A history of Tasmania’s first disability service provider, the Eskleigh Foundation, was launched yesterday as part of the community owned and run organisation’s annual meeting at its headquarters at Perth.
The book, HOME OF PEACE, The Eskleigh Story, has been researched and written by Launceston journalist and author Julian Burgess and was commissioned as part of Eskleigh’s 70th anniversary celebrations last year.
In November 1943, with Australia at war, a small group of people in Northern Tasmania decided to establish a home for the care of people with incurable ailments.
The home was the idea of the Reverend Thomas Churchward Kelly, a recently returned Baptist foreign missionary, who saw that people with permanent disabilities and their families in Tasmania often had nowhere to go for care and respite.
Thomas Churchward Kelly had been appointed Baptist minister of Perth and Longford that over nearly a century had enjoyed the generous financial support of the Gibson families of Native Point and Scone.
William Cecil Beaumont Gibson, the owner of Scone, a 2,000-acre farming property on the southern edge of the Perth township, was part of the group working towards the establishment of the home.
He had offered to sell the imposing Scone Homestead and 20 acres of surrounding land to an appropriately constituted organisation at a low valuation and donate half the amount back to the project.
The organising group settled on the name Eskleigh Memorial Home and stated it would serve all Tasmanians. They quickly gained the involvement and support of prominent business and civic leaders from Tasmania’s three main population centres.
When they launched a major fundraising appeal in 1944 Devonport businessman Frederick Henry (Harry) Haines offered to match Beaumont Gibson’s donation of £3,300. It was a gift that ensured the Eskleigh Memorial Home would come to fruition.
Eskleigh was conceived as a “home of peace” for permanently disabled people, funded by community donations and operated as a not-for-profit community organisation.
At a time when Australia was recovering from World War II it took four years of determined work by a large group of community-minded people to convert the Scone Homestead into a hospital and rest home and have it equipped and staffed ready to accept patients.
Even by today’s standards it was an enormous achievement by a group of mostly volunteers. It is unlikely that they could have envisaged the great many obstacles they would have to overcome to build their “home of peace”.
Over the ensuing 70 years Eskleigh had to overcome many more challenges in funding and staffing and changes in government policy on disability care to keep the Home going.
Today Eskleigh operates a 42 bed supported accommodation facility with full time, qualified nursing and support staff at the historic Eskleigh Home at Perth and also has contemporary residential homes in Longford, Kings Meadows, Montrose and Mornington, where people with a disability requiring moderate support live as part of a group home arrangement.
Both Eskleigh Home and the residential homes support and accommodate younger adults with varying levels of intellectual or physical disability, including disabilities caused by an Acquired Brain Injury.
Eskleigh also has a statewide community support network that offers in-home care and respite services, enabling people with a disability to stay in the comfort of their own home with full support and daily healthcare.
Eskleigh was the first home of its kind in Tasmania and its creation is an important Tasmanian story.
Over the past 70 years it has cared for thousands of Tasmanians with a disability and provided employment for hundreds of people. It is still a not-for-profit, local organisation governed by a local board.
The book, HOME OF PEACE, The Eskleigh Story, was printed in Launceston By Bok Print and is available from Eskleigh at Perth for $25.
More information: Julian Burgess 0419750286