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The most important new equipment at this time was 'talking books', an invention of the American Foundation for the Blind. When these were first used in Melbourne in 1934, they consisted of a number of gramophone records. But three other types of machine were imported which were a combination of radio and record player. Each disc played for half an hour and an average novel could be recorded on a dozen twelve-inch records. All machines and records were admitted to Australia duty free. Ever since, they have remained an enormously important part of education and recreation for people who are blind or vision impaired.
(Source: Annual Report, 1935, pp. 13, 15.)
Much attention was devoted in the 1936 Annual Report to an analysis of the problems plaguing the Industrial Department. This was in response to several articles that had appeared in all of the Melbourne newspapers in early June 1936. A deputation of workers led by the President of the Blind Workers' Union, Mr T. Clark, and introduced by the Hon. W. Barry MLA, went to the Assistant Treasurer, Mr Hogan, on 4 June 1936. Their claims were very serious indeed. The group declared that their disability made them susceptible to victimisation by employers. They asked for a real revision of the running of the Blind Institute and suggested that control should be 'vested in the Government, and not in an honorary board: that the educational and
industrial departments should be separated; that blind workers' hours should be reduced and wages increased'.23
They were bold enough to suggest that the method of running an organisation through a Board was 'obsolete' and made for the dependency of people who were blind or vision impaired. 'Under State control they would be free citizens.'24 Mr A.W. Robinson from the AAB said that under the present system workers could only approach the Committee through the Manager, and that they ran the risk of victimisation. The Union also criticised anomalies in the balance sheet and said that the overhead expenses of the Institute were too high. The Secretary of the Trades Hall Council, Mr A.E. Monk, supported the delegation and said that 'every time the council had tried to do something for the workers the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind had been loath to meet it or have any investigations made into the
conditions of the workers'.25 The Blind Workers' Union also criticised the Institute for using little children to entertain at night in order to raise funds. Hogan promised to submit the requests to the Premier, Mr Dunstan, and specifically stated that the request for an Appeal Board for workers was very reasonable and would receive his personal attention. The next day's papers were full of Hedger's denials. He stressed the point that 'the deputation coincided with a world wide movement of Blind Workers' unions for the nationalisation of institutes'.26 Indeed this was a period of labour militancy all over the world. And it was at odds with the concept of charity according to which organisations such as the Blind Institute had been run since the nineteenth century.
Hedger was quick to point out the approval by Atlee Hunt, Chairman of the Charities Board, of the way the Institute was run. In the end, the only result of the whole matter was that the government made an official examination of the balance sheet.
Jack Murphy, a worker in the factory at the time, talked about his experiences there for the RVIB Oral History Project. His version of the events presents a particularly distasteful account of the way workers were treated and how Stan Hedger managed to convince important people that all was well.
Stan Hedger hated the Union, wanting to smash the Union if he could … nothing happened in the place without his knowledge or his approval … The conditions of employment were terrible. The bosses in the factory were just horrible, loud mouthed, filthy tongued individuals that were dominating blind people. I couldn't reproduce the type of language that used to be used against blind people when something went wrong with the weaving … The foreman was an ex-supervisor at Pentridge Gaol, where criminals were put on to hard labour making coconut matting which we had to make a living doing without being criminals … On one occasion a blind chap working a few looms away from me … came into the factory a bit early … and laid a whistle and a whip on the boss's table so when he walked in he saw the symbolism of it and he went up and down the looms with it, smacking it on to the upright posts of each loom and declaring, 'If I can catch the so 'n' so that put this whip on my table, I'll lay it across his back.' … He was such a tyrant that on one occasion the workers geared up against him in a deputation to Stan Hedger.
Hedger received the deputation and called the boss of the factory in to hear what he had to say about the complaints of the workers. He was, of course, meek and mild in the presence of Stan Hedger … His attitude changed very graphically after that because he knew that the blind wouldn't stand for that sort of behaviour … In 1937 I walked out, without any resignation to the Institute. I was still Secretary to the Blind Workers' Union and I induced the Union to adopt the resolution, appointing me as organising Secretary of the Blind Workers' Union of Victoria with objectives of inducing the State Government to finance the Institute without public appeals, for charitable donations on an adequate basis and with representation of the blind on the Board … I interviewed numerous politicians and induced the chap that became the premier, that's John Cain Senior and his deputy. They both went down to the Institute and of course they rang beforehand to say they were coming and of course the whole place was fully prepared to receive them including Stan Hedger … and the politicians found almost nothing wrong.27
Although the issue died down at this time, it did not disappear. Annual Reports for 1937 and particularly for 1939 contained detailed sections on the workers at the Institute. In 1937 the section which had always simply been called 'Industrial' had a new title: 'The Great Problem of the Adult Blind'. It detailed the reasons why the Industrial Department ran at a loss: the Institute's handmade products were competing against machine-made local products and those made by cheap foreign labour. But it also stated that the loss for 1937 was one of the lowest for any similar society in the world. Total sales amounted to pounds 44,183, of which pounds 9,299 was earned at 'sighted rates' and pounds 8,740 distributed in compassionate allowances. The 1937 Report also stated that the Institute kept its workers on even when there was little for them to do. 'We still maintain their incomes and allow them to make unwanted stocks which often have to be sacrificed to compete with unwanted goods.'28
One unintended result of the agitation for change by the Union was the cessation of the fund-sharing arrangement with the Association for the Advancement of the Blind. The Institute alleged that although the AAB was supposed to be non-political, it was 'affiliated with Blind Unions in the Commonwealth who are affiliated with their respective Trades Halls'.29 The reason given for the termination was that it was inevitable some of the money
collected would be used to support the campaign by the Association of Blind Workers (also known as the Blind Union) to reorganise the Institute. The AAB had issued a statement declaring that 'of the 1,100 blind persons in the State, 168 are employed at the Institution leaving 932 to exist upon miserable compassionate allowances, the charity of their friends and relations, and what they can pick up by canvassing door to door'.30
The agreement's termination came without the endorsement of the Charities Board, which could only convey the opinion that it was in the best interests of both organisations to continue as before.31
It irked the Institute's management that many low-wage earners married and that these people expected from them additional financial relief for themselves and their families. It was not easy to raise money for this purpose, though it had to be raised through the usual channels as government gave little towards it.
Otherwise life at the Institute was intense and interesting. Piano tuners received 758 orders for tunings in 1937 - a very large number, according to music authorities in Melbourne. The Music Department had its successes with Hugh Jeffrey, Arthur McKay, Dorothy Nuske and Eric Edwards attaining Honours at exams at the University Conservatorium. David Palmer was still Director of Music, assisted by Fred Sutcliffe and George Findlay, the latter himself an ex-student of the Institute. The orchestra played at Government House and had almost nightly bookings for city and country dances.32 Men who worked in the factory during the day would often be out playing in the orchestra in the evening.
At Ormond Hall, the constant stream of events was maintained. Often other organisations used the Hall, but many Institute events were held there too. It netted pounds 4,289 for the balance sheet in 1937.
A conference of Australian organisations for people who were blind or vision impaired took place in Tasmania in February 1937. The representatives from Victoria were Misses M. Ritchie and A. Crobb, who were not from the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, which indeed did not send a delegate. Recommendations made at the conference included 'securing a monopoly for the blind of key industries, such as brush broom or matting manufacture, to absorb all employable blind, and enable them to become self-supporting and free of Government pensions'.33 Another was for the formation of a National
Association for the Blind.34 Neither of these recommendations was ever adopted.35
In 1938 the Auxiliaries raised pounds 10,000 for babies and children at the Institute. The first Auxiliary meeting held in this year was attended by 400 representatives from forty-five metropolitan groups. The Lady Mayoress, Mrs Edward Campbell, opened the meeting. Mr J. Heyman presented fifty-five fire screens to be sold for fund-raising and a gift of pounds 1 each to the twelve babies in the nursery. They included twins. A minute's silence acknowledged the death in December 1937 of the Matron, Charlotte Briggs, who had been with the Institute for seventeen years.36
The Annual Report for 1939 contained a School Inspector's Report that praised the Institute very highly. It presents an interesting insight into the school at this time. Conditions had changed a great deal since the nineteenth century.
Grounds and Buildings:-
The garden area in front of the school presents an attractive appearance and the section used as a playground is well equipped with swings, see-saws etc. Four class rooms are available and each provides accommodation of a very satisfactory nature. The School is well furnished throughout. There is a well constructed desk for each pupil and any equipment, within reason, is readily supplied by the Institute authorities. Rooms are
centrally heated, and, despite the wintry conditions prevailing to-day, teaching conditions are very pleasant.
… Individual tuition in instrumental music and class singing is given by Mr Palmer, while Mr G. Findlay (Mus. Bac.) attends twice weekly for sessions in music appreciation. In the teaching of Social Studies, courses of co-related assignments in History and Geography cover the programme work. The time-table has been arranged to include school broadcasts and travel-talk, while each Tuesday afternoon special civic lessons are given. Debates and lecturettes form a special feature of the course in the senior school … Of special interest is the provision that is made for the teaching of geography, and free use is made of contour maps to give correct ideas of geographical features. As in former years training in manual work is varied and the quality of the produced work is good. Commencing in the junior department, this work gradually increases in difficulty and the output of work is very creditable indeed. Discipline - very good indeed.
During this period much was done medically for children arriving at the Blind Institute. The Honorary Oculist, Sir James Barrett, was determined to do what he could for the children he was treating. According to one ex-student of the Institute, he was not particularly experienced when he started. Sometimes the treatments were experimental and in the case of Violet Arnett, who had trachoma, quite frightening and very long term. Here Violet speaks about her experience under Dr Barrett:
Nine years - every single day for nine years. And the treatment was sometimes very cruel. You've got to remember that he had never treated before, although he had seen it in the desert in Egypt when he was over there as a very young man. He said I was the first white person he had seen with this problem in Australia, and since then they've found a lot of it among the blacks in the Northern Territory. The disease I had attacks the lids first before it attacks the eye, and it would make the lids four or five times as thick and as horrible as they should've been. So they had to bring the lids down to normal size by cutting slices off (the inside of them). He would do this once or twice a week - he would turn the lids inside out, and cut slices off them, and then he would burn them with a bluestone stick (he would call it 'the blue stick'). It was like a sulfur stick, and he would rub it over where they cut the eyelids, and then they would syringe it up with water. I had to have drops in my eyes - sometimes up to five times a day. They did that at the Institute. Every morning, I'd go to the doctor, and he treated them like this all the time. Sometimes it would be two or three days before he had to do that again. Finally he got the lids to the size that he wanted them, and then a little bit of sight started to come back. I was about twelve before I could distinguish anything, and then gradually after that it [the sight] starts to come back. They're still very weak, and there is a lot I can't see, but it brought a little bit of sight back. But there was no guarantee that it would last because they had never been able to bring sight back to anybody, and he [the doctor] didn't know enough about the disease - he was experimenting.37
During these years the Institute was really a centre of research and development in many ways. In 1934 the Research Committee for the Deaf and Blind, established by the New South Wales Minister for Education in
1931, reported that the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind was the only institution of its kind in the Commonwealth to have definitely embraced the concept of higher education for people who were blind - especially in the field of music. Several students had obtained degrees and diplomas. There were three Bachelors of Arts, one Bachelor of Music, and a Diploma of Music (this was Hugh Jeffrey, then in his final year of a Bachelor of Music).38
As far as the workers in the Institute were concerned, it was a different story. The Blind Union continued to exert pressure on the Institute, but its requests for the reorganisation of the Industrial Department did not bring about any material change in its administration. Nor did it give people who were blind or vision impaired any representation on the Board.39 T.M. Burke, Chairman of the Charities Board of Victoria, did not deem it necessary to set up a Board of Enquiry to examine the complaints of the workers in respect to rates of remuneration. Nor did he find that there was any evidence of the 'sweating' of workers. On the contrary, he found that the Institute had 'probably done more for this section of the people than any other organisation in the world'.40
During these early years of World War II, the Institute continued in much the same way as it had in peace time, with a good many concerts and fund-raising events, such as the Microphone Ball at the Palais de Danse. The function was for members of the broadcasting, radio and advertising industries and its beneficiaries were the Blind Babies' Nursery School and the Australian Comforts Fund. Stan Hedger attended the Ball.41
The year 1940 was significant in that it saw the election of Mrs J.J. Frost, President of the Auxiliaries and a Life Governor, to the Board of the Blind
Institute. Mrs Frost, aged seventy-three, had been involved with the Institute for seventeen years. The first Auxiliaries had been formed thirteen years before. All the newspapers carried articles about the event. They stated that Mrs Frost attended the Annual Meeting of every Auxiliary in the metropolitan area as well as many of their functions, as a guest of honour. She was also active in the Malvern Red Cross and the Radio Station 3XY League, which knitted for soldiers and airmen.
In December 1940 a headline in the Herald read: 'Tribute to Man Who Wields Midas Touch for the Blind'. The article that followed it detailed Stan Hedger's achievements for the Institute, which included raising pounds 120,000 in special appeals, obtaining an annual revenue of pounds 125,000, and making possible building additions and alterations to the value of pounds 75,000. Factory output had increased from pounds 20,000 to pounds 50,000 during his period of service, and wages from pounds 7,000 to pounds 20,000 (not including pounds 10,000 in Commonwealth pensions). Hedger had been made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1938.42
Another tribute was circulated for Hedger's fiftieth birthday, at the seventy-fourth meeting of the Blind Institute in August 1941. He had been working for institutions for people who were blind or vision impaired since he was seventeen, having begun at the New South Wales Blind Institute and Braille Library (now the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales), where his father was President. Thanks to his encouragement, a special class for children who were vision impaired was finally set up by the Education Department in 1941.
In 1942 the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. The grand total spent on babies, children and adults in this year was pounds 56,405.
With the war having expanded to the Pacific, General MacArthur, head
of US Pacific operations, made Melbourne his headquarters. Melbourne's military barracks were in St Kilda Road, and many other buildings were temporarily acquired at this time for Army use. At the Blind Institute, Ormond Hall, the nursery and the school buildings, but not the factories or hostels, were acquired by the Commonwealth Government for use by military operations for two years.
This brought about the extraordinary circumstance of having to move the children out of Melbourne. Stan Hedger found suitable accommodation in a holiday resort called 'The Georgian', in Olinda, in the Dandenong Ranges. Many of the staff at St Kilda Road refused to go. Lenna Bryan, who had been teaching there for thirty-two years, retired. The new kindergarten teacher was Betty De Hugard, while Dulcie Allen, who had a Diploma of Occupational Therapy, was appointed handcraft instructress. Rita Nightingall and Vera Hopton gave lessons in elocution, speech training and physical culture.
Teachers Donald Forbes and Neil Westh continued on the staff, as did the music teachers, David Palmer, Fred Sutcliffe, George Findlay and Hugh Jeffrey, all of whom had been Institute students. Stan Hedger visited Olinda regularly, but he did not move there either.
All the Institute students who went to Olinda regarded it in retrospect as a time of liberation and happiness. And the school was to change forever as a
result of the country sojourn. The decision was made quickly and caused some concern for the mothers, who were told to buy their children much clothing that they could barely afford. Most had struggled through the depression supplying the children with a minimum of garments, never more than two of anything. Elaine Leahy (née Deane) remembered:
… It was rather a shock; I remember a group of mothers meeting in the street beside the RVIB school in Moubray Street - there was Shirley Devine's parents, Lois Allen's parents, Bill Henderson's parents, and my mother; they were looking over this list and saying 'How could we afford this?'
Eventually, in a bus, we all went up to this unknown place, which seemed to us to be at the other side of the world … we were depression born babies, very few of our family members had cars, so that was a long way for us. In the first evening, we all felt rather devastated; we were all meek and mild, very uncertain of our position, totally disorientated. But it wasn't long before we were taking over the place, and wrecking it, I'm afraid. We had very few staff members up there; the staff members we did have were actually a breath of fresh air …
So … we all found ourselves at Olinda … with quite a young staff looking after us. I've learnt since, that some of the girls who were looking after us - cleaning the premises, cooking … and taking care of us - were taken from the Church of England Girls' Home in Glenroy; they themselves were only sixteen or seventeen years old, so it was very much a case of children looking after children. One of the girls who came to look after us was sixteen-year-old Dolly Walker. Mr Hedger had, as his little weekender, a cherry orchard at Menzies Creek which is not far from Olinda in the Dandenongs, and his next-door neighbours were the Walkers who had eight children. As Dolly Walker told us, Mr Hedger came over to see her father one evening, and said 'Can you spare one of your girls?'; Mr Walker said 'Yes, I can spare Dolly', so Dolly came over to look after us at the great age of sixteen.43
During these years the children were given a great deal of independence. They had rooms that each housed two or three instead of the dormitories they had been used to. The children created havoc at first, breaking furniture and
even hacking holes in the walls, but eventually they began to love the outdoors. It was so different to St Kilda Road. Ian Cooper, who was there as a child, recalled:
The kind of trees that were around, chestnut trees, hazelnuts, hollyhocks and those sort of things. Open fires where we used to roast chestnuts and snow in the winter time, it was a new world, a very different world. I loved it, all the different smells. It was just a wonderful two years that we had there.44
The new staff members were often inexperienced and left the children to sort things out for themselves rather than imposing rigid rules. For the first time, the children were allowed to speak at meal times. Until then, strict silence had been the routine.
All of a sudden, we found ourselves having, in many respects, to fend for ourselves; we were still fed three meals a day, even though on a couple of occasions, the cook became too drunk to cook for us, so we had instant meals like Weeties and mandarins for tea - but we felt that was fun, and the fact that it wasn't quite nutritious didn't bother us. We were quite amused that the cook was lying dead drunk in a gents' toilet downstairs in the basement.45
The schooling was rather erratic because the head teacher, Mr Dent, brought in many members of his family to work at Olinda. Apart from himself, there was Mrs Dent and the three children, Peter, Paul and Mary. Mary ran off with a bus driver, Peter was called up for war service, and Paul took up bus driving. His father had hoped that he would be Oxford University graduate material. Then one day the family just disappeared.
According to Elaine Leahy, the return to St Kilda Road after this sojourn was very difficult for the children. They now had to knuckle down again to restricted space and strict discipline. There was a series of new house mothers and Matrons, none of whom stayed long. However, all of them expected the children to adjust to their way of doing things, immediately.
We had house mothers who wanted to play ball with us all day; they wanted to teach us basketball, cricket; they had us running at quarter to seven in the morning - running down the Botanic Gardens; we had a pet
dog. Then … we'd get another house mother who didn't believe in such exercise and wanted to keep us to our music practice and our homework - a strict regimented basis. And then … we would get an utter nut who really didn't have any idea how to look after a group of children at all. Then we got a dear melancholy soul who had unfortunately only just lost her only daughter through the illness of diphtheria; she was still grieving very much when she came to us … not one of we little girls could take the place of her dear little child … so the poor woman took solace in gin, and she was very much worse for wear at times, and we found ourselves covering for her.46
Covering for staff was no novelty - the children had done it often for the young women at Olinda who would entertain young men in their bedrooms and pay the children lollies to keep guard.
But there were compensations. A new headmaster, Geoffrey Green, had been appointed to replace Dent. According to Elaine Leahy, his motto for educating was 'Plant an idea in your mind, and work on it, work around it, become interested in it, research it'.47 Until this time, the style had been to teach by rote - lining the children up against a wall and making them recite spelling and times tables. Former students recall Green's appointment and the
fanfare Hedger made about having a Master of Arts-holder at the school. Green had done broadcasts for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and taught at university, but he had been ill for a long time and apparently took the job at the Blind Institute while convalescing. Green had a fatal flaw. That he was initially well regarded by the students, who felt that he gave them tremendous encouragement, made his downfall all the more tragic. Caught sexually interfering with some of the boys, he was taken to court, found guilty and sentenced to seek psychiatric help.48
Many students felt that Green, despite his flaw, had done a lot of good as headmaster. His approach had been more modern and democratic than anything they had previously experienced. There were other problems at the Institute school, too. Until this time, children who were vision impaired were often less well treated than their classmates who were blind. Elaine Leahy recalled:
We partially sighted students (that was the terminology in those days - 'partially sighted' and 'totally blind') were actually … not left behind, but our interests and our particular learning abilities and skills were not promoted to the extent of the totally blind children.49
According to Elaine, this was partly due to the way funds were collected for the Institute. Certain children were promoted to the public and they were always chosen from among those termed 'totally blind'. She remembered
many very talented such students from that time, and that they were strongly supported. In contrast, the 'partially sighted' who were not placed in the special classes set up by the Education Department were disadvantaged, because they were not allowed to use the vision they had.
All things considered, the Christmas of 1945 was a happy one for the Institute. The war was over, and a record sum of pounds 17,295 had been raised by the Auxiliaries. This was particularly surprising, considering the many other calls upon charity during the war years. Sadly, Mrs Frost, President of the Auxiliaries and member of the Board, had died in February of that year. Mrs C.H. Tutton was elected in her place.
In 1945 payments to workers in the Institute factories totaled pounds 49,154 and sales exceeded this figure, amounting to pounds 55,532. The war had created a huge demand for products made at the factory. By this time, Stan Hedger had been Superintendent for twenty-five years. In 1946 the Institute was barely able to cope with the demand for factory products, partly because sixty workers had left to take up employment elsewhere to help the war effort. The previous year, a Welfare Committee had been set up to enquire into cases of distress.50 And there was a Placement Officer to assist those looking for employment outside the Institute. In 1946 there were 158 Auxiliaries, and 300 Honorary Committees in Victoria to manage the concert parties.
The final years of the 1940s were ones of regeneration for the Institute. As well, there was a constant emphasis on building independence for the babies and children in the school. Girls were taught cookery and knitting - cleaning was part of their normal routine as boarders. The boys learnt carpentry as well as the making of scarves, table mats, skipping ropes, wool rugs, felt rugs and leather belts. School work included social studies and speech training, debating and a model parliament. Music continued to be a focus and piano tuning was more popular than ever, with the Institute receiving some three thousand requests for tuning every year.
In 1948 Dorothy Nuske received a Diploma of Music at the Melbourne Conservatorium. She would be the first woman who was blind to get her Bachelor of Music in 1950.
Plans were underway to build a new nursery and they progressed, despite the fact that the 1947 appeal, which had aimed at a target of pounds 75,000, managed to raise only pounds 39,000.
Fund raising towards the building of a swimming pool at the Institute got an enormous boost from a donation of almost pounds 27,000 from the Trade Unions of Victoria. Learning to swim had played a part in building the confidence of children and adults who were vision impaired. It had ceased during the war and was again underway at the YMCA pool.
In 1949 a Guild for the Professional Blind was formed, with Hugh Jeffrey as President and Elaine Leahy as Secretary. Dorothy Nuske, George Findlay and Joan Ryan were also founding members.51 The Guild functioned under the patronage of the Institute.52 It represented educated men and women rather than those working in factories.
Many single workers living at the nearby hostel and ex-workers received financial assistance. During 1949-50, a Retiring Fund was set up with the help of workers, who raised money with dances and other entertainment.53
In 1951 the Blind Institute bought forty-one acres of land on the corner of Station Street and the Burwood Highway, to establish a school where there would be plenty of space for buildings. The intention was that 'the modern approach to the training of the blind'54 would prevail there, such that children would no longer be in the same vicinity as adults. It was the beginning of a new era.
|A collaborative effort of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired And Texas Commission for the Blind Winter 2003 volume 8, No, 1||Teachers’ Curriculum Institute History Alive!: Pursuing American Ideals|
|History Alive! The United States Student Edition Teachers’ Curriculum Institute||Феномен яхты «transport royal» Запад приоткрыл глаза на иной стиль жизни царю Петру лишь в годы «Великого Посольства»|
Англии, дабы корабельному строению…обучиться…основательнее Там же монарх получит в дар от английского правителя загадочный парусник...
|Department for Victorian Communities||Licensures and Certifications Destination Specialist (China), The Travel Institute. (November 2004). Professional Experience|
|Victorian ophthalmology services planning framework||Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000|
|Николай Троицкий Безумство храбрых. Русские революционеры и карательная политика царизма 1866-1882 гг|
Безумство храбрых. Русские революционеры и карательная политика царизма 1866—1882 гг
|Abraham, K. G., and S. N. Houseman. “Work and Retirement Plans Among Older Americans.” Upjohn Institute Staff Working Paper no. 04-105, July 2004|