To study developments in the care, general administration of institutions and facilities available for handicapped children - UK

Educated in England and Tasmania I completed my nursing training at the Launceston General Hospital. I worked in a doctor’s surgery, and then as one of the first Community Nurses in Launceston and then privately. During this time I married and had two sons and I now have six grandchildren to enjoy. During my first marriage we fostered children waiting for adoption and through this I became interested in children with handicaps, as it was in the 70’s, now disabilities. With the help of paediatricians, nurses, physios, occupational therapists and many volunteers from all walks of life and all ages and the support of every service club in town and many other organisations I started a nursery care group mainly to give the mothers some free time and to be able to access help and advice. This began in 1971 with absolutely no funding and grew to be accepted by the Education Department and was supported admirably by the appropriate ministers of the day. This led to my application for a Churchill Fellowship. Following my return I worked as a Community Development Officer with the Northern Regional Council for Social Development until it folded and then became a Welfare Officer, receptionist and clerk with the Department of Community Welfare before transferring to the Health Department where I became a member of the Northern Geriatric Assessment Team, now the Aged Care Assessment Team. I have always had an interest in my local community and was very involved in Child Health and Family Day Care Services serving on their committees for some time when my children were younger. Back to the personal side, I have been retired since 1989 and enjoy my garden, friends and family and have become involved in local historical associations and take an interest with my second husband in what is happening in our community.



After forty years the memories tend to diminish so this is really only a précis of my Fellowship. Working with the Pre-school age handicapped children was rather an unknown equation here in Tasmania back then and wishing to see what was being accomplished elsewhere, having read several books on the subject, I decided to apply for a Churchill Fellowship and was awarded one in 1973. I visited schools and establishments catering for all ages across the length and breadth of England and Scotland and also in The Hague. It was a very enlightening three months and I was delighted to find that we were working on a par with, and in some instances ahead of, some of the institutions I visited. I found it a great help being able to purchase books at a cheaper price to assist us in our programmes. Having family and friends in England and Scotland helped greatly in keeping accommodation costs down and the local travel agent who helped to organise the trip did an amazing job. There were no hitches and everything went according to plan. Travelling alone, as the family was young and my husband couldn’t afford to tag along, and I believe back then partners were notable to accompany Fellows but I may be wrong on that score, was at times a bit lonely, nerve-wracking and it payed to be on one’s guard. It was an absolute delight to be made so welcome in all the places I visited and to meet so many amazing people, all prepared to talk and discuss issues and problems they encountered.


The most disappointing reception I received on my return was from the Government which had acted in my absence in drawing up plans for a centre in which to house us, but without any consultation and had also decided not to employ me! However, while I was away I had observed that we were treating the children in an appropriate system, in some cases were well ahead of overseas and so I was very pleased on that count.
I had also seen the Riding for the Disabled Association in operation and was most impressed with the improvement which occurred in the participants physically, mentally and socially. With the support of a group of friends, physiotherapists and pony riding groups and individuals we set up a branch of the association in Northern Tasmania. A group had been operating in the Hobart area with donkeys and soon another group was set up there and also in Burnie. Now with a statewide association we were able to become affiliated with the National body. The Education department embraced this form of therapy and the operation grew. Later carriage driving was added to the programme. It is still existing today although sadly with some difficulty, and no longer recognised by the Education Department. However, it is pleasing to know that from the Fellowship came some forty years of pleasure for disabled people of all ages.
The training for the pre-schoolers no longer exists as we had hoped and has basically reverted to in-home care and advice which is totally against the original philosophy of giving parents and other siblings a break through the day.
I found that it was most important to plan ahead and keep to a timetable. It is also most important to keep time aside for writing reports, sorting photos etc. and time for one’s self to relax, keep in touch with loved ones and enjoy some of the places you visit. Travelling as a single woman has its pitfalls and one therefore should be wary, as any traveller must. Costs vary greatly for items such as accommodation, food etc. and in England in particular hairdressing was exorbitant so it pays to have a good haircut before you leave!