One hundred years of service
The money raised goes toward establishing a ‘travelling arts scholarship’, designed to support emerging Queensland artists to further their studies overseas. In 1913, the inaugural scholarship is won by sculptor, Daphne Mayo who goes on to have a remarkable career.
However, Mayo’s scholarship was delayed by World War One and during this time all Wattle League funds were used for wartime relief. The League funded artificial limbs and also paid for a specialised orthopaedic ward at the Rosemount Military Hospital.
Pictured: Mrs Papi, founder of the Wattle League.
By 1923 the league was able to fund an Architectural Scholarship to the value of £750 which would enable the recipient to take a three year course of Architecture in London. The scholarship was awarded to Robert Percy Cummings in 1924, thus helping launch another significant Australian career.
Wattle Day celebrations continued to gain in popularity. Reports from the mid-1920s indicate that nearly every school in the state was decorated with wattle on Wattle Day.
The 1930s saw a move to providing annual scholarships within Australia in conjunction with the Queensland Technical College. However, war once again intervened in the work of the League.
The Second World War impacted on the work of the League. Again, the needs of injured service personnel came to the fore. Courier Mail reports from the time show the League donating money to “patriotic purposes”. Sale of Wattle badges are suspended until the war ends although there is no evidence of them being sold after 1945.
To ensure the survival of the scholarship, it was decided to transfer money to a local group called the Half Dozen Group of Artists. The Wattle League was quiet for a while but not forgotten and by 1952 a provisional committee was formed to re-establish the League.
The revived League focussed on the needs of disabled adults and played a key role on the founding of peak body, the Queensland Council of Social Service in the late fifties.
Picture: 1940s art scholarship entries reflected the war.
By 1962, premises had been secured at Roma Street railway yard for a workshop where disabled people could work and receive a wage alongside training and support. The workshop was to become the focal point for League activities throughout this time.
In the early 70s, the League receives its first Government subsidies under the “Handicapped Persons Assistance Act” and the ‘Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Act.
This allowed much needed investment to be made in the physical workshop set up and in the training and wages of the workers. An Activity Therapy Centre is set up to work with those not able to participate in the Workshop.
Picture: This walking aid was one of the most successful workshop products.
The start of the 1980s saw the League at a low point. While much good work was being undertaken on a day to day basis, the long term viability of the organisation was in doubt. The workshop closed and the League remained almost entirely dependent on wages subsidy from the Department of Social Security.
In 1982 Mrs Madeline Cottee (pictured left) is elected as Chairman – she proves to be a vital figure in securing the future of the League. Another major influence on the future of the League was the Disability Services Act which was passed by Federal Government in 1986. State funding was rapidly moved to programs and services that connected people with disabilities to mainstream employment opportunities.
By the end of the 80s and the end of Mrs Cottee’s Chairmanship, the finances of the League had been transformed. Queensland Housing Commission had also allocated two houses for use by clients.
Brisbane Employment Support and Training (BEST) was set up by the League in 1991 to offer assistance to people with an “intellectual and/or psychiatric” difficulty to access work options. This period saw a gradual change in the client group toward people with mental health issues rather than physical disability.
A pivotal moment came with the establishment of Project 300 by the Queensland Government in 1995. It aimed to assist people with a psychiatric illness to leave hospital and live independently. Ten clients were supported initially but this increases over time and was the launch pad for many of the community based mental health services provided by Open Minds today.
In 1996, the Wattle League was notified of a legacy from the estate of Mr Earl Duus. An award scheme in his name is created to recognise the “advancement of psychiatric illness in the community”. The Earl Duus award is still given today during mental health week.
Recent years have seen major growth and development. The Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Support Service was established and accommodation services continue to grow. In 2003, The League changed its name to Open Minds and moved to its current Annerley Road premises.
The Bulk Mail service was passed on to another organisation to allow it to grow and develop separately. Meanwhile a Job Club was established to assist clients who are independently accessing services. A “jobs in jeopardy” programme is also set up to aid individuals who are having difficulty coping with the impact of mental illness on their work.
In 2007, Open Minds succeeded in winning funds to establish the Personal Helpers and Mentors program (PHaMs) in five sites– Inner Brisbane, South Brisbane, Ipswich, Bayside and Caboolture.
As well as continued growth of services, Open Minds can reflect on the past decade as a time of significant change in terms of attitudes and awareness of mental health issues.