I was born in England in 1944 and educated in Australia. I studied Electrical Engineering at the University of NSW under a scholarship provided by A.W.A. and then until 1971 worked with A.W.A in microelectronic research studying the properties of silicon. During this time I built the first machine to grow ultra pure single crystal silicon in Australia.
Early days at the Wayside Chapel
In late 1969 I visited the Wayside Chapel in Sydney’s red-light district of Kings Cross. There I met Ted Noffs – a good and a Godly man who ran what was a refuge for the needy and the outcasts. I got myself into voluntary programs; visiting the elderly, sick and shut-ins of the Woolloomooloo-Kings Cross area.
Rev. Bill Crews working at the Wayside Chapel.
Rev. Ted Noffs outside the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, Sydney.
By 1971 I had decided to quit engineering and work full time at the Wayside Chapel. I was a member of the team that created the first 24-hour Crisis Centre in Australia. Then, by 1972 I was Director of the Crisis Centre and directed all the social work programs of the Wayside Chapel until 1983. During that time I established the first program in Australia to reunite adoptees and birth parents (Reunion Register), and the first program to assist parents who were at risk of abusing their children (Child Abuse Prevention Service). Also, I established the first modern youth refuge in Australia.
In 1973 I became a member of the New South Wales Drug and Alcohol Authority and began working on drug rehabilitation, education and prevention programs in Mt. Druitt and throughout New South Wales.
In 1978 the Rev. Ted Noffs and I created the first Life Education Centre. Life Education Centres are now all over Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, New Zealand, England and America.
Striking out alone
In 1983 I left the Wayside Chapel to study theology. I graduated the Uniting Church’s United Theological College in 1986. In that same year I was also ordained as minister of the Ashfield Uniting Church in Sydney’s inner-west.
Rev. Bill Crews with homeless teens Wayne, 14 and Mell, 16 at The Exodus Foundation in Ashfield (1991).
At Ashfield I created The Exodus Foundation to assist homeless and abandoned youth, and other people in need.
Today The Exodus Foundation is known as The Rev. Bill Crews Foundation. It has grown to become one of Sydney’s largest frontline charities. It runs the Loaves & Fishes Free Restaurant, serving up to 2,000 meals to the needy every day. The Rev. Bill Crews Foundation also runs a free dental and medical clinic, provides help and support services such as social workers, chaplaincy, counselling, and food parcel assistance.
My Foundation’s work with vulnerable children has also continued. Today we provide literacy and mentoring programs as well as support for children suffering psychological trauma.
I’m also driven to improve the lives of those living aboard. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time with refugees in Calais, France and have established support program for street kids in South East Asia. In addition, I’m actively engaged with charitable partners in Africa, the USA and the UK.
‘It has to be in the Rev. Bill Crews biography’!
I know this is my biography and they tell me I’m meant to write about my honours. Nonetheless I find it awkward, but here goes: I have been awarded The Rotary Foundation International Award ‘Paul Harris Fellow’. I was Father of the Year and also Humanitarian of the Year in 1992. In February 1998 the National Trust of Australia put me on their list of “100 National Living Treasures”. In 1999 I got one of Australia’s highest civil honours – an Order of Australia medal (AM). They gave it to me for my services to the poor as well as my work with homeless youth. To me, all these honours have been humbling.
As part of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, I ran a leg of the Olympic Torch Relay and the Paralympic Torch Relay. I also distributed hundreds of donated tickets to those who would otherwise not have had the financial means to partake in the Olympic experience.
I’ve always tried to lead and to positively influence the community in a myriad of tangible ways.
In 2001 I was named Ashfield Citizen of the Year for my contribution to the local community. Also, I received the William R. Tresise Fellowship Award from the Australian Lions Foundation. It is the highest honour the Foundation bestows for humanitarian services. Also in that same year the University of New South Wales gave me an Alumni Award.
My friend the Dalai Lama
I actively support multi-faith dialogue and understanding between cultures. Indeed, I regularly meet with the His Holiness the Dalai Lama and support the Free Tibet movement in Australia. I consider the Dalai Lama to be a friend.
The Dalai Lama and Rev. Bill Crews.
I am a Patron of Australians For Just Refugee Programs, as well as Chairman of Fair Go Australia. It is an anti-racism project sponsored by the NSW Government through the Department of Community Relations Commission.
On the radio
Since August 2002 I have hosted the Sunday Night Crews radio program. The show broadcasts on Sydney’s 2GB, Brisbane’s 4BC, Canberra’s 2CC as well as other network stations. The program is the highest rating Sunday night radio show in the nation. In fact, they call me Australia’s favourite radio reverend!
Rev. Bill Crews behind the microphone at radio station 2GB in Sydney.
In 2006 Ernst & Young gave me their Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award in recognition of my leadership and innovation in social programs. Then, in 2007 the prestigious Bulletin & Newsweek magazine put me on their list of “Australia’s 100 most influential people”.
I campaign tirelessly for poker machine reform. In fact, I care so much about the issue because of the work I have done with gambling addicts who have lost everything. In 2011 I became chair of the NSW division of the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce.
A foray into film
In 2012 I founded The Big Picture Film Festival which ran in February 2013 and 2014 in Sydney and Liverpool. The festival showcased boutique films that bring change to the world. Today, The Big Picture Film Festival continues with regular screenings throughout the year.
In September 2015 I was the recipient of the NSW Human Rights Award. It pays tribute to those who support the disadvantaged and marginalized, not to mention making NSW a better community.
In 2017 I was short listed as NSW Senior Australian of the year.
When the pandemic struck in 2020 I started writing my memoir “12 Rules for Living a Better Life“. The book was published in 2021 and has since had numerous print runs.
I live in Sydney and have four children.