The History of Carewest:
Association of Government Subsidised Child Care Centres (WA) Inc.,

On 5th January, 1973 an inaugural meeting was held consisting of representatives from: Catherine McAuley Centre, Esme Fletcher Day Nursery, Marjorie Mann Lawley Day Care Centre, Children's Protection Society, Ngala Mothercraft Home and Training Centre (Inc.). Held at the Marjorie Mann Lawley Centre, the business of the meeting related to the desirability of forming an Association of organisations running non-profit making Day Nurseries.

It is of interest to comment that Esme Fletcher had initiated and negotiated at the request of the Women's Committee of the Waterside Workers the setting up of a Nursery (subsequently bearing her name) which would provide child care for children of distressed families at affordable fees. The late Mrs Fletcher, a City of Fremantle councillor and trained nurse, who had also worked in the capacity of an almoner at Fremantle Hospital, was a dynamic advocate for quality child care for small children. The resolution of the meeting was to schedule a further meeting in order to discuss a proposed constitution for an Association which became known as the WA Association of Day Nurseries.

At the first meeting of the Council on 18 April, 1973, the fourteen people present approved and adopted the constitution thus formalising the WA Association of Day Nurseries. The first office bearers were elected for the positions of President, Vice President (two positions), Secretary and Treasurer, thus forming the first Executive of the Association. It is of interest to note that each Centre was represented on the Executive.

The first Annual General Meeting was held on 15 July 1974. The President reported that the Association had achieved affiliation with the Australian Pre-School Association and the council elected a representative to attend their meetings. Girrawheen Day Care Centre was invited to join and subsequently accepted membership.

Issues such as training programmes for staff working in the field of child care were addressed; familiarisation with the Commonwealth Child Care Act of 1972 was high on the agenda and the members sought to become conversant with new developments in the field. There was discussion with the Nurses Federation regarding the formulation of an Industrial Agreement for nurses employed in the field, which was ratified in June 1974, and involvement in the setting of conditions of employment for workers who had successfully completed the Child Care Certificate course. In the first fifteen months the Association had been very active as an advocate for quality care of small children, the affordable cost of care, and equality of conditions and salary for workers in the industry.

Membership fees were set at $10 for metropolitan Centres and $5 for country Centres. An affiliation fee of $20 applied to all Centres requesting membership.

During the next year of operation similar issues were addressed.

Discussion with the Preschool Teachers Union regarding an award for Preschool Teachers and child care workers. Letters were written to the appropriate people requesting restoration of the free milk service for children in Centres, which had been withdrawn. The Association became party to an Award for Child Care Workers and negotiated with the Miscellaneous Workers Union for an Award for untrained staff. Taxation deduction for the parents using Child Care Services was an issue.

In 1976 Melvista Day Nursery and Silverwood Day Nursery became members and invitations for membership were sent to The Salvation Army Balga Day Care Centre and Wind in the Willows, Bassendean.

A feature of general meetings was the introduction of guest speakers. A number of people with experience, knowledge and expertise relevant to the care of children provided very informative and professional input at the meetings.

During 1977 the members of the Association were deeply shocked to learn of the sudden passing of their founder, Mrs Esme Fletcher.

The Association launched into a publicity campaign in an effort to inform the community of the existence of the WA Association of Day Nurseries. Whilst the West Australian responded with a feature article regarding full day care for preschool children, it failed to give recognition to the Association. As a further attempt to put the Association 'on the map' it was agreed to place a block advertisement in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory which would serve as a media for publicising the association and ensuring full enrolments in Centres. The isolation and uniqueness of friends and colleagues in the remote part of Western Australia was also addressed.

The Association maintained a growth pattern consistent with the small number of new services which were approved and operating during 1977/78. Five metropolitan Centres and one country Centre accepted membership.

A durable metal plaque was produced at a very reasonable cost which displayed the Association symbol and name. It was decided that purchase and displaying of the plaque would be a condition of membership in order to promote the Association. The approved symbol appeared on letterheads and in the Yellow Pages listing.

Representatives from the Association were involved in a long process of review of the Child Care Regulations.

Reports from Directors regarding their Centre became an interesting feature of general meetings. In 1979 a brochure was produced and distributed through the Centres to community groups, Members of Parliament and other Health and Welfare workers. It was also distributed at a Hyde Park Festival. This assisted in providing a wider public exposure to the Association. In the late 70's and 80's the Association was represented on many committees and sub-committees such as: Advisory Committee for Inservice Training for Child Care Staff, Administration of Child Care Certificate Course, part time Child Care Certificate Course, Child Care Planning Committee, Standing Committee for the Amalgamation of the Child Care Certificate Course and Mothercraft Training.

In spite of so much involvement there was a continuing need to bring recognition of the Association to the people concerned with policy, funding and regulating child care and for the Association to be seen as representing a strong united voice of experience not to be ignored or overlooked but one that could make an invaluable objective contribution.

To facilitate this message the executive became a more effective working party. Much correspondence and numerous deputations to various ministers occupied a great deal of time for already busy people.

During 1980-85 the Association actively petitioned the Minister for Community Services for the establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Committee for Child Day Care in the State. I believe that persistence on this issue over a period of more than four years paved the way for the Children's Advisory Council.

A handbook for Directors was produced at the end of 1981 which was an excellent support tool, particularly for new Directors and those in remote areas. Annual reports were presented for the first time in a more professional manner as a brochure.

It was not longer practical to hold quarterly meetings at host Centres and Drabble House in Nedlands became the 'home' of the Association for several years.

Throughout 1983-84 high on the agenda was the long delay in the revision of the Regulations and the Association sent correspondence and organised meetings with the appropriate Minister.

Communication Child Care was published for the first time as an initiative of the Association and with practical and financial assistance from the Early Childhood Services who became joint sponsors of the publication. The first Communication Child Care magazine was an eight page, one colour publication and this highlighted a tremendous achievement for the Association and the commitment and hard work of the Executive in those days.

In 1984 the Association membership totalled twenty-three, of which five were country centres. A full day seminar was successfully held in September 1984 with the theme 'The Challenge of Child Care in the mid '80's. As a follow up several profitable workshops were organised which addressed the inservice needs of caregivers.

In response to the increasing difficulties relating to procuring relief staff, the Association set up a relief staff pool. This was a very time consuming project which met with little success due to the necessity of continually monitoring and updating information.

In June 1985 the Regulation changes were gazetted after almost six years of waiting. It was encouraging that many of the changes reflected and supported the Association submission for ensuring high quality care for young children.

The President's report in 1986 stated that "Child Care in the '80's offers an exciting challenge that requires those involved to have endless energy and creativity as well as access to information". This was a time of increasing expansion of Children's Services, dramatic change and political involvement, more funding changes, etc. A sub-committee was formed to review the Constitution of the Association with the view of applying for incorporation, which was confirmed on 31 August, 1987.

In 1987 and impressive accomplishment was the expansion of the Communication Child Care magazine. The Children's Advisory Council had been addressing ways of providing more effective communication between all services for the young child, i.e. health, education and care. What an encouragement when after examining several existing publications the decision was made to use the Communication Child Care. Representatives were involved in a series of working party sessions and the Association continues to provide worthy representation on the Committee and takes pride in the contribution made over the years in initiating and supporting a very professional and excellent means of communication.

1987 heralded changes to the licensing process which resulted in a separation of license and advisory services. In appreciation for the invaluable support and assistance over many years the members provided a farewell luncheon for the Early Childhood Advisory Team. A communication forum was established with representatives of key organisations involved in an attempt to open channels for more effective liaison. Ngala became the venue of the meetings for a period of time.

In April 1989 a strong link was forged when nine representatives from the Association attended the Children's Advisory Council dinner in Bunbury. En route they visited both the Occasional Care and Long Day Care Centre in Mandurah and Milligan House and Munchkin Manor in Bunbury. During 1988-89 the decision was taken to form sub-committees in an attempt to spread the work load of the executive members and encourage all members to be actively involved. The sub-committees formed were: Training College Links, Government Department Links, Professional Development, Public Relations, Membership and Social.

Members enthusiastically and objectively contributed to the business of the sub-committees with the result that a great deal more was achieved in a very short time. The burden of representation was more evenly distributed so that the entire load did not fall on the Executive. The membership totalled sixty-five at this point in time and the formation of sub-committees provided an opportunity for all members to make a worthwhile contribution to the Association. An outcome of the tremendous interest and activity during 1989-90 was the decision to change the name of the Association to a name which would more realistically reflect the aims, purpose and principles of the Association as it moved into the 1990's. A further review of the constitution was completed and a new name and logo agreed to.

Carewest: The Association of Government Subsidised Child Care Centres (WA) Inc. came into being. Its birth, however, does not herald the demise of the Association of Day Nurseries (WA) Inc. At the time of the first Annual General Meeting the late Esme Fletcher said, "Time has shown that the formation of the Association has been worthwhile".

At the public launch of Carewest it is fitting that tribute is paid to all those who strove for recognition and unity and who have through their persistence, hard work, diligence, determination and professional striving given the Association a wonderful heritage. In presenting an historical account it is not possible to truly reflect the high level of commitment and involvement of those who have contributed to bringing the Association to this point in its history. No doubt there has been much left unsaid, achievement and activities not recalled. However, I believe the membership can honour the past and its achievements by building onto the wonderful heritage that has been handed down over the last seventeen years, and by ensuring that the voice of Carewest in the future truly reflects all that it stands for.

Margaret Wilson, Administrator, Salvation Army Balga Child Care Services (1990)