Anecdotal History From Past Volunteers

Janne Graham writes, on the occasion of the 21st Anniversary,  about her view of the beginnings of SHOUT:

For me, before SHOUT there was DARE, before that there was HCCA and before that, there was ACT Council on the Ageing. I was for a time involved with all of them.

So these are a few stories, as I remember them. They may give a perspective on the origins of SHOUT and show that good ideas, people with drive, and serendipity all played a part.

ACT Council on the Ageing had moved to the building at Hughes but the community library was still in place in the front office. We had set up DARE (Disabled Adults Residential Establishments), now known as TAS (Transitional Accommodation Services) in 1980 where there was no dedicated government funding for disability accommodation so we had to find a secure, on-going fundraiser. An expert suggested we have baked for us, to our recipe, biscuits, which could be packed in pairs and sold in canteens and motels. This we arranged but then we needed space to store boxes of biscuits, pack them and sort for distribution. Our abiding ethos was that disabled people themselves run the business. Since I had been a founding director of the ACT Council on the Ageing I cadged some storage space from them. Then the library moved out and we were asked if we would move into that space. We couldn’t afford the run, alone.

Separately Karla Knight, wife of Senator John Knight, who as actively involved in the Epilepsy Association, had begun discussions with some of us from other community groups, including Health Care Consumers Association about the wasted energy of so many small self help groups operating independently. Many of us saw a lot of sense in developing some way of sharing administrative costs. By then the government (still the Federal Government of which her husband was a member) was making it clear that they would look more favourably on granting funds for shared facilities and equipment. Some of us fared to dream that coming together in the one place would help us to share our stories, discover that our common issues were more important than the different conditions which had led us to seek out others.

Neither DARE nor HCCA were self help groups in the strictest sense of the word, although they were both operating under the same consumer driven philosophy. A few of the DARE biscuit business volunteers belonged to the MS Society. SPELD and SIDS had associations with HCCA and Karla had similar cross-links with the Asthma Society and the newly developing Schizophrenia Fellowship.

Together we were able to attract funds to cover rental of the front office at Hughes, and to connect phones. We bought some second hand furniture, pooled our office equipment, such as it was, and purchased an electric typewriter (very up market for community groups in those days).

And we spent many hours trying to design a constitution that gave freedom to all the constituent members but encouraged sharing and taking shared responsibility.

At times it seemed that there were more difficulties than benefits. But SHOUT clearly has stood the test of time. Some of our dreams for it have been slow to be realised but we were right in believing that there was more benefit to health consumers by sharing than simply access to the shared typewriter.

Senator John Knight died suddenly while in office leaving Karla and two young sons. For some time Karla continued on with her support for the community work she had become involved in. Senator Margaret Reid was appointed to the seat vacated by John and continued to win it at subsequent elections. Whilst most who are currently involved know of Margaret Reid’s on-going support for SHOUT and many other community activities I want to pay special tribute to the late John Knight, and to Karla. She was an open warm-hearted person, without pretension. I found her a great personal support during the development of DARE and of course she was the primary driver for the development of SHOUT. I understand that Margaret Reid is still in touch with her so I hope our gratitude to her will be conveyed, during this anniversary celebration.