under the direction of Father Peter Toohey, who was previously the Catholic chaplain at Gladesville.

A second house was established at Merrylands, about 45 minutes from the city, which allowed another four people with disability to become part of L'Arche Sydney.

When the opportunity arose to open another house close to Burwood in Campsie, another 3 people were able to be welcomed, bringing to 11 the number of people with disability living in the community.

In 2000, the State Department of Housing purchased the Burwood home and in 2002, L’Arche Australia gave the community added security by purchasing the Campsie house.

Over the years, L'Arche Sydney has built up an extensive network of friends, who support the life of the community.
Address 4/37 Charlotte Street,  Campsie NSW 2194
Postal Address PO Box 312
Telephone (02) 9787 8132
Fax (02) 9718 9002
Contact Donna Rhall, Community Leader
Email sydney@larche.org.au
Website http://www.larche.org.au/sydney.asp