Sunday, April 19, 2015


Well I'll be blowed!  I knew I had this episode ready typed and ready to post in sequence and then it disappeared.  As this wonderful project was somewhat of a failure in the long term I decided not to worry about it but as it has returned to my drafts so here goes.  In life we do have to take the bad with the good and this is one project that eventually failed.  Unfortunately it is a rather long post but I feel best to tell it all in one episode.  So much effort spoiled for no really good reason except the government could have been a little more flexible.

Except from "THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston.  (pp 182-185)


This committee became very concerned regarding the large number of children whose parents were working, and who were left to their own devices after school.  The latch key was often hung around their necks on string, and they were therefore called "The Latch Key Kids".

While in Sydney, attending a conference of the Council of Social Service, I was taken round a number of their supervised playgrounds by a member of Sydney City Council, and was very impressed with the facilities available for young people who had need of occupation, amusement sport and care in that large city.

The officer took me to various parks and gardens where suitable small buildings had been erected by the Council to house equipment for use inside in wet weather and outside for sport in fine weather.  Each building had its own supervisor, trained for the purpose, and it was noticed that the permanent outdoor equipment was much more imaginative than the ordinary swing, slide and seesaw usually provided.  Apparently the grounds were opened at about 9 a.m. and closed about 6 p.m. although, in one particular case there was an upper storey, this part was available for young people until 9 p.m.

I visited one ground near the Opera House and in close proximity to a school, where the children piled in at lunch time and, having hastily disposed of the necessary food, were permitted to play with footballs and other sporting gear for the rest of the school playtime period.  The supervisor, obviously a friend of them all, supervised and helped where necessary.  (Just for fun, a picture of the Sydney Opera House):
I obtained all possible literature and information regarding these excellent facilities for our Childhood and Youth Committee and the members were very impressed and we decided to seek support for similar supervised playgrounds in Western Australia.

We endeavoured to gain the backing of the National Fitness Council and local Shire Councils without success.  The main drawback was the need for money with which to build the centres and pay the salaries of the supervisors.  In addition, the bogey of vandalism reared its head.

Meanwhile, Melbourne had started some centres for Latch Key Kids, using school facilities, which had met with some success, and our committee decided to investigate the possibility of starting up something on those lines.

The Director of Primary Education in W.A., Mr Steve Wallace, was a member of our committee, and he kindly obtained some figures for us as to the number of children likely to be available and interested for an experimental centre.

It was decided that we would try to start 'AFTER SCHOOL CLUBS' at suitable schools, to which boys and girls would go straight from school. enjoy a snack as they would if Mum were home, and be pleasantly occupied until 5 p.m. by which time most parents would be returning home from work.  It was felt that children left to teir own devices could be caught up in undesirable gangs, leading to petty thieving and other forms of delinquency.

Before making any plans it was necessary to obtain the permission of Dr Robertson, Director of Education in W.A., for the school grounds and toilets to be available until 5 p.m. each week night for the use of the proposed After School Club.

The Parents and Citizens Association, which had its own building in the grounds of the proposed first club, was asked for permission to use their room for the after school activities, on the definite understanding that it would be taken care of and left in a clean condition.

Mr Williams, Headmaster of Subiaco Primary School, which had been chosen for the first club, was enthusiastic and gave the proposition his wholehearted support,

Permission was given by the Education Department for the use of the premises on the understanding that the Deputy Headmaster, Mr Rigg, was appointed to take charge of the activities for which he was to receive a salary of £10 a week, a not inconsiderable sum at that time.  P and C also gave their permission.

It was hoped we would be able to run this service without making a charge on parents, and we therefore made an appeal for donations.  Papers and radio gave us publicity and a few small amounts came in.  To our great delight Mr Tom Wardle (there's that name again) (now Sir Thomas Wardle) sent us a cheque for £250.  We decided to call the first centre "The Wardle Recreation Centre", and it was opened by Tom himself.

Tom Wardle was asked to serve on the committee and, at a meeting with Professor Saint in the Chair, Tom quietly handed over a cheque for £5,000 to further the project, giving the Chairman a shock and depriving him of the usual flow of words for a few minutes.

I now realise we should then and there have asked the media for more publicity, and pressed the State Government and Lotteries Commission to give financial backing to this very necessary work.  However, delinquency had not become as widespread then as it is now and we may not have succeeded.

A woman who lived nearby was employed to prepare the snacks, clear away, and tidy the premises. Expenses were quite heavy, but the children enjoyed the centre, and the Headmaster reported considerable improvement in school work and behaviour in general.

Mrs T.M.Chadwick became Secretary of the centres, and Mrs J. Anketell was appointed Purchasing Officer to buy the necessary snacks and equipment.

In due course we opened four centres and they were all going well and doing excellent work, being established in districts of the greatest need.

Mr Wardle decided to ascertain where his money was being spent and sent an accountant to look into the matter.  It was confirmed that there was no expenditures of the Wardle money for anything but the school centres, and it was certainly not finding its way into our ordinary Council running expenses.  However, Tom objected to the Education Department's edict that we must employ Deputy Headmasters of schools as supervisors, and pay them £10 per week each, when they were already well paid, with the result that he ceased further financial support.

We endeavoured to raise money from all the well known sources, but without success.  It seemed incredible to us that parents refused to contribute even a small amount when we were looking after the welfare of their children.  When the P and C started swimming classes parents willingly paid sixpence a day to allow children to spend a very limited time in the pool, but they would not pay the same amount for our care of the children at the centre.

To us it was a heartbreak and a great disappointment when we had to close the centres, because we knew so many of the children needed care.

A new group has been formed to commence similar centres and w ehope they will obtain the necessary financial support.  Already there are rumours of difficulties.  We wish them well and feel sure that, if successful, their efforts will save many children from coming to grief.

I personally don't blame Tom Wardle for withdrawing funds.  It would have been a very good job for a person for whom a salary boost would have done much good.  I only wish I could tell you positively that the new group had some success with their venture but it is so long ago now and, even if mum had told me about it at the time. which I doubt she did, I do not remember.


  1. I was a latch-key kid for a while in the 1960s and 1970s. And oh the scandal. Mama copped a LOT of flack about it. Going back to work was the first thing she had done for herself in a long time. Yes, it helped financially but it was a wonderful development for her. And neglected I wasn't. It taught me some self-sufficiency.

    1. I. for financial reasons, returned to the workforce in 1967 but my two children were 10 and 12 and their school and my office were close to our home and it was all much safer then so I felt no need for them to be cared for by anyone and I knew I could trust them. They were of course latchkey kids as they had their own house keys. I guess it made them a little more independent and self-sufficient.

  2. A good idea for sure and a shame it didn't work out. In years to come a similar system was begun and here in SA at least many schools have an "out of school hours" care program. My own two grandchildren went straight from classes to the after school care on days that my daughter was working and when she started early they were dropped off before school too.
    I was a "latch key kid" after mum left us, coming home to an empty house, leaving my school things and heading for the beach or just staying home reading.

    1. I do think these days children need to be cared for more as they are not as safe as they were 'back then'.
      Now, of course, there are so many child caring places that mums go back to work when their children are still babies which is something I don't think I could ever have done, no matter how hard up we were and times were very tight when they were little.

  3. What a shame after all that hard work that it didn't work out. It seemed like an excellent program.

    1. It certainly was a great programme but once again government (in this case the Education Department) had to take a hand in it and that put paid to the idea in the end which certainly was a great pity after all the hard work that had been put into it.

  4. Well, it wasn't ALL for nothing. The work was done, the experience gained and documented and remains as vital information for others following. I can't get over how much your Mom accomplished and at a time in life when most of us are ready to 'hang up our spurs'.

    1. I guess something gained is never nothing in the long term and experience is always a good teacher.
      We in the family have always been amazed at how much mum (and grandma) accomplished in the last half of her life. Not that she'd been a slouch when on the farm or helping dad with his Rawleighs business. She just never stopped for very long.

  5. Hari OM
    Oh my word, but this is still something which is so hotly debated... between that and daycare centres for the pre-schoolers... and that thing about parents wanting the facility but not the cost? What is it with so many folk? Having friends who are teachers (current and retired) I have seen that one of the biggest issues which arises is that of WHO is actually responsible for the parenting!

    Like EC, our mother made a decision to return to work force, but not for financial reasons; rather that she needed to balance her life; and never, ever, did we feel deprived or unsupervised.

    Just on the matter of your missing draft.. I wonder if others have noticed a strange behaviour here with your pages Mimise? There is a post I know a commented upon which appears to have gone missing completely, and sometimes the order gets jumbled... Today it appears to be going okay... Very strange goings on in the ether!!! Hasn't put us off being here you notice? &*>

    YAM xx

    1. Unfortunately it is necessary for so many mothers to return to the workforce when their little ones are still so very young, something I could never have done but that's just me. I worked with a wonderful older man in the 1970s who always said if you add up how much it costs a woman to work (clothes, travel, food etc) it is hardly worth her while to do bother. Wages were much less then but even so the extra few dollars often made a difference to a household.

      Child care is a necessity these days but because of high wages (particularly here in Oz) it is very expensive and in current times governments have so much expenditure it is not possible for them to subsidise everything that needs subsidising.

      I am not sure what I do wrong with my posts and had no idea they have been behaving strangely. Can you explain what you mean by that. Yesterday my daughter said I should 'schedule' posts and I've found that word on the side of the 'page' but not sure if I'm doing it correctly. Only time will tell as K only said "it's quite easy to do" without explaining how. I often feel so stupid when it comes to computers!!!

      I must apologise if my posting is causing problems. : ) xx

    2. Hari oM
      tracking back - and it seems that things have righted themselves right enough... to be honest, it had not occurred to me that you were not already in full charge of scheduling! It read is fi River had helped you with it though, so am thinking that all is good.

      What I would add to the mix is this.. Blogger has lots of really good help pages and all you need to do is enter the query you have in the address bar of your search engine (Internet Explorer or Firefox or whatever), and pick out the Blogger responses which come up. Or you've always got your ethermates here to point you right!!!

      Huggies, YAM xx