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Our Founder’s Story

Susan Barton AM is a revolutionary Australian leader in the area of youth homelessness. As Founder and Director of Lighthouse Foundation for homeless youth, Susan began caring for vulnerable young people in her own home more than 30 years ago, following a life changing experience as a volunteer in a Sri Lankan orphanage. This was the catalyst that started her on the Lighthouse journey.

Susan is well-known and highly awarded for her intelligent, compassionate and replicable approach towards restoring disadvantaged youth into their rightful place in society.

In recognition of her committed dedication and work, in 2002 Susan was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia, in 2009 she received Melbourne’s highest accolade and was our Melburnian of the Year. In 2012 she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for her significant achievements and contribution to the Victorian community.

An insightful author and driver of change in the area of youth homelessness, Susan co-authored Build your Teenager’s Self Esteem (2000) and Therapeutic Residential Care for Children: An Attachment and Trauma-Informed Model for Practice (2011).

Susan’s book features a foreword by former Human Rights Commissioner, Professor Brian Burdekin AO, urging Australian governmental bodies, academics, companies and societal leaders to pay attention to the ground-breaking work of the Lighthouse Foundation. The book reveals an incredible amount of research and hands-on experience collated over the past 21 years.

Susan leads a devoted team of experts in youth care and rehabilitation, who work daily with youth forced to leave their family home because of physical, emotional or mental abuse, drugs or alcohol. Susan’s team recognises that these young traumatised youth are among the most vulnerable in our society.

Susan’s message is clear: a traumatised young person does not need a ‘house’ as much as they need a ‘home’ – a place of belonging where they feel cared for and honoured physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And her motto is equally clear: Caring for children is everyone’s business.

Susan believes that homelessness affects all of us in society and, together, we can work to alleviate and ultimately end it.

Susan’s mission is to change the way Australia looks at the issue and consequences of youth homelessness moving towards a more therapeutic approach on their journey to recovery. She is passionate about protecting Australia’s number one resource – our youth.