Child Welfare Association

A mother and child in 1912: this was the ideal the child welfare movement wished for every baby
(AOT, PH30/1/4988)

The Child Welfare Association grew out of the early twentieth-century movement to improve the health and welfare of the nation. It was formed in 1917 after a public meeting called by the Women's Health Association, its members united by a common aim to reduce the high infant death rate. The Association sought to do this by education and intervention. By 1918 it had established the first child health clinic in Hobart, where mothers and babies could receive health and mothercraft advice from a government-employed nurse, volunteers and doctors. By the 1930s more clinics had been established round the state.

Through fundraising, work circles, education and deputations to government, the Association was able to extend its work to projects ranging from the supply of pure milk to the organisation of school classes in mothercraft and infant hygiene. With government assistance, it opened a Mothercraft Home in New Town in 1925 as an adjunct to home and clinic visits. The Home was modelled on the New Zealand Karitane hospitals established through the work of Dr Truby King and offered special treatment for mothers and babies and the training of child welfare nurses. The Association ran the home until 1947 when the government assumed responsibility.

The strong growth of the infant and maternal welfare movement was reflected in the formation of a State Council in 1950 which co-ordinated the efforts of the Association across Tasmania. In 1956, it changed its name to the Child Health Association to avoid confusion with the government Child Welfare Department. Today it continues to provide valuable support to the work of the government's family, child and youth health service.

Further reading: S Spargo, 'A brief history of the Child Health Association', AOT NS500/114.

Jill Waters