A journey of hope and resilience: safeguarding children for 120 years

On a bitterly cold winter's evening, Katherine and I headed to the warm and opulent surrounds of the Regent Theatre to celebrate 120 years of the Children's Protection Society (CPS). Way Back When has been working with CPS to produce a book and a website to explore the story of the development of the society, its ground-breaking work with families and its contributions to the child protection system in Victoria. The book, A journey of hope and resilience: safeguarding children for 120 years, was launched by Minister for Families & Children and Youth Affairs, The Hon. Jenny Mikakos on Wednesday 13 July. Professor Dorothy Scott OAM, who was on the steering committee for the project, gave a fascinating and inspiring speech on the evolution of child welfare services in Australia, and the part CPS has played and continues to play. 

The Hon. Jenny Mikakos (centre)

The Hon. Jenny Mikakos (centre)

Professor Dorothy Scott OAM

Professor Dorothy Scott OAM

Gathering to celebrate 120 years of CPS

Gathering to celebrate 120 years of CPS

CPS President Jane Munro AM and CEO Aileen Asford

CPS President Jane Munro AM and CEO Aileen Asford

The society was born on a Saturday morning in 1896, when a group of Melbourne’s most influential dignitaries and charity workers gathered at Government House with the intention of forming a group aimed at protecting children from cruelty and neglect. Led by Lady Sybil de Vere Brassey, wife of the Governor of Victoria, this meeting resulted in the formation of the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty and Neglect of Children (VSPCC). Over the past 120 years the society has provided services for children in need. It has faced constant challenges with passion and commitment, and remained steadfast in its support for families and children throughout Victoria.

An early VSPCC executive committee. Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library Victoria, MS 10384

An early VSPCC executive committee.
Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library Victoria, MS 10384

Unfortunately Lucy and Sarah couldn't be at the launch, and were greatly missed! As always, this project was very much a team effort.

It was an honour to work with CPS on documenting and celebrating its history, and to tell the story of such a long-running and important organisation. We're looking forward to working further with them on a website, which will feature audio documentaries using the oral history interviews we conducted with current and former staff as part of this project. 

You can read more about the launch on the CPS website.

Fiona Poulton

Book Launch: Boroondara Remembers

On Saturday 11 April our latest history Boroondara Remembers: Stories of World War I was launched along with the City of Boroondara’s ‘Gallipoli and Beyond’ events program. Way Back When was thrilled to attend this auspicious occasion as part of commemorations of the centenary of World War I.

The Hawthorn Arts Centre was packed with local residents, historians, community members, politicians, families and friends, all keen to participate and strengthen their connection to our shared past.

Way Back When was engaged to write a history of how the residents of the City of Boroondara (including the suburbs of Ashburton, Balwyn, Balwyn North, Camberwell, Canterbury, Deepdene, Hawthorn, Hawthorn East, Kew, Kew East, and parts of Glen Iris, Mont Albert and Surrey Hills) experienced WWI on the home front. The resulting publication, Boroondara Remembers: Stories of World War I, includes family stories from local residents, such as the story of Edward Slade, a 32 year old bricklayer and father of three from Kew, who enlisted in February 1916. During his service in the AIF, Edward wrote letters home to his wife and three young daughters, which have been treasured by his grandchildren Isabel Harkensee and Kevin Saunders. Edward’s letters are heartbreaking to read:

 Dear little Annie,
Mummy said in one of her letters that you had forgotten what I am like. It is a long time now since we said good bye, but my hopes are that it will not be very long before we remember each other again…

Thankfully, Edward survived the war and returned home to his family three years later. We had the privilege of meeting Edward’s grandchildren and capturing Edward’s story in this history. His is just one of many stories of the ordinary men, women and children who lived in the city of Boroondara during World War I and experienced the hardships and community spirit of the time.

Authors Fiona Poulton (L) and Lucy Bracey (R) with local resident Isabel Harkensee (centre) who was one of many Boroondara residents who shared their WWI stories with  Way Back When  for this project.

Authors Fiona Poulton (L) and Lucy Bracey (R) with local resident Isabel Harkensee (centre) who was one of many Boroondara residents who shared their WWI stories with Way Back When for this project.

The book was launched by the Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Coral Ross, who spoke about the project with great sensitivity and compassion. The full version of her speech can be found here.  In closing, Cr Ross said:

There will be many histories written for the centenary of Gallipoli. But I would encourage you to read this one – it is a deeply personal local history and we are all the richer for knowing about the lives of these Boroondara ANZACS.

The Federal Member for Kooyong, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, was also in attendance and spoke passionately about the centenary of WWI and the City of Boroondara's work to commemorate it. 

Authors Alicia Cerreto, Fiona Poulton, Katherine Sheedy and Lucy Bracey with  Hon Josh Frydenberg MP. 

Authors Alicia Cerreto, Fiona Poulton, Katherine Sheedy and Lucy Bracey with Hon Josh Frydenberg MP. 

The launch of this publication marked the beginning of a series of events the City of Boroondara is hosting to commemorate the Anzac Centenary. The full list of activities can be found on their website. Copies of Boroondara Remembers: Stories from World War I are available for purchase from the website above through the City of Boroondara. 

This is just the beginning of Way Back When's involvement with projects commemorating the centenary of WWI, so stay tuned for more stories of Victorians at war.

Lucy Bracey

Under the Red Ribbon launch party

 On Saturday 27 July 2013, the Victorian AIDS Council / Gay Men’s Health Centre (VAC/GMHC) celebrated their 30th anniversary with the launch of a commemorative book and website, Under the Red Ribbon, produced by Way Back When over the course of twelve months. The history was officially launched by the Hon. David Davis, Minister for Health and Ageing, at a birthday party held at the Positive Living Centre in South Yarra. Partygoers, including many people who have been involved with the organisation throughout its history, enjoyed hearing the memories of guest speakers Caroline Hogg (Health Minister in the late 1980s) and Phil Carswell (the VAC's first president), as well as readings from the book.

Under the Red Ribbon traces the history of the VAC from its formation in 1983 in response to the impending HIV crisis, to its continued and unfailing commitment thirty years later to the hope of the eradication of HIV. The website features the full text of the book, as well as a timeline and lots of multimedia material, including audio documentaries, digital stories and films created from interviews with key people involved in the organisation over its history.

This project was truly a team effort, involving all four members of Way Back When, and was certainly a project that touched all of us deeply. It was a great privilege to tell such an inspiring and important story, and to work with an incredibly passionate and dedicated community.

For more photos of the launch, click here

Fiona Poulton


The Act of Nursing Book Launch

On 29 November 2011 The Act of Nursing: a history of nursing regulation in Victoria was launched by the Hon. David Davis MLC, Minister for Health. With spectacular views over the city from the Sir Redmond Barry Room on the 55th floor in Collins Street, it was a beautiful setting for the culmination of an 18-month project for Way Back When.

Among the 90 or so people at the launch were the CEO and President of the Nurses Board, members of the steering committee, individuals who shared their stories via oral history interviews, the book’s designer, Lynda Patullo of Green Poles Design, and my colleagues Kirstie Close-Barry and Sarah Rood, who both worked on the project.

During my speech I commended the Nurses Board of Victoria for having the foresight to record their history and in doing so leave a valuable record for future generations. I was delighted to have been able to tell the story of such a strong and significant profession and it was an honour to document the proud tradition of nursing and midwifery regulation in Victoria.

Katherine Sheedy