Monday, April 20, 2015


I am still trying to work out how, when I posted this on Sunday 19th April, it showed up as being posted 15th April.  I know this for sure as I only added the little logo yesterday.  There's gremlins in the works somewhere, of that I'm sure.

This is a slightly longer post but I feel it best to be read in one sitting as it is a story in itself.  

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME' by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 187-189)

"Frequently we had distressed fathers come into the C.A.B. with children in their arms, seeking immediate aid because their wives had been taken to hospital and there was nobody available to look after the family.

Wanslea, to which children could be sent in an emergency, was not always suitable or popular, in addition to which it was expensive and it was obvious that, where possible, the family should be kept together, and an emergency housekeeper service was the answer, similar to those operating in other States.

I approached the Commissioner for health, Dr Davidson, for funds to start such a service.  He advised that money was available, but that it would be necessary to start the service, prove the need and our capacity to run it, before a grant could be made for the purpose.

I obtained permission to run a street appeal to raise money to launch this new essential service and asked members of the Family Welfare Committee to give their support.  They agreed and with a great deal of hard work we raised the very modest sum of $700, and with it started our own Perth Emergency Housekeeper Service.

At first we named it "Trained Emergency Aids" (T.E.A.) but were advised later, by a public relations friend of Miss Marjory Thomson, to change it to its present title, and adopt the symbol of the helping hand holding the house and family in its care.  We were indebted to Miss Thomson for her considerable voluntary help with the new service.  (If I remember correctly the logo of the PEHS was very similar, if not the same as this one):

A committee was formed with Dr Colin Anderson as Chairman, other members being Mrs Meadowcroft, Mrs Forsyth, Sister Barnes, Mrs Haning as Hon Secretary of the committee and myself as Director.

I had obtained information regarding emergency housekeeper services operating in other States during my travels, and our service was based on data thus gathered.

We started with one housekeeper the first month, and then it grew like Topsy.  Miss Barbara Evans of the Department of Social Services was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to watch the operations and she considered we were handling the matter capably, satisfying the requirements of the Commonwealth and State Governments.  We then received Government help and that of the Lotteries Commission.  I carried the responsibility for running it, employing a supervisor to assess the calls and direct the housekeepers.

It became necessary to advertise for housekeepers both on a live-in and daily basis. Many of the most satisfactory women were past middle age; experienced in running their own homes. good cooks and able to budget.  They had their own preferences, some liking to work with the elderly, while others were good with young children.  English grandmothers visiting relatives were excellent.  Trained nurses were employed as Home Visitors, and they paid regular calls on clients to ensure that all was well with the household and the housekeeper.

There were times when we were asked to send a housekeeper immediately when a mother had been taken to hospital.  The social worker at the hospital would give the address and stress the urgency.  In such cases we sometimes sent the housekeeper by taxi only to be advised that the house was locked up and she could not get in.

Frantic enquiries would ascertain the fact that the key was in the mother's handbag at the hospital. and that there was a small child to fetch from school.  The headmaster had to be asked to hold the child until it was picked up, the housekeeper showing her credentials.  After all this it would probably be found that there was very little food in the house and no money to buy any, so that the housekeeper  had to spend her own money to buy the essentials until we could make arrangements for her to be financed.

We learned the hard way!  When asked to send a housekeeper on a Friday we refused unless there was sufficient food or money available to feed the family over the weekend.  *We found many social workers were not practical people. and it was necessary to point out that it was our task only to provide the housekeeper and their responsibility to take care of the other necessities.

As soon as pregnant mothers became aware of the P.E.H.S. they rang up and tried to book a live-in housekeeper in advance for the time the baby was due.  This was not our function, and we explained that they had months in which to prepare and it was not therefore an emergency.  Occasionally we had young people on working holidays who were willing to take a job for two or three weeks and then move on, and when we were short of housekeepers they were very useful.  On one occasion we had two trained nurses offering their services, and they cared for a woman who had been discharged from hospital while still in need of constant care until she could obtained a permanent housekeeper.   She was delighted with the services of those two nurses.

One very nice woman who came from Canada was placed in a good class home to care for a man and his children while his wife was in hospital.  He made a point of telling us how very happy they were with the housekeeper and that she had been a good cook.  The Home Visitors also gave a glowing account of the situation.   Some time after the wife returned home and the housekeeper had left, he rang to ask for the housekeeper's address.  It appeared he had just received his *telephone account and it was astronomical.  He had given the housekeeper permission to use the 'phone and she had been ringing her people in Canada.  Fortunately he could afford to pay and he admitted that it was entirely his own fault and that we were not in any way responsible."

I am not denigrating trained social workers in general as I know what a wonderful job they do,  but I remember mum telling me many years ago that many trained social workers had not had a lot of experience of life in general and we often lacking in practicalities.   Mum had never had any training at all in social welfare work but just tackled each event as it presented itself in her usual efficient way.  I think her being older when she began this type of work helped her understand what was needed.

*In those days telephone accounts were received 4 times a year and not monthly as they are now so it likely was quite a large one..


  1. Your mama really was incredible.
    My mama worked as an emergency housekeeper in Canberra from time to time. Some of the people she cared for became life-long friends. That would have been in the 1960s.
    I suspect there is still a need for the service, and wonder what (if anything) has replaced it now.

    1. She continued to be that way all her life, rang rings round the rest of us.
      Those housekeepers did a wonderful job and were much liked by the people they helped.
      I feel today there is perhaps even more need for emergency housekeepers with the stress everyone is under.

  2. Hari OM
    What a marvellous service!

    Social workers are such a necessary requirement in society - but my observation has been somewhat along the lines of 'mum's... To be fair, I think they are among the most overworked of officials; but I also am inclined to think that practicality and common sense are not two of the requirements for this work! They appear to take things on the single part of the picture for which they consider themselves to be responsible and the bigger picture gets marred...

    That said, we would be a sadder society without them. YAM xx

    1. I agree with you Yam. The training social workers get is wonderful but I feel they need to see a little more of life during their training to equip them for the big, wide work they will encounter when they begin working. xx

  3. Hello Mimsie, I hope you are keeping well, I've been missing a LOT lately, and I have a lot of posts of yours to catch up on. they really do contain really interesting stories and information. I will enjoy myself.

    1. Hi Rose ---- I guess I am keeping fairly well considering my age and no real complaints.
      I do hope you will catch up with my previous posts as folk are seemingly enjoying reading all about my mum's achievements in the social welfare world.
      Thanks so much for popping in.

  4. After a week with no Internet connection, it is lovely to come home and catch up on all the new posts about your mum and her work. I don't know how she did it all but I'm glad she did.

    1. Hi Tez...great to see you here again.
      I am glad you are enjoying reading all about my mum's wonderful work and I too am still amazed at how much she took on and how hard she worked.
      Thanks for popping in and hope your internet functions find from now on.