Our History

Life Education is the largest non-government provider of drug and health education to children and young people, Australia wide.

Life Education Illawarra’s mission is to empower young people in the Illawarra to make the best choices for a safe and healthy life. This is achieved through our leading drug education programs, which are driven by the popular Life Education mascot Healthy Harold the giraffe.

Life Education’s programs have a strong focus on resilience, nutrition, exercise, drugs and alcohol.

Life Education has been helping to empower students to make healthier choices for 32 years. With over 40 mobile learning centres across NSW each year Life Education visits over 50 Illawarra schools to deliver our important program to hundreds of children.

We are a registered charity, independent of both government and religion.

The Life Education Illawarra is managed by a group of volunteer Board Members.

Life Education programs cover a wide range of topics that are appropriate for a child’s age and school year, view the preschool and primary school programs here

Life Eduction History

The late Ted Noffs was a great Australian humanitarian.  Life Education was founded by Ted in 1979.  The success it has enjoyed, in Australia and overseas, is a clear demonstration of both the quality of his insight and vision, and the strength of his commitment to bring it to life.

In 1964 Ted left his position as the Associate Pastor at the Central Methodist Mission in inner Sydney to establish a new Methodist Mission in Kings Cross, based out of 2 two-storey flats in Hughes Street.  As was noted at the time, Ted possessed the imagination and enthusiasm to plan and execute the kind of approach this area demanded.  His vision was to minister to all the disparate people of the Cross in a language they understood and in an environment in which they felt comfortable.  Shortly thereafter he renamed the Mission ‘The Wayside Chapel of the Cross’.

A pivotal moment in Ted’s life was one night in 1964, when a girl who had overdosed on liquid methedrine was dumped at the Wayside Chapel by her panic-stricken friends. This was no aberration.  It was becoming apparent that drug use was on the rise in Sydney, particularly amongst young people.  No one was attempting to understand this tragic problem, let alone develop strategies to deal with it.

In 1965 the Wayside Chapel set up its own Crisis Centre to deal with the increasing number of drug overdoses, potential suicides and other youth-related problems.  In 1967 Ted and his supporters opened the Drug Referral Centre in Rushcutters Bay, just a short walk from the Wayside Chapel, providing a 24 hour counselling and referral service for addicts and where factual information on drugs was readily available.

In 1970 Ted established The Wayside Foundation as a formalised structure, taking advantage of the Chapel’s high profile to attract business and private support for a broader array of programs and services.

The Foundation’s involvement in drug rehabilitation began in earnest in the late 1970’s.

Ted often lamented the fact that no drug education program existed that attacked the problem before it became a problem.  In mid-1974 he had the opportunity to visit the Robert Crown Health Education Centre in Hinsdale, Illinois.  He was captivated by what he saw and the possibilities it triggered in his mind. Refining this vision, sharing it with his supporters and bringing it to life became Ted’s driving force for the rest of his life.

With a vast array of supporters, he set about renovating the upper room, above The Wayside Chapel, which was about the size of a standard classroom, into a ‘classroom of the 21st century’. This, the first Life Education Centre, was officially opened in 1979.  Among its many features included TAM, the Transparent Anatomical Manikin (a life sized model of the female body) and Harold, an animated giraffe.

Ted was keen to build more centres and make the program available to more and more children.  He began developing the concept of a mobile classroom that could go from school to school. With the help of his friend, Dick Smith, the first mobile Life Education Centre was built in 1982.  Momentum was building quickly.  Support to build more mobile centres started to flow as Ted promoted the idea in local community gatherings around the country.  Everyone seemed to want to know about this new and innovative approach to the seemingly intractable problem of drug abuse.

Ted’s vision also attracted considerable interest overseas as well.  He travelled extensively, around the world, meeting with Heads of Governments as well as business and community leaders, sharing the Life Education approach and generating considerable interest in the initiative.

In 1987 Ted suffered a massive stroke that left him partly paralysed, sometimes in a coma, for the next 8 years.  On 6 April 1995 Ted Noffs quietly passed away.

Ted’s son, Wesley, became the CEO of Life Education in 1987, shortly after Ted fell ill.  In 1990 Wesley left this position to join The Wayside Foundation.  In 1991 both Life Education and The Wayside Chapel were established as stand-alone entities, independent of The Wayside Foundation which dedicated itself to drug rehabilitation work. In 1992 the name of The Wayside Foundation was changed to The Ted Noffs Foundation.

Today Life Education is the largest non-government provider of drug and health education to children and young people, and their families and communities, Australia wide.  We are national in reach – operating in all States and Territories.  Since its inception in 1979, over 4 million children and young people across Australia have benefited from the Life Education message.

The reach of these messages extends beyond Australia.  Today the program is well established in New Zealand, Hong Kong and the UK as well as the United States, Barbados, Cyprus, Finland, Hungary, Thailand, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and Macau.

Australia Day 1988 – Guest: Hazel Hawke

The First Illawarra Van

The Archives

Please Note: Images have been sourced over the years of Illawarra Life Education from ‘The Illawarra Mercury’, ‘Wollongong Advertiser’, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and ‘Sydney Daily Telegraph’.