Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Please do bear in mind if you are following mum's story that she tends to write about one subject at a time, i.e. the shop or the Guilds and so on.   In doing this she does not write in chronological order so at times you will find people missing and they will pop up again in anther chapter.  Sorry if this is confusing but it was obviously the best way for mum to write her memoirs.

Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston. (pp126-128)

"Sub-committees were appointed in each State to celebrate this event, and limited funds were made available for this purpose.

Dr Robertson was Chairman of the W.A. Committee, and Mrs B.M. Rischbieth, together with a number of well-known people, were appointed to serve on that body and arrange a suitable programme.

As State Secretary of the Women's Service Guilds I was invited to a meeting at which details were presented of the proposed programme for Western Australia.  No mention at all was made of the important part played by women in the early years in social welfare generally. or in the various voluntary agencies which had been established to cover the needs of the community.  Mrs Rischbieth drew attention to this omission, and insisted that no history could be complete without the inclusion of a record of this vital part of the State's development.  After discussion it was agreed that a grant of £100 would be made from the State's allocation to cover the welfare services, and Miss Ethel Cannon, Social Worker, proposed that the money should be used to provide the first directory of social agencies in Western Australia.  She drew attention to the fact that all other States had such directories, and there was a definite need for one in this State.  The suggestion was approved and, to my astonishment,  Miss Cannon nominated me to be responsible for producing it.  Mrs Rischbieth supported the nomination, and I was officially asked to undertake the task.

It was a mammoth undertaking.  A condition of the grant was that the book must obtain a brief history of Western Australian social welfare as an introduction, and a small amount of the money was to be set aside for an exhibition of welfare agencies, including their activities, to be held in the Perth Town Hall.

The challenge was accepted, and it required a very tight budget to cover postage, publicity, printing, cartage etc., for the whole programme.  I was responsible for the directory, and Mr Ben Richter of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association played a prominent part in organising the exhibition, and we worked together very happily in a voluntary capacity.

Questionnaires were sent to each organisation seeking its history, as well as details of its particular branch of social welfare.  We had to ascertain the order in which agencies were formed for the historical section of the book, and the services performed by each organisation for the directory section.

As a guide we obtained copies of directories from other States and used the New South Wales edition as our pattern.
 It was difficult and tedious work collating and assessing the information received, but when we had finally gathered as much as possible for both history and directory an Mr Malcolm Uren agreed to write us a brief editorial we invited quotes and we were obliged to accept the cheapest (£65) to keep within our cost structure.  The result was a modest book with a soft grey cover which met all the requirements.

The early history clearly indicated the activities of the women in laying the foundations of social welfare and, most important, the services being carried out by all the known welfare bodies in 1951.

The consensus was that it had been a hard task but a worthwhile effort to show what had been done in social welfare in Western Australia up to 1951.  A copy of the directory is in the Archives, together with a further three editions produced by me in later years during my period of Honorary Secretary of the *Council of Social Services.

The exhibition in the Town Hall was also a great success, and created considerable interest in all age groups.  Fitting everybody into the space available was like a jigsaw puzzle, but everybody co-operated and assisted by following Mr Richter's plans as far as possible so that the result was gratifying.

It was incredible that we had done it all with £100 but, once again, it was voluntary work that had made it possible and a success."

*You will read about mum's role with the Council of Social Services later in her story.


  1. Hari OM
    Crikey - imagine all these forums and focus groups now working within such budgetary constraints... even allowing for the inflationary indexes, that was still a mighty stingy amount!!! Voluntary work is still greatly undervalued. YAM xx

    1. Volunteers need more publicity and praise although most of them do it and don't look for gratitude.
      No matter how modern the world advances with technology of all types it would stall without the army of volunteers everywhere. xx

  2. YAM is right. On all counts. Women's work AND voluntary work are often the foundations of our society and both are severely undervalued - despite being expected to continue.

    1. You as a volunteer you would appreciate how much time people devote to others and don't ask for accolades at all. It is the quiet army of volunteers behind the scenes that keeps the country running smoothly most of the time.

  3. EC penned my thoughts brilliantly.

    1. Yes Rose, EC did put it very well and I agree with every word she wrote.

  4. I've done a lot of voluntary work in my time and I can say for sure those you are doing it for treat you like nobodies a lot of the time, just because we're not employed there and getting paid. Some companies are grateful and let you know they are, but those are few and far between.

    1. I volunteered when the children were at school but unfortunately, having to return to work, I didn't really have the time and, after I retired, I really wasn't quite up to it. I just to my bit now by crocheting endless rugs and hoping they will bring Vinnys a few dollars each year.
      As you say, many volunteers are taken for granted and yet they continue to help when and where they can.