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A Christmas gift for hundreds of families

How $5 tickets helped a single mother visit the Opera House for the first time

Danielle Edwards

Until discovering five dollar tickets, Alison Mudford had only ever seen the Opera House from the outside. For the single mother of two, seeing a show inside its world-famous halls seemed out of reach.

In March 2016, her life was rocked to the core.

Her father had a stroke, and suddenly she was faced with caring for him and her daughters alone. As the pressure at home mounted, Alison lost her job at a pet food knackery and fell into crippling anxiety about how her family would survive.

Without money for rent, the family had to leave their home and were forced into a seemingly never-ending cycle of complex application forms for mission housing, couchsurfing with friends and even sleeping in an abandoned building.

Finally in September the family found a long-term home through charity Yourtown, and with it, a sense of stability and hope for the future.

That Christmas, Alison and her daughters Maddy and Paige visited the Sydney Opera House to see a show for the very first time. They'd never been inside, but were able to attend blockbuster Circus 1903 for just five dollars per ticket thanks to The Balnaves Foundation Open House Program.

The program represents the Opera House and The Balnaves Foundation's shared belief that the Opera House belongs to everyone, and that all Australians should have the means to come here.

“The girls loved it,” said Alison.“The elephant puppet was amazing. So were the props and the set. All the costumes too.

“Paige is a dancer and was so impressed by the contortionist. She practices all the time. I think she’d like to be able to bend her body like that!"

This December, the Open House Program allowed more than 3800 children and parents to see summer spectacular The Unbelievables ahead of Christmas.

Thanks to the three-year partnership, almost 12,000 people have enjoyed an unforgettable experience at Australia’s premier cultural venue.

“What got me was the scale of it," she said. "There were so many people there, young and old, all having a great time. I loved just being part of it.”

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