The Westcare organisation has been supporting people with disability since its original inception in 1947 as the Tuberculosis Association of Western Australia. It was originally formed as a voluntary association to assist with rehabilitation of tuberculosis (TB) patients being treated at Wooroloo Sanitorium.
Over the last eight decades Westcare has evolved from its humble beginnings to become a leading Australian Disability Enterprise (also recognised as a Social Enterprise) providing quality employment, training and development in addition to accommodation services at the Florence Hummerston Village.
Official Opening - 1st May 1915
Within seven years of gold being discovered in 1892 in the Eastern goldfields region of Western Australia, major concern was expressed by the public of the growing incidence of tuberculosis amongst the community.
In 1906, a sanatorium was setup in Coolgardie (550 km north east of Perth) to accommodate the rising numbers of tuberculosis patients - miners, as well as other members of the general population. However, the Coolgardie sanatorium was not large enough or suitably located to accommodate the full tuberculosis load of Western Australia, and in late 1914, the State Government established a new sanatorium at Wooroloo (50 km from Perth along the Great Eastern Highway). Its aim was to treat a range of infectious diseases including tuberculosis, typhoid, diphtheria and leprosy that were widely prevalent after the mass migration during the gold rushes in Western Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Treatment of tuberculosis was focused on fresh air and sunshine, and the site at Wooroloo was chosen because of the elevation of the site and the beauty and pristine nature of the countryside.
Patients were segregated according to gender and the severity of their case. The open-fronted 10 bed wards, orientated north and east, were designed to maximise patient fresh air and sunlight. As well as accommodating staff there were buildings to house administration, a laboratory, operating room, kitchen, dining room, billiard room and a school for younger patients. The sanatorium had its own laundry, bakery, and power-house, making it a relatively self-contained operation. Leprosy patients were segregated from the other patients.
The Wooroloo Sanatorium comprised 36 major buildings constructed between 1914 and 1917 and was the only large scale purpose-built tuberculosis sanatorium in Western Australia.
By the 1960s the sanatorium was no longer required and the institution became a general hospital for the surrounding district. Since 1970 the facility has operated as a minimum security prison for short-term offenders. In 2002 the Wooroloo Sanatorium and cemetery were added to Western Australia's Heritage Register.
The TB Association
In 1946, an amendment of the Health Act led to the establishment of the Tuberculosis Control Branch and appointment of Dr Linley Henzell as the first State Director of Tuberculosis for WA. The first community chest x-ray survey was carried out in 1947 on selective populations (with chest x-rays becoming compulsory on all persons over 14 years by 1949).
Around this time the Tuberculosis Association of Western Australia was formed (the original predecessor of the current Westcare Incorporation). This voluntary organisation was set up to assist in the rehabilitation and monitoring of the welfare of patients at Wooroloo Colony and to assist in educating the public on the need for x-rays for early detection of tuberculosis. The association sought to “lighten the twilight period between discharge from hospital or clinical treatment and obtaining proper employment by providing a measure of employment and a restoration of personal confidence and interest, and providing some funds to tide them over.”
One of the early fundraising activities conducted by the association was the printing and distribution of Christmas seal stamps in Western Australia to raise awareness of tuberculosis. The Christmas seal campaign originated in Europe in 1904 when a Danish postal clerk developed the idea of adding an extra charitable stamp on mailed holiday greetings during Christmas to raise money for children who were sick with tuberculosis. The idea spread to many different tuberculosis associations across Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and Australia. The Tuberculosis Association of Western Australia (now Westcare) continued with the Christmas seals fundraising campaigns for many years since.
By late 1947, approval was given for the establishment of the chest clinic at Perth Hospital that would become the centre for the treatment of tuberculosis, taking over from Wooroloo Sanatorium. Dr Linley Henzell and Dr Alan King (who in 1947 joined the WA Public Health Department as a tuberculosis physician) opened the chest clinic in 1948 at Hibernian Hall, taking over from the Tuberculosis Outpatient Clinic at Royal Perth Hospital.
In 1949, the Wooroloo Colony Committee and the Tuberculosis Association of WA amalgamated, with the Tuberculosis Association of WA taking over responsibility for the farm colony.
Workshop at Wooroloo
TB & Chest Association
In 1968, the Tuberculosis Association changed its name to the Tuberculosis and Chest Association to reflect the broader scope of rehabilitees now being employed. The Association also joined the local Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled (ACROD).
The Tuberculosis and Chest Association purchased a new site in Carrington Street, Nedlands and began planning for the construction of new premises.
The new purpose built Carrington Street property was opened on 5 November 1970. It initially included sections for printing, cardboard box making, woodwork and sewing and was later extended to include bookbinding.
The Women’s Auxiliary initially operated the workshop canteen providing sandwich lunches, hot pies and drinks. They also provided equipment for the canteen and sheltered workshop operations as well as office curtains and furnishings. The Women’s Auxiliary later handed over the canteen operation to the sheltered workshop but remained very active in fundraising.
The move to the new Carrington Street premises enabled a larger number of rehabilitees to be employed. Numbers were slow to increase due largely to lack of transport and lack of accommodation close to the work site but reached capacity of around 100 by the middle of the decade. The provision of two Toyota commuter buses for transporting the more severely disabled passengers, funded by grants from the Ladies Auxiliary of Morley Lions Club and the Federal Government, was to assist in this regard. These proved invaluable in retaining the employment of some members, particularly those with respiratory problems during heavy wet weather. Welfare services were also extended to cover problems in the home environment such as providing help with finding accommodation.
By 1977, at the FCB Factory, the woodwork division required more room and was transferred to adjacent new leased premises at 35 Carrington Street with updated machinery and an additional 600 m2 of floor space. The woodwork department was registered as FCB Woodcraft and its workforce increased rapidly to 6 tradesmen and 25 disabled employees.
By the end of the decade rehabilitees numbered around 120 and consideration was being given to expansion to a second factory. By now only a very small number of rehabilitees were suffering from tuberculosis. Most services were applied to the rehabilitation of long term patients with epilepsy, back injuries (including due to industrial accidents), social and psychological problems and various other long-term medical conditions. The turnover of employees continued with significant numbers of new employees arriving and others leaving during each year either to take up outside employment, or for personal reasons or due to deteriorating health.
FCB Industries ran an “open house” policy to the public and a constant stream of visitors would be shown over the premises, including businessmen, clients, medical and paramedical officers and government and council representatives. Students from schools, colleges and universities would attend to undertake study assignments on social welfare in the community. It was noted at the time that this was a big change compared to the previous 20 years when only a dedicated minority group foresaw the needs of the sick, disabled and aged.
A major step forward occurred in the 1970s with the development of the hostel accommodation for employees. The WA Government granted two acres of land in Lemnos Street in Shenton Park for this purpose. Sufficient funds were also granted to cover the costs of initially constructing a 20 bed hostel which was officially opened by Premier Sir Charles Court in March 1979 and named the Florence Hummerston Hostel (and now known as the Florence Hummerston Village).
Carrington Street premises c1970
In 1992 the name of the Tuberculosis and Chest Association was changed to Westcare Incorporated to more accurately reflect the increasing involvement of the organisation in the provision of service to people with other disabilities.
WESTCARE stands for West Australian Care (Accommodation, Rehabilitation and Employment) for people with disabilities. While the organisational focus changed, it was still recognised that it would be a mistake to assume that tuberculosis was no longer a problem. In fact, tuberculosis was still claiming 3 million lives in the world each year and Westcare’s new mission statement concluded with the words “while at the same time maintaining a concern for the control of tuberculosis”.
During the middle of the decade the decision was made to build new factory premises at Bassendean, which were opened in 1996 and named the Alan King Building. The Box and Packaging Services and Central Safety divisions moved to the Bassendean premises. The Carrington Street premises retained the printing services and was renamed the Bob Smith Building. In 1995, it was decided to reintroduce the Christmas Seals as a fund raiser and to hold a competition encouraging art students in high schools to submit designs, with prizes awarded for the best entries.
A major objective for the organisation during this time was to demonstrate quality of service and operation by achieving Quality Assurance ratings for each division. In 1996, Westcare was named as one of two finalists in the category of “Human Resources Best Practice” in the WA Industry and Export Awards and were again finalists in this category in 1998. In 1997, Westcare received the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) award for meeting the high level of disability services standards.
The Accommodation Services were achieving significant turnover due to the successful caring for and training of many residents to achieve independent living. Facilities under the Westcare Accommodation Services umbrella included the Florence Hummerston Hostel (including Margaret Rickard Training Units), Cornerstone Villas and Kondoola Homes. In addition, there was the provision of Community Living Support which included establishment in rented accommodation, advocacy, purchase of furniture, provision of meals and general support. During this decade an additional group home (Bob Elphick House) was added and the “Neighbourcare” service introduced: this was a group of Homeswest units at Glendalough with five people supported by one carer. By the middle of the decade the decision was made to sell the Cornerstone Villas in Subiaco due to constant problems with break-ins. The funds from the sale were used to construct additional training units at Florence Hummerston Hostel, with the Peter Wall and Dr Ken Carruthers Training Units being opened in 1998.
In 1999, Westcare purchased Embroidery Solutions, a small profitable business producing embroidered designs and placing them on garments including work uniforms, shorts, caps and jackets. This slotted in well with Central Safety division. In the latter part of the decade, Westcare started seriously considering how they could support the provision of tuberculosis services in Bali which had rampant levels of tuberculosis. Westcare were to further investigate the setting up of a tuberculosis control programme over the next few years.
WA Govenor visiting
Closer to home, Westcare continued to support the research and monitoring of tuberculosis in WA, with the funding of research grants, and funding of the transfer of the local case register to a computerised database. Westcare also commenced a pilot scheme in Albany supporting a women’s group (Wild Women’s Group) which provided social interaction between ladies with disabilities living independently in the community.
At the end of the decade, Westcare sought planning approval to increase the size of the Bassendean premises with construction planned to start in 2001. Negotiations were also underway to add a further ten self-contained single bedroom units in Shenton Park.
In November 2001, the Dr Alan King Building at Bassendean was extended with the opening of the Richard Howell Wing. The additional room initially housed an electronics assembly division but was replaced in 2003 by a new division undertaking bulk food packaging (Westcare Foodpak) which undertakes filling, weighing, sealing and packing foods, and cleaning, labelling and loading the products. This proved to be a successful new business venture for Westcare.
During this time, Westcare typically employed around 180 people including 120 employees with disabilities, of which 90 were employed at Bassendean (65 in Box, Industrial Packaging and Safety, and 25 in Foodpak); 35 at Nedlands in Print; and 5 at Shenton Park in Accommodation Services.
Significant changes occurred in the Westcare Accommodation Services during the decade. In 2001, the two Kondoola group homes were replaced by new homes at Girrawheen and Marangaroo specially designed for disabled tenants. A new wing was added to the Florence Hummerston Hostel comprising 10 self-contained units (the Dr Grey Edwards Units) which re-housed the residents from the older C Block. These units were opened by the WA Governor Lieutenant General John Sanderson and Mrs Sanderson in May 2002.
In 2003 the Florence Hummerston Hostel was renamed the Florence Hummerston Village to better describe the setting and type of service provided to the residents. A year later, a further 10 self-contained units were added to the site and named after Dr Dick Porter. The opening of these units marked the 25th anniversary of the Village. The continuing partnership with Homeswest enabled the original Blocks A and B at the Village to be upgraded in 2005.
Towards the end of the decade, the accommodation services were rationalised with the closure of the Girrawheen residence and relocation of the residents to the refurbished Bob Elphick House at Shenton Park, while the management of the Marangaroo Group Home was taken over by Adventist Residential Care.
Significant effort was expended by Westcare in the first half of the decade to establish a tuberculosis service in Bali involving tuberculosis detection, monitoring and control. With Westcare as the project manager, a consortium of organisations including AusAID and Rotary International received a significant commitment of funding from the Australian Red Cross to enable the service to be established. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Balinese Department of Health in 2004 and Westcare continued to work with the partners in the coming years to advance the project and to increase awareness and identification of tuberculosis in Bali.
Closer to home, in 2005, the first Westcare Breakfast event was run to coincide with the International Day for People with a Disability. This proved to be a great success and continued until 2013 when it was handed over to the National Disability Services to enable the event focus to be broadened to the wider disability sector.
In the early part of the decade, Westcare underwent a major restructure into separate businesses of Westcare Accommodation Services, Westcare Foodpak (including Industrial Packaging), Westcare Print, Westcare Box and Westcare Safety.
In 2016, Westcare acquired Percival Print & Packaging Pty Ltd which specialise in the manufacture of packaging materials for Australia wide clients. This company offered many synergies for the existing Westcare operations and has been incorporated into the Westcare organisation.
During the decade, the Westcare Accommodation Services were rationalised: the Glendalough Neighbourcare scheme was discontinued with the sole focus now being on the provision of services at the Florence Hummerston Village. In 2015, the Village was further expanded with the conversion of the old C block (which was being used as storage) to include an additional eight new units, bringing the total to 48. In addition, a new gym and recreation centre was opened for residents and the dining room facilities were substantially upgraded and modernised.
During this period, Westcare has continued to donate the Dr Alan King Westcare Grants to fund medical research into chronic lung diseases. These grants support laboratory, clinical and epidemiological research into the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of respiratory infections including tuberculosis.
The Long Service Awards continue to be granted to Westcare employees. In 2017, Kim McNab received the 45 year service award and Greg Gardiner received the 40 year service award in 2018. Westcare Annual Awards also continue to be awarded to recognise employees who have provided outstanding service, with the awards named after some of those who have made outstanding contributions to Westcare themselves. This includes Florence Hummerston OBE, Dr Bob Elphick CBE, Dr Alan King AM, Dr Linley Henzell CBE, Peter Wall, Alan Tough OAM, and Richard (Dick) Howell.
A major milestone was reached with Westcare celebrating its 70 year anniversary in 2017. This was commemorated with a cocktail celebration hosted by the Board President, Sue Morey OAM, and attended by the Governor of Western Australia, The Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC. Morning Teas were held to acknowledge the appreciation of Westcare to the large number of donors who provide financial support, some of whom have been donating to the organisation for many years. A special morning tea was held at the Florence Hummerston Village to acknowledge the 70th anniversary and was attended by 180 people including Westcare Donors and Supporters, Ambassadors, Board Members and Government representatives.
By the end of the decade, Westcare was providing employment for around 140 people of which 100 were supported employees, with 60 of these located at Bassendean premises and 40 at the Nedlands office.
Print Finishing, Nedlands premises 2023
In 1968 the Tuberculosis Association changed its name to the Tuberculosis and Chest Association to reflect the broader scope of rehabilitees now being employed. The Association also joined the local Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled (ACROD).