Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about YWCA’s history, feminist roots, the services and programs run for women, young girls, and non-binary people, and how our organisation operates today.

What does YWCA stand for?

YWCA comes from the worldwide movement that began as the Young Women’s Christian Association. There are YWCAs around Australia and all around the world. It is a movement that has long been a powerful voice for empowering women and advocating on issues of concern to women.

However, in 2018, the YWCA Canberra Board voted to change our name from the Young Women’s Christian Association of Canberra to YWCA Canberra. This decision was made to modernise our name, reflect our status as a secular organisation, and legally adopt the acronym commonly used by our members and our community.

Are you a Christian organisation?

Christian foundations are part of YWCA Canberra’s heritage. However, our Board made the decision in 2009 to move to being explicitly secular. At YWCA Canberra, we believe we are invigorated and strengthened by diversity and are inclusive of all religions and cultures.

What areas do you work in?

Many people encounter YWCA Canberra through just one aspect of our work, such as early childhood education and care, school age care, or housing support. But we are a multifaceted organisation working across Children’s Services, Community Services, Education and Training, and Advocacy.

How large are you?

YWCA Canberra is one of the ACT’s largest non-government organisations, with over 300 employees.

Can men join YWCA Canberra?

YWCA Canberra’s vision for feminism is a movement inclusive of all genders (and those who do not identify with gender), working towards a common goal. Men can join the organisation as affiliate members, without voting rights.

YWCA Canberra retains its identity as a feminist organisation that exists to empower and service primarily women, girls and non-binary people. However, we welcome men as feminist allies, we employ men, and many of our services and programs are just as accessible to men and boys as women and girls, such as our youth engagement programs.

Do you only run programs for young women?

YWCA Canberra has a strong commitment to developing young women, particularly as leaders, as demonstrated by our Board quota system and traineeship program. We believe that young women bring continual renewal and innovation to our organisation.

Most of our services and programs are available to women of any age. For example, we are a housing service provider for older women, and our She Leads Diploma of Management can be just as relevant to a woman in her 30s, 40s or 50s looking to re-invigorate her career as it may be to a young woman growing her leadership potential.

What’s your connection to the YMCA?

YWCA and YMCA are separate organisations, with their own history and purpose, and separate incorporation. There are no shared services in Canberra between YMCA and YWCA.

Why are you a feminist organisation? What do you mean by ‘feminist’?

YWCA Canberra has deep feminist roots. We believe in equality of opportunity, rights and access to social, cultural and economic wellbeing for all in our community. While great gains have been achieved in equal opportunities for women, there are still areas of women’s lives requiring significant improvement, including in regard to violence against women, the gender pay gap and the unequal division of caring responsibilities.

Our brand of feminism is inclusive of men—we welcome men as affiliate members, employ men, and believe that men who are feminist allies are a part of the solution to gender inequality. However, some of our programs are unashamedly ‘women only’ (including non-binary people). These are programs where we strive to make a safe space for women.

Do you provide accommodation for people visiting Canberra?

No. YWCA Canberra used to run a hostel where people visiting Canberra could book accommodation, but this has not been the case for many years now, as we moved into becoming a service-oriented organisation.

Do you have a gymnasium or run exercise classes?

This is not a focus of our work. In previous decades, a major focus of YWCA Canberra was running various exercise classes and providing opportunities for women to improve their physical fitness. Over the years, this focus changed as we responded to other needs for women in the Canberra community that were not being met, such as early childhood education and care and housing support.

You may find exercise programs for seniors being run from time to time out of our Mura Lanyon Youth and Community Centre, but overall, exercise classes are no longer a major focus of our work.