Photo 003 043

Guthrie Child Care Centre

By the 1980’s it was evident that the Tresillian Council very much understood the changing needs of the community and adjusted their strategic plan accordingly reviewing all service delivery. While infant and maternal welfare was the original impetus for the Society’s establishment, changes in healthcare, the role of women, families and childcare all extended the functions of Tresillian.

The Margaret Harper Clinic opens

In September 1980, the residential unit at Carpenter House, Wollstonecraft was converted to a day stay clinic to enable more families to access the Tresillian service. Led by Miss Narelle Brightfield, the Director of Nursing at Carpenter House, the ‘Margaret Harper Day Stay Clinic’ was officially opened. The name of the clinic acknowledged the outstanding contribution by Dr Margaret Harper, Tresillian’s first Medical Director.

The clinic was in high demand by families and in the ensuing years a “Family Stress Centre” was set up on the premises to address a pressing community need. Social workers and a family psychiatrist were introduced on site to assist with families needing more complex care.

Miss Brightfield was renowned for her dynamic leadership and initiative. A guiding light in Tresillian she worked at Tresillian Vaucluse for many years and had a genuine passion for maternal and child health. She remained the Director of Nursing at the Margaret Harper Clinic until the mid 1980’s when she was succeeded by deputy Veena Willick.

Apart from providing direct care for babies in Tresillian Centres, the role of education remained a priority. There were two courses – the Mothercraft nurses program for general trained nurses studying for a ‘third certificate’ in a 6-month period; and a long-course (15 months) course for students seeking a career in Mothercraft nursing. The Education Unit, based at Petersham was extremely popular with students despite a very rigorous practical program requiring them to be part of the workforce either at Tresillian or in a paediatric ward. Lectures were jointly provided between Petershan and Willoughby sites and Karitane. The nurses would be required to start work at 6am, then travel to one of the sites returning in the afternoon to complete the shift. At the end of either the RN Course or the longer Mothercraft Course the nurses were required to participate in a State Registration Examination.

The Tresillian Auxiliary, a sub-committee of the Tresillian Council, played a major role in raising funds for the organisation and in 1980 enabled the purchase of the Education Unit’s first video cassette recorder and stand! And speaking of videos, around that time, film director, Barbara Chobocky, produced three educational films for parents in partnership with Tresillian, ranging from a documentary looking at single parenting to expectations after birth.

Guthrie Child Centre opens

Around this time, the President of the Tresillian Council, Mr Frank J Guthrie AO saw the need for a long day care facility, to give parents a short break or respite from their child, particularly single parents or those without family nearby. He and the Council lobbied the Department of Youth and Community Services and the Department of Social Security, to fund the venture. They agreed, and Guthrie Child Care Centre was established on the grounds of Tresillian Wollstonecraft, in 1982 for 26 children aged up to 5 years, Monday to Friday. The Centre’s first Director was Jane Marshall.

Changes were afoot for head office staff at Tresillian with the city offices occupied by the organisation in Naval House Grosvenor Street, Sydney, closing for redevelopment on December 31, 1981. Council made the decision to move head office temporarily to Wollstonecraft based on the high cost of rentals in the city. Head office was eventually based at Petersham.

Mr Frank J Guthrie AO retired as President (but remained on Council) in 1985. Mr Guthrie worked tirelessly for Tresillian on a voluntary basis despite holding down a senior management position with the Gillette group. He was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia medal for his outstanding contribution to Tresillian over many years.

Mr Guthrie was succeeded by Mrs Alison Cox OAM who was elected President at the Annual General Meeting with Mr Bob Elmslie OAM, as Vice President. She remained as President until 1990 and presided over a period of major development activity at Tresillian including:

  • In 1985
    • The establishment of a day stay unit at Petersham to operate alongside the residential unit.
  • In 1986
    • The conversion of the 7-day program at Willoughby to a 5-day Monday to Friday residential program.
    • An Outreach program at Willoughby opened where nursing staff visited parents in their own home.
  • In 1988
    • The Tresillian Parent’s Help Line was launched.
    • A Postnatal Depression therapy program was introduced.

Like all members of Council, Mrs Cox was a volunteer. She was passionate about wanting to make a difference for families with young children. There’s no doubt that she achieved this through her work with Tresillian and her legacy will live on. She was also awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

Tresillian’s first National Conference

In September 1988, Tresillian held its first national Conference for child and family health professionals titled ‘Babies, Toddlers & Tears’. The concept was initiated by Medical Director and Paediatrician, Dr John McDonald and his team of medical staff who assisted sourcing overseas academics and a range of Australian speakers. Visiting Medical Officer, Dr Neville Don, played a significant role in coordinating the clinical program and chairing the Committee that organised the Conference. It was a highly successful event with delegates attending from every state of Australia.

This heralded a new era for Tresillian in providing quality professional development for child and family health nurses and allied health workers and from that period on Conferences were held either annually or bi-anually.

Dr John McDonald – Fifty Years Service

Paediatrician, Dr John McDonald was another notable figure at Tresillian whose gentle nature was well known. He worked at Tresillian Vaucluse in the role of Hon. Medical Officer from 1956 then in 1983 was appointed Medical Director working across all Tresillian Centres. In 1972, Dr McDonald joined the Tresillian Council and continued as a Councillor until 2006, when he retired.

Dr McDonald passed away in 2017 but he often recalled the generous hospitality shown to the medical staff at all Tresillian Centres in that period. Fresh scones with jam and cream and a pot of tea, were a regular staple!

Tresillian Parent’s Help Line

In 1988, Tresillian launched the Parent’s Help Line service, a dedicated phone service for parents and carers needing ‘on the spot’ advice on a parenting issue. In the first year the service recorded over 14,000 calls with the number of calls steadily increasing each year to over 62,000 in 1997. An 1800 freecall number was also introduced to enable those living in rural areas to contact Tresillian without paying STD charges. Despite the introduction of new technology, today the Parent’s Help Line continues to be a relevant and popular service for parents seeking advice on their baby from a Tresillian Nurse. It remains a free service.
The nurses often receive calls from Australian parents living overseas and in desperate need of parenting advice they can trust.

Register for the Tresillian newsletter.