In 1956, the Western Australian Council of Social Service began its formation as a membership based peak body to advocate on behalf of those who were most vulnerable in society and for the community and welfare services that support them.
WACOSS emerged in the period after the Second World War when social work theory shifted to an understanding that the causes of poverty were the outcome of social structures, not the personal shortcomings of the poor.
Sixty years on, it is a worthy moment to pause and reflect on the impact of WACOSS' contribution to the WA community over that time.
Hopefully, this history briefly presented below as a timeline may provide a reflection that will inspire and motivate the kind of vision and energy of the Council's earliest founders, and bring it to bear for decades to come.
The complete booklet detailing WACOSS' 60 years of history is available here
In a visit from England, Mr George Haynes of the British Council of Social Services inspires social workers and charity groups with the role the Council was playing in Great Britain. A small ad hoc committee was formed with social services stalwart, Mrs Gwin Ruston, as secretary. Gwin had previously served as president of the Slow Learning Children’s Group and was one of those responsible for the establishment of Meals on Wheels in Perth.
A State Conference is held in Perth to establish a Council of Social Service in Western Australia to co-ordinate social welfare.
Lord Mayor of Perth, Sir Harry Howard, presides over a meeting where the Western Australian Council of Social Welfare Agencies is formed. This is the pivotal event that marks WACOSS' nascence. At the time, there are 50 organisations represented.
The Western Australian Council of Social Services, WACOSS, is officially set in place with an executive committee, a constitution and an ambitious wishlist for the people of WA.
Professor Eric Saint, a prominent Perth doctor and scientist is appointed president of WACOSS, a position he holds for the next 10 years. His leadership and influence is of pivotal importance. Milestones achieved under his presidency include the establishment of the WACOSS constitution and the inauguration of its first physical premises.
WACOSS now has ten active subcommittees in operation covering issues such as alcoholism, prison after-care, welfare of the disabled, child, youth and family welfare and support for civilian widows.
WACOSS establishes the Citizens’ Advice Bureau with an office in central Perth.
WACOSS is instrumental in the establishment of the Voluntary Court Welfare Service, which proves to be an outstanding support to the people of WA in subsequent years. A leading-edge service of after-school care is also established to cater for the needs of working families.
WACOSS makes significant input into the establishment of the Family Law Court amid concerns about the welfare of children.
Federal and state governments now look increasingly to WACOSS for advice and direction, as the peak body’s membership grows to 150 welfare agencies.
WACOSS initiates the Home and Community Care (HACC), and Supported Accommodation Assistance Programs (SAAP).
WACOSS takes charge of Emergency Relief Data Collection and advises State Advisory Commission on the distribution of funds.
In a sign that its knowledge and skills are in increasing demand by government, WACOSS is appointed to deliver the HACC Management and Service training package.
Church groups, charities and volunteers – who had delivered welfare in the past – are being increasingly replaced by people who work for wages in the non-government welfare sector in government-initiated programs, and WACOSS helps steer WA through this move towards professional care provision.
WACOSS survives a funding crisis under Richard Court’s government and becomes a fee-for-service entity providing services for government departments to purchase. Membership reaches 188 organisations along with 64 individual members.
With its streamlined corporate plan and management board, WACOSS steers the new policy of contracting out for all government funding of human services in areas such as disability and aged care and employment services.
The WACOSS Poverty Commission makes a significant contribution to the federal government’s national reform agenda. WACOSS also represents the community in establishing ongoing strategies with the ‘Stolen Generation’ and is an important contributor to Aboriginal Reconciliation.
WACOSS plays a major role in the Gallop Government Homelessness Task-force and develops and delivers programs to train personnel in the welfare sector, such as The First-Click Program, which provides internet and email training for hundreds of people.
In partnership with the Peaks through the Peaks Forum, WACOSS generates $2.86 million of funding via the Community Jobs Funds application. WACOSS’s negotiations with the Barnett government through the Partnership Forum paves the way for an unprecedented $604 million social service package in 2011 state budget.
WACOSS celebrates 60 years as the leading peak organisation for the Social Service Sector in WA with 300 member organisations and affiliates, facing a more complex society than ever with renewed calls for collaboration to tackle concerns such as child welfare, homelessness and reconciliation across WA.