News & Events

Caring independence from the early days

June 27, 2019

Since the foundation of the Old Colonists, residents have enjoyed a mix of independence and care. Free to live their own lives and come and go as they wished, while knowing that if they needed care or nursing, the nurse or carer would be aware and care would be unobtrusively available.

This was contrary to what usually happened when accepting charity in the 19thcentury. While nowhere near as bad as the English poor houses, the charitable institutions in the Australian colonies were large public places, without privacy and with many restrictions, such as the Melbourne (Benevolent) Asylum.[1] However, that Asylum, it was estimated, helped 14,783 people, mostly with residential care, some with outdoor relief, between 1850-1910[2].  It was on a different principle to OCAV and some donors supported both institutions.

Nursing care

Because of the requirement that residents had to live independently, nursing care was for a long time available only for emergencies and convalescence, not for chronic conditions. One cottage, the Goldsborough Cottage (built and endowed in 1880 by Richard Goldsbrough) at 6 Coppin Ave, was made into a hospital in 1905, and was replaced by Sumner Hospital, largely at the initiative of Sarah Sumner , Theodatus’s widow. The hospital was opened in 1914 and was still operating in the 1940s.  It had capacity for 13 beds, as well as providing accommodation for two nurses.

By 1940, some members of Council were concerned at the cost of staffing the hospital with both nurses[3]and domestic staff and asked that the Medical Officer report on the duties of the staff.  Dr Ewen Downie was adamant that there was no scope for economies and his description of the duties of the two nurses support that.[4].

Changing with the times

Over time it became a priority to find a way of caring for frail residents who could not manage in their cottages. OCAV has addressed this need in a several ways[5]:

1970: a rest home, The Lodge, built at Rushall Park, providing bedsit accommodation with a communal dining room

1987: The Ian Rollo Liscombe House was added to The Lodge to provide full nursing care, with donations from the Ian Rollo Currie Foundation, The Department of Community Services and Health, and donations from friends and residents.

1963:  Liscombe House was built in Leith Park to offer low facilities. The Liscombe House in Liscombe House offered high care.

1998: The Anne Jeffery Wing was built and offers facilities for people living with dementia. It was funded through the Department of Veterans; Affairs and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation.

2013:  One and Three Grice Avenue in Rushall Park opened offering assisted living and entirely independent apartments.

Supporting residents to stay independent

The OCAV has developed several ways to support autonomy while also making unobtrusive help available.

One method is the ‘turn card’  system.  Each cottage or apartment has a metal plate with a slide over half of it.  One half has the resident’s surname and address, the other says ‘I am well thank you’.  Each morning residents slide to reveal the ‘I am well today’ message and an OCAV staff member walks around and returns the slide.

As cottages are renovated, rails and walk-in showers are installed in bathrooms.  Many cottages have front steps, so that ramps are being provided.

Medical alerts are available for those who choose.

[1]Mary Kehoe, The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum: Hotham’s Premier Building 1998
[2]Kehoe, p.34
[3]The salary of the nurses is not reported, but when Alice Wane was appointed in 1956, her starting salary was £14/16/9.  She also received accommodation, but not food.  (Found in the material lent to OCAV by Mrs Wane’s family)
[4]Dr Downie’s report forms part of a subcommittee report to the Council meeting of 12 July 1940 (Minute Books)
[5]Frances O’Neill, A Place of Their Own, 2005.

Leith Park is a wonderful place for single older women because of the community and the age-friendly accommodation. I don’t think I have ever felt as safe as I have here.

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