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)
"CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH COMMITTEE
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):
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.