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1952 to 1975 - Working

Dr Eric Cunningham Dax kew cottages 1960.jpg

First Impressions

In the post-World War Two era, Australia’s economy boomed and job opportunities were abundant. A general labour shortage resulted in higher wages and employment conditions being demanded by workers. The Cottages management was unable to effectively compete with industries that offered employees far greater pay and conditions. Instead, migrant workers were sought to work at the Cottages. In the 1950s and 1960s, large numbers of migrant workers, many who had fled from a war ravaged Europe, arrived to work in an institution that was run down from years of neglect. However from the mid-1950s reforms were made that greatly enhanced working conditions.

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Introduction of Specialists

From the 1950s a more multidisciplinary approach to care resulted in the employment of various specialists including social workers, psychologists, physio, speech and music therapists. 

Excerpts from Kew's Annual Report, 1964-65.


Speech Therapy - It is felt that Speech Therapy is very valuable for mentally retarded children, as so many of them feel acutely frustrated through lack of ability to communicate.


Social Worker - The Social Worker had an extremely busy year, and, assisted by a case-aide and three social studies students, some 560 home visits were made. These visits were to the families of almost all the new admissions and many to [parents] of children on the waiting list. These visits serve a dual purpose:

  • diagnostic and environmental history taking,

  • to give help as early as possible with problems connected with the intellectually handicapped member of the family.


Some rehabilitation work was done with selected children who may be capable, after training, of leaving the [training] centre to establish themselves in the community.


Physiotherapy - The Physiotherapy Department is staffed by two physiotherapists, each working five half-days per week. During 1964 a somewhat different policy was followed in that an attempt was made to give more intensive treatment to fewer children than the previous year. The total number of treatments given during the year was 2,623, and some 11 children were taught to walk. The children. are divided into several groups: 

  • Those too severely handicapped to warrant active physiotherapy, and are supervised in the wards.

  • A group who are now walking but whose boots and splints need consistent checking. 

  • A group who are having physiotherapy at regular intervals three or four times a week.

Psychologist - The work of the Psychologist during the year had to suffer some interruptions owing to the fact that the psychologist's services were required to assist in the Scientology Enquiry.


Occupational Therapy - The O.T. Department functioned actively during the year. Some 238 children received training in various groups as follows:

  • Kindergarten Group (half-day per group).
    Forty-eight children attended, and most showed a good response. The senior Occupational Therapist reports that there is a need for a new Kindergarten building appropriately designed for the training needs of small children.


  • Intermediate Sections A and B (Full-day programme).
    These sections included 58 children. They were of an older age group and their training was to prepare them for later activities in the Industrial Workshop.


  • Industrial Training Workshop (Full-day).
    Sixty children were trained here. This group is satisfactorily housed in the new Workshop and very good progress has been made by the boys and girls. New industrial work was made available by V.A.T.M.I. and was completed well to schedule, and satisfactorily.


  • Multiple Handicap Section (Full-day).
    This section catered for 18 children who are predominantly adolescent boys and girls, all are severely handicapped and unable, owing to their disabilities, to fit into the Industrial Workshop programme. These children showed a good response and two of the girls were able to be transferred to the Industrial Workshop and one boy is now successfully holding his place as a trainee worker at the Lady Herring Centre.


  • Play Therapy and Assessment Section (Sessional basis).
    Some 30 children were seen in this Section during the year. This section is filling a long felt need for psychotic and emotionally disturbed children for whom previously little could be done. There are four groups of one-hour’s duration daily. Play therapy techniques are used and the Therapist meets a medical officer once weekly to discuss the cases and their management.

    A number of psychotic children who had previously proved unresponsive showed an interesting response to this form of management. Children referred for assessment from Case Conference are also seen initially in this section.


  • Lower Level Training Groups. A and B (one hour per day).
    Twenty-four children attended this group.’ 


Psychiatrist Superintendent, Dr. W.A. Brady and Secretary, Mr D. Nugent, Kew Children's Cottages.

Report of the Mental Health Authority for the period 1st January, 1964 to 31st December, 1965, Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 2, pages 101-103.

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