Thursday, April 23, 2015


Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 194-197)


This committee, which was an offshoot of the Childhood and Youth Committee, was primarily concerned with the welfare of children generally, and had amongst its members some outstanding younger women, well-known men, doctors, social workers and kindergarten teachers.  One particularly vital member was Mrs Joan Pope B.A., DipEd., L.R.A.M., R.A.D., A.M.E.B., who became the head of the Children's Activities Time Society, better known as C.A.T.S.

We listed a number of important needs, one of which was the provision of child minding facilities in the metropolitan area, such as are available in the capital cities of our other States.  A suitable childminding centre would permit mothers to leave their babes in arms, toddlers, children in pramsa and pushers, in qualified care for limited periods so they could attend to business, dental, medical and other appointments without stress, and even meet a friend occasionally for morning tea or lunch unencumbered.

Mr Jim Carr of the Health Education Council suggested that we should run a child minding centre ourselves during Child Care Week, shortly about to start in the metropolitan area.  The idea appealed to us and we decided to ask Perth City Council if it would allow us to use the back part of the Perth Town Hall for this purpose.  To our delight we obtained the necessary permission and lost no time in arranging details.
 Sister K. Barnes, retired Superintendent of Silver Chain Nursing Service took charge of the childminding operations and the babies were separated from the toddlers.

The media gave us wholehearted support and on the morning we opened this part-time experimental centre we had a long line of mothers with children, some in arms, others in pushers and prams, awaiting admission.  Our voluntary workers took care of recording, care of prams etc., and no problems arose.

Mothers used the centre the whole week, proving conclusively that there was a very great ned fora permanent service.  As a result we obtained the support of Cr. Florence Hummerston and the Lord Mayor of Perth, Sir Thomas Wardle.  (There's that man again).  The Florence Hummerston Child Minding Centre was established and is on the third floor of National Mutual Arcade in Perth city.

The Child Care Committee also took up the matter of the addition of imaginative equipment in small parks and gardens in various areas in addition to, or in place of, the usual wing, slide or seesaw.

A small underdeveloped playground in one of the northern suburbsm with the co-operation of service clubs and the local Council, was equipped with many inexpensive articles such a blocks for climbing, car tyres, a large drain pipe to crawl through and a number of other novelties.  We held a small opening ceremony and asked that some seating arrangements be made for parents.

So often different groups have similar ideas, and it was at this time that a Mrs McDougall was endeavouring to interest people in a Children's Playground in King's Park.  She succeeded; the centre is a wonderful place and always well patronised.

 Mrs Joan Pope and some of her colleagues took a bus loaded with art and other equipment thrugh some of the playgrounds and this became most popular,  It developed into PLAYGROUNDS ON DEMAND and they called on certain days in specified areas.

The CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES TIME SOCIETY came into being about 1965 and, when we had to close the Latch Key Centres, we handed over any suitable equipment to Joan Pope and C.A.T.S.

The first Festival for Children was also Joan Pope's brain child and was held about 1964 or 1965.  Later it was incorporated.

Dr Ryan of Princess Margaret Children's Hospital (P.M.H.) brought up a matter at one of our meetings concerning spastic children.  It appeared that the Spastic Welfare Association closed its hospitals at holiday times and, when relatives or friends did not arrive to collect some of the children, they were at a loss to know what to do with them and delivered them to Princess Margaret Hospital.

The hospital did not have facilities to care for these children and it was a heartrending business, both for the authorities at P.M.H. and the poor children, who were certainly not welcome guests.  We discussed this matter and, naturally, our sympathies were all with the children, for whom we felt arrangements should have been made in advance.  It then occurred to me that the Spastic Welfare Hospitals would almost certainly be "C" class, and I did not think that "C" class hospitals could close down for holidays in this way.  Enquiries were made at the Department of Health and this was confirmed.  The matter was investigated and the difficulty overcome.

In 1973/4 I was asked by the Government  to go to Karratha, one of the iron ore centres, to investigate the needs and possible provision of facilities for mothers and children.

Arriving in Karratha into a place which had hitherto had only salt bush and spinifex was quite a shock.  It had very nice airconditioned homes, excellent roads, trees growing, a good hall, a golf course, a high school accommodating 1,500 children and, of course, all the facilities for transporting the iron ore.

There were shops and a bank, plentiful supplies of liquor and, as far as one could see, everything that could be provided by the company to keep workers happy.

A meeting had been called fora Saturday afternoon at which I was to speak, and the residents to explain their various needs.  One of the most important welfare requirements was for an Emergency Housekeeper Service to operate when mothers were in hospital with new babies or in case of illness, for which funds would be needed.

There were a number of problems associated with the establishment of an emergency housekeeper service in the Karratha areas, as the constitutions of the two schemes operating in the south-west were specifically drawn up to cover (a) in the case of the Lady Mitchell Service - "the woman on the land" and (b) th Perth Emergency Housekeeper Service - "the metropolitan area".  A new service would be needed for this particular area and a government grant sought to cover it, bearing in mind that this was a new and large industrial area.  I advised them to apply for a special grant.

It was stated that the Iron Ore Company would be prepared to make a house available for this purpose, but this would need permanent staff, expensive and not easy to obtain.  Housekeepers ae required to be able to handle children of all ages; to be good plain cooks, including special diets where necessary, and to budget within the family income.  Younger grandmothers are ideal for the purpose, but one felt they would be few and far between in the vicinity.

A childminding clinic, an infant health centre and a kindergarten were all badly needed because mothers as well as fathers were encouraged to work in order to keep the family happy and maintain a stable work force.

A Soroptimist Club has now been started in the Port Walcott district and one of the club members has advised that arrangements are now working satisfactorily, as far as welfare needs are concerned."  (This was of course written my mum in the early 1980s)


  1. Hari OM
    Even in this day and age, working at Karratha and other such remote operations holds its issues I imagine. The mining outposts are generally keen to keep their workers happy though, so usually funding is not so much of an issue - as per the offer of the house.

    Crikey, though - mum got around the place didn't she?! YAM xx

    1. Yes I think there is still much to be done to make these mining towns better for all concerned.

      Yes, mum did cover some territory!! xx

  2. These early Child Minding Centres seem to have been the forerunner of the modern day Creches where working women drop off their babies and toddlers before work. They stay all day and get nutritious meals, playtime, naptime, some will even take on the toilet training aspect.
    They're so expensive though, it doesn't seem worthwhile working at all when so much of the weekly pay is given over to the creche.

    My brother has worked at Karratha several times, he works in concrete construction.

    1. I suppose everything is relative as wages back then would have been lower and costs could still have been prohibitive for some.
      That's interesting that your brother worked over here.