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Through the decades: 1940

Page history last edited by Social Policy Library 4 months, 2 weeks ago


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Children & Families  

Neighbourhood children came to the Brotherhood for baths and companionship where volunteers washed, dressed and fed them as part of the after-school family program.  "Delousing was, of course, par for the course" (Brotherhood Action, March 1989, No.276, p.9). 


Employment of a social worker, Miss Imrie, to work part-time among women and children at Carrum Downs. (1941) (Holden, C et al. 2008, Divine discontent, p.54.)

Social Service Centre opened in Fitzroy to provide counselling and other services for the families living in 'the slums' (1943) (Handfield, J 1980, Friends and brothers, p.143; Holden, C et al. 2008, Divine discontent, p.55).


Guidance Centre established in Fitzroy for families with problems (1945)

Sister Joyce Hay employed to work with ‘problem families’ (1947) (Holden, C et al. 2008, Divine discontent, p.54-5Minutes of meeting of the Board of Directors of St Laurence Trust Pty Ltd 18th February 1947 - "Miss Hay to commence her duties on March the 10th").


Free milk for school children program commenced at Fitzroy's George Street Primary School with the help of local businessmen.  To provide some indication of the health of children at that time, the headmaster used to treat 20 children every morning for infected fingers and toes, conjunctivitis and head lice (BSL Annual Report 1955, p.4; Brotherhood Action, Winter 1992, p.6).

Free milk in schools was later adopted state-wide by the Victorian Education Department and continued to be part of every primary school's daily routine until the 1970s.  


The Brotherhood established an infant health centre in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy  (1948) (Needs confirmation - in media release for opening of refurbished Napier St in 1998)   [1] 

Children’s summer holiday camps began, with the BSL taking children from inner industrial areas for a week at the seaside (1948) ("Twenty-five Years of Social Service", BSL Annual Report 1955, p.4).


Community Issues  

Father Tucker appealed for assistance "in preserving and developing certain lines of inquiry into social phenomena which had become manifest in its work amongst unemployed single men in the slum areas of Melbourne".  In response the Church of England Men’s Society (CEMS) asked Tucker to suggest an activity which they could sponsor.  Tucker recommended they support research on some of the social problems that would have to be tackled once the war ended.  Funding came through an appeal for £300 and, with the assistance of the Archbishop, the Manpower authorities allowed the appointment of the BSL's first 'social research officer' – John Reeves, a member of the Students' Christian Movement and recent BA (Econ) graduate of the University of Melbourne (Reeves, JH 1943, Social Survey, 1943, p.3)


John Reeves, the Brotherhood's new social research officer, moved into the Brotherhood Hostel and began his research.  His brief was to supply "first-hand information, supported by clearly stated facts and statistics, as to community evils, injustices and weaknesses" such as: the problem tenant of housing schemes; juvenile delinquency; children’s welfare; prostitution; old age pensioners; the liquor problem; religion in education; relation of church and state; and unemployment (Reeves, JH 1943, Social Survey, 1943p.7Brotherhood Action, Winter 1995, p.6 ).  The objective was not so much to investigate the problem as to provide authority for what Tucker himself already claimed to know: 'Often the church has been pushed aside in matters of social reform because of its lack of authentic first-hand information (Reeves, JH 1944, Housing the forgotten tenthp. 3).


'If I said there was hundreds of people, well, that’s rather vague isn't it?… If someone will come and tackle you, you want to know. "Give us some details Father Tucker" (Interview with G.K Tucker 2 March 1971, Brotherhood of St Laurence Papers, MS 13126, Box 26; UnitingCare Connections, p.11; Reeves, JH 1943, Social Survey 1943p.7 ). 

St Francis hostel closed in December 1941 and became an Air Raid Precaustions and evacuation centre for the district (Carter, IR 1967, God and three shillingsp.71).

House of St Francis house rules August 1941.

The Homeless Boy in Victoria, includes learnings from running the Brotherhood Hostel for homeless men from 1937 to 1941.


First social action campaign undertaken, the so-called "Battle of King William Street" (Fitzroy) against unfair Landlord and tenant regulations, followed by the "The Veranda Vigil" in Armadale. (1944) (see also Tucker, G.K. 1954, Thanks be, p.109-115; Handfield, J 1980, Friends and Brothers, p.150-153; Tucker, GK, "Why I am breaking the law", The Age, 16 November 1944, p.3 Coaldrake, F 1945, Report on the Armadale Case).


"Campaign Rooms" open in Royal Arcade as a "shop window" with Fr Tucker's office above the famous spiral staircase. (1945).


Father Tucker proposed the formation of a non-government organisation to coordinate and hasten the work of providing homes for the homeless and for servicemen's families. (July 1945)  (Attiwill, K, "Can we get together on housing?", The Argus, 6 July 1945)


Victorian Council of Social Service established at a public meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall in December 1946.


Service to people suffering from alcoholism established in Fitzroy; this contributed to the establishment of Melbourne’s first Alcoholics Anonymous group which met on Brotherhood premises. (1947).

"Carrying on in Canon Tucker's footsteps, in an attempt to grapple with a social malady, his son has, through the Brotherhood of which he is Superior, established the "Coolibah Club", which provides food and shelter for old men in Fitzroy; "Alcoholics Anonymous", an organization to reclaim derelicts; a University Students' Hostel; and a Housing Scheme, to buy condemned houses in Fitzroy and either renovate or rebuild them on behalf of those who occupy them, is in the process of being established." (Nunn, HW 1947, Project Canterbury, ch. 8).


Social Service Bureau report to the the Board December 1946 - main topics are: Homeless Men, Alcoholics Anonymous, Children's Picnics/

Social Service Bureau report to the Board February 1947 - main topics: Visit by the Sydney Alcoholics Anonymous to assist setting up a branch in Melbourne & Campaign on Alcoholism


Father Tucker defended "slum dwellers" against criticism from a Victorian Member of Parliament, saying that the politician's remarks were "cruel and unjust", a further indication of the ignorance of the slum problem among those known as the educated class.


Following the announcement that Melbourne was to host the 1956 Olympic Games, Father Tucker contrasted the proposed construction of Olympic venues with the need to eliminate the slums. (1949). Read what he had to say (BSL Notes, June 1949, No.76, pp.1-2).  


The Brotherhood’s “Slum Films” were shown at a meeting in the Grosvenor Theatre, Melbourne, on Sunday 1 May 1949.  "Grosvenor Theatre resolution: At the conclusion of a meeting ... the following resolution was moved by Mr W J Towers MLA and seconded by Mr J S Lechte MLA: "That this meeting, representing most churches in the City of Melbourne, protests against the money and materials being used on matters of secondary importance, while little is being done to relieve the plight of those living in the slums.  We urge that housing in general and slum clearance in particular should be regarded as matters of national importance, and require immediate attention."  Copies of the resolution were sent to the Prime Minister, the Premier, and the Lord Mayor.  The Prime Minister replied in person and at some length.  … We are grateful to Mr. Chifley for his prompt and courteous reply.

"It would seem that the Federal Government is alert as to the seriousness of the problem, and much has already been done in the matter.  The sum of £40,000 has been advanced to the States for the construction of homes since 1945 - 140,000 houses since the end of the war.  No reference was made to 'matters of secondary importance.'  We are grateful to Mr. Chifley for his prompt and courteous reply.  The Secretary to the Premier informed us 'that the views expressed in this resolution have been noted by the Premier.'  The Town Clerk ‘desired to acknowledge receipt of your letter." (1949). (BSL NotesJune 1949, No.76, p. 2). 


For purposes of comparison, in 1948 the Holden FX cost £733, which was approximately two years' wages for the average worker at the time.  See also [Coldicutt_Elizabeth_Review_of_BSL_films.pdf]


This advertisement for volunteers appeared in the BSL Notes - “Situations Vacant: Salary - the satisfaction of helping with a worthwhile job at Carrum Downs.  Bungalows are going up, but scrub has to be cleared and paths made.  For this we need the help of young men who would be prepared to devote a week-end now and again.”  (1949)


The Oakleigh Consumers Co-operative Society arranged a showing of the Brotherhood films at the Oakleigh Town Hall (1949) (BSL Notes, August 1949, no.77, p.2).


Radio broadcasts on behalf of the Brotherhood were made by a Mr. Barratt on 3UL (Warragul) and 3XY (Melbourne). The broadcasts were on Tuesdays at 2.30 pm from 3UL, Tuesdays at 3 pm from 3XY and Thursdays at 12.45 pm from 3XY (1949) (BSL Notes, August 1949 (No.77) p.2).


Fundraising & Resources 

The Friends of the Brotherhood of S. Laurence grew to number nearly 5000 in the 1940s.


"Garden party in the Slums" under the patronage and in the presence of Her Excellency Lady Gowrie on the 9th of October 1940, at 65 Brunswick St, Fitzroy.


Housing Campaign Appeal to raise money to deal with the housing of the “problem family” (1945) (BSL Annual Report, 1952, p.27)


The Annual Market Fair was held in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall (19 October 1949) (BSL Notes, August 1949 (No.77) p.2


Older People 

Carrum Downs Settlement converted to independent living accommodation for aged persons (1946) (Tucker 1965).  H.W. Nunn in 1947 states "Today the Brotherhood of St. Laurence's Housing Settlement at Carrum Downs maintains twenty-nine families from slum areas."


Plans to sink a bore at Carrum Downs to supply water to the settlement. Previously they relied on Tank water (BSL Notes, No 74 January 1949, p.2)

Coolibah Club opened at 65 Brunswick Street in Fitzroy:  Father Tucker “furnished a small room and opened it as a club for elderly men” to provide a place of shelter and companionship, particularly for “those living in small, drab rooms in overcrowded inner industrial areas”.  (1946)  (BSL Annual report, 1959-1960 p.7).

"Its purpose was mainly as a refuge from the weather" (BSL Action, September 1972 p.7 and March 1974 p.6; see also [BSL_Services_Development_&_Purpose_1960s.pdf])


Proposal to have a Canteen at the Coolibah Club, Sept 1946 (St Laurence Trust Pty Board Minutes 03/09/1946, Box R027096273).


As a basis for appreciating 'the economy' in 1948, the old-age and invalid pensions were a maximum of £2 2/6 a week and the newly-launched Holden FX cost £733, which was approximately two years' wages for the average worker at the time. (The Age, 9 September 1948).


Jessie Sumner began as manager of the Coolibah Club (1948-1963)


The Coolibah Club was completely renovated and an Open Day was held on 15 June between 10 am and 10 pm (BSL Notes, June 1949 No.76 p.3).


Organisational Aspects (BSL)  

The Brotherhood & St Cuthbert's parish, East Brunswick


Reverend Michael Clarke took over from Fr Tucker as Vicar of St Cuthbert's East Brunswick on 3 March 1941 and Fr Tucker was then licensed as Superior of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and as curate in the parish of St Cuthbert's


Reverend Michael Clarke joined the army as a chaplain and Fr Tucker, as Superior of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, was licensed as Incumbent in the parish of St Cuthbert's, East Brunswick, on behalf of the Brotherhood of St Laurence on 21 May 1942.  Selwyn Reynolds succeeded Michael Clarke as Vicar. (Brotherhood Action, Autumn 1995 p.6)


Reverend HD Walton employed as Chaplain of the Settlement in Carrum Downs. (he was previously Rector of Lochart in New South Wales) (BSL Notes, No 74 January 1949 p.1).


Frank Coaldrake was appointed assistant priest to Selwyn Reynolds and "played an active role as leader of the young people's groups, encouraging discussion on current affairs within a Christian framework".  (Brotherhood Action, Autumn 1995 p.6)


The Brotherhood's involvement with St Cuthbert's Parish ended with the departure of Rev. Frank Coaldrake to missionary service in Japan (though still a member of the Brotherhood) in 1945 and care of it was taken over by Revd Michael Clarke who had returned from the war with his wife.  Michael Clarke continued his involvement with the Brotherhood by becoming a member of the Board.   (BSL Notes  February 1946 (No.56) p.1; Tucker, GK 1954, Thanks be, p.109; Brotherhood Action, Autumn 1995, p.6).


Fr Tucker opened a shop (with his office upstairs) at 49-51 Royal Arcade, Melbourne (1941)


First research officer appointed (1942)


Rev. Geoffrey Sambell & Rev. George McWilliams appointed to the BSL advisory board by Archbishop Booth following Tucker’s request for two “suitable and strong” clerics (1947) (see Sambell entry, Australian Dictionary of Biography).


Geoffrey Sambell was appointed Director of Social Work and Bursar of the Brotherhood (1947) (Brotherhood News, September 1969 (No.186) p.2.)

Probation Officer appointed (1949).


Father Tucker moved into a cottage (the "Superior's Lodge") built for him at Carrum Downs where he hosted afternoon tea for those who took part in the Monthly Outings to the Settlement (BSL Notes, August 1949 (No.77), p.2).


The Friends of the Brotherhood of S. Laurence grew to number nearly 5000 in the 1940s (Brotherhood Action, Spring 1997).


02/12/1947 Minutes of a Special Meeting between Father Tucker and Father K J Coaldrake, freeing Father Coaldrake from the Chapter. Father Coaldrake was the last member to leave the Chapter. (The copy of the minutes are Keith Coaldrake's) (Handfield, J 1980, Friends and brothers, p.166)


April 1945 photo taken at Carrum Downs of Keith Coaldrake, Father Tucker, Frank Coaldrake and others. Photo was donated to BSL and belonged to Keith Coaldrake. 


List of Staff who worked at Fitzroy as at 8th of August 1946: Father Tucker; Mr Barratt, assistant to Father Tucker and car driver; Mrs Beverley, Manageress of the Coolibah Club, and assistant for general office work; Mr Pietriche, Old Age Pensioner who acted as Club Steward and helped with odd jobs; Mr Wilding, Welfare Officer, Social Service Bureau; Mr Bishop, Bursar, and acted as manager for the premises generally (BSL Board report: "Report on Work at Fitzroy", prepared by GAB, 26/08/1946, Box R027096273).


Presentations and publications 

The 11th Foundation Festival was celebrated at St Cuthbert's Church, East Brunswick on Sunday, 14 December 1941, with the Vice-Superior of the Brotherhood as preacher (BSL Quarterly Notes for the "Friends of the Brotherhood of S. Laurence", December 1941, No.39, p.1).


First research & advocacy publication - John Reeves’ Housing the Forgotten Tenth  (Holden) (1944).  Read what was written about this publication. 


Film: Gaol does not cure - the case for the chronic alcoholic produced by Jack Fitzsimmons with Irene Mitchell and the Melbourne Film Society (1946). (Brotherhood ActionDecember 1978 (No.222)).  This film "suggests alternative treatment techniques for alcoholism and shows the inadequacy of the provisions for dealing with the city’s derelicts".


Film: ‘Beautiful Melbourne’ commissioned by the Brotherhood, produced by Ken Coldicutt and the Realist Film Unit (1947).


Film: ‘These are our Children produced by Ken Coldicutt to explain the basis of juvenile delinquency in Fitzroy (1948) (Brotherhood Action, December 1978, No.222)  This film "was made by Ken Coldicutt who founded the Realist Film Unit in 1945 and made a number of films about social conditions in Melbourne". 


Melbourne's Underprivileged Children, by DJ Wilding, circa 1942

Report on Slum Conditions, by DJ Wilding 1947 

How it began and how it goes on; the story of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, 1944

Dope and damnation (4 papers: 1 - Dope, 2  -The education of the Australian half-caste, 3 - The re-ordering of social disorder, 4  - A new approach to re-union), BSL 1945

Do you know anyone living in a "lost weekend" (Alcohol Abuse), BSL, 1947

Homeless men, DJ Wilding, 1949




Neil Harvey, the Australian Test Cricketer of the 1950s grew up in Fitzroy. The book First Tests - Great Australian Cricketers and the Backyards That Made Them by Steve Cannane mentions Father Tucker and something of the conditions in the 1930s and 1940s. 


  1. Media release [BSL_Napier_St_Cottage_Opening_MediaRelease_1992-2-28.pdf]

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