Tasmania's StGiles celebrates 80 years of change and rich history

StGiles has evolved with the Tasmanian community over the past 80 years.

StGiles chief executive officer Ian Wright said it had transitioned through periods of flux and instability relatively unscathed.

“It’s been an 80 year journey of pretty significant change, from its founding 80 years ago to provide after-care support to kids with polio. It’s found its way through many government changes and changes within the community needs,” Mr Wright said.

“It’s found itself today smack bang in the middle of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

However, Mr Wright was not convinced attitudes had changed towards people of all abilities.

“If society choose not to let people with disability in, then you can spend all the money you like … but to a large degree, it’s wasted,” he said.

Fostering acceptance remained one of the biggest challenges facing the disability support industry, he said.

That was where he hoped the NDIS would step in as one of its driving forces was inclusion.

Education was still vital as were funds to enable the organisation to foster inclusion, Mr Wright said.

StGiles started a theatre company that was designed to mix people of all abilities, he said.

The arts were an important way to encourage people to meet and engage with others, he said.

Mr Wright has been involved with StGiles for more than 20 years, witnessing major changes to the organisation.

In the mid 1990s, institutions were closed, including the 55 children who lived in a StGiles-run facility.

“They were then repatriated back into the community.”

Services shifted to cater for the new demand for respite service, which it has continued to do in the following years.

Another significant change for the organisation was in 1997.

The Launceston General Hospital originally sent nurses to StGiles, but this was then changed so the staff shifted under the control of the disability organisation, he said.

“You can imagine they were quite challenging times.”

Tasmania was “ahead of the game” when it developed a new funding model back in 2008.

“If society choose not to let people with disability in, then you can spend all the money you like … but to a large degree, it’s wasted.”

StGiles chief executive officer Ian Wright

It put a price on individual services and created a gateway system to check what services were available.

In many ways it was similar to the NDIS, he said.

It was not about putting people of abilities into a box, it was about bringing them into the community, he said.

The rich history and support the organisation has received meant celebrating its 80th anniversary was an important was to give back to the community, he said.

Events will be held throughout the year, including a reunion on February 23.

Anyone who has ever been connected to StGiles is welcome to attend the 80th Reunion at 65 Amy Road from noon until 2pm.

RSVP by emailing society@stgiles.org.au or calling 1300278445.