In 1974, three mothers of children with disabilities decided that they and their children would benefit from regular meetings with each other, gaining comfort and support and sharing their experiences. Within a short time several other parents had joined this group. After first meeting in each other’s private homes the decision was made to search out a new venue and the St. John of God Brothers at Churinga agreed to provide the use of cottage.
In mid 1975, an Occupational Therapist supporting the children of these mothers with information on exercises and activities to help enhance their child’s development, soon became the impetus for the placement of an advertisement for a voluntary Occupational Therapist, and soon after a volunteer physiotherapist. Local volunteers from all walks of life were very much a part of the program at this time.
In November 1975, a basic Constitution was drawn up using the then State Health Department guidelines. In July 1976, the first Annual General Meeting of the organisation known as the ‘Resource Centre for Handicapped Children – Kalparrin Group’ was held, and it was decided that Kalparrin needed a permanent building.
A submission for funding was sent to the Shire of Diamond Valley, who pledged $50,000 towards housing the ‘Kalparrin Group’. This was matched by State Government and the Kalparrin Group also made a significant contribution raising the incredible sum of $36,000 towards the total project.
Eventually it was decided to allocate a section of ‘Marsh’s Land’ on the Partington’s Flats in Greensborough as a permanent home for Kalparrin.
In 1977, the ‘Kalparrin Group’ secured registration as a Day Training Centre to access extra grants which were then available, and by December 1978 a building had been completed on the site and was ready for occupancy. Another Diamond Valley Council facility being the Early Childhood Development Centre (now the Diamond Valley Community Health Service) was also erected at the same time beside the Kalparrin building as part of the building project.
By this time the ‘Kalparrin Group’ had changed its name to the ‘Kalparrin Pre School for Handicapped Children’. The Victorian Department of Mental Retardation Services provided funding for a supervisor who was a kindergarten teacher, and a full time teacher. Therapists were part paid by the Victorian Early Childhood Development Project, and worked on a voluntary basis for the remainder of the time. Two school buses were also bought with grants from the State government.
By 1980, the Kalparrin Pre School was being funded by several departments including Mental Retardation Services, Department of Social Services, Community Health Department, Commonwealth Employment Program, and by raising money through the fundraising efforts of the Committee of Management.
By 1981 the ‘Kalparrin Pre School for Handicapped Children’ which had changed names again and was operating as the ‘North Eastern Suburbs Early Intervention Programme’, was fully equipped and running on a sessional basis with 40 children attending each week. As the professionals outnumbered the volunteers, a more formal structure emerged.
By 1993, due to changes in government regulations, the centre became incorporated under the name of ‘Kalparrin Early Intervention Program Incorporated’.
An appropriate final change to include the word ‘Childhood’ was made in 1999 and the organisation therefore began using the name by which it is currently known being ‘Kalparrin Early Childhood Intervention Program Inc’ or simply ‘Kalparrin’ to most.
In 2004 what had then become Banyule Community Health (replacing Diamond Valley Community Health when Councils were amalgamated) vacated their portion of the Kalparrin building site, leaving their half of the building in perpetuity to Kalparrin and allowing the Kalparrin program to significantly increase in size.
This opportunity was made even more feasible through the significant injection of funding put into early childhood intervention by the Victorian Government, a government that was ahead of any other in Australia at the time in its understanding of the social and economic benefits derived from supporting early childhood development.
This Victorian State Government injection of funding into early childhood intervention was groundbreaking in Australia and cathartic for Kalparrin which at the exact same time, through the generousity and foresight of the Banyule City Council (who had also embarked on significant community investment in early years programs) had managed to double the size of its facility through with the departure of Banyule Community Health from the Kalparrin site.
Kalparrin’s growth accelerated to a point where now in 2018 Kalparrin supports over 320 families, has become a ‘household’ name in the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Some 42 years after three incredible mothers decided to make a difference in the lives of their own families and started a support group for children with disabilities, numerous families and children from Nillumbik, Banyule and Whittlesea have and still are benefiting from their legacy.
That legacy is a professionally run and highly regarded organisation called ‘Kalparrin’ which today employs some 19 highly skilled and qualified staff and offers some of the best early childhood intervention services and programs available in Victoria.