The Lady Gowrie Child Centres are located in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart. They were established in 1940 by the Australian Commonwealth Government as demonstration centres for children’s programs.
The Lady Gowrie name honours the wife of a former Governor General of Australia and recognises her particular interest in programs for young children. Lady Gowrie opened each of the centres in 1940 at public gatherings.
Lady Gowrie described the Brisbane centre as a paradise for children and arranged for jacaranda trees to be planted along the front of the building and in the grounds. The extensive playground of the centre was originally planned as an extension of the playrooms where young children would spend most of their playtime out-of-doors.
The Brisbane centre opened to children on the 17th June 1940. Seven two-year-old children and ten four-year-old children began at the centre on that day. By November of that year there were 57 children enrolled. As well as teachers, a registered nurse and a social worker, the centre employed a secretary and cook-housekeeper. Hot meals and a dessert were provided for the children each day.
During World War II the centre was temporarily closed by government decree. The Centre at St Paul’s Terrace still has the air-raid shelter as a reminder of these times.
The centre re-opened in 1943 and reached a full complement of 100 children aged from 2 to 4 years. All children lived in close proximity to the centre. However, as housing in the inner-city area began to be replaced by businesses, families began to come from further afield. Today families come from all areas of Brisbane in order to use the services of the centre.
In 1944 the Brisbane Lady Gowrie Child Centre became a training centre for students. Students from the Brisbane Kindergarten Teachers Training College attended the centre four days a week. Today, the numbers of visitors and students visiting the children’s programs is large and the centre continues to play a very important demonstration role.
Parent education also formed an important part of the centre’s role. A Parent Library was established and Parent/Toddler Groups were first offered in 1974. These groups were primarily set up to support parents in understanding the early development of children and to provide a place where parents could meet. Along with this, a Parent Education Program was introduced as a service to the wider community.
The centre was a foundation member of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Preschool Association (now the Australian Early Childhood Association) and continues to play a role in this organisation.
A Family Day Care Scheme was established by the Brisbane Lady Gowrie Child Centre in 1975. One of the aims of this Scheme was to provide registered home-based child care for parents in the workforce.
In 1983 a centre based child care program was opened at the St Paul’s Terrace building enrolling children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age.
Over the years the Brisbane Lady Gowrie Child Centre gradually shifted its focus from providing parenting programs to offering professional development workshops to practitioners working in early childhood. Day, evening and weekend workshops were initially offered in the Brisbane area and were later expanded to cover all areas of Queensland.
Other significant events include:
The establishment of the John Bostock Resource Centre in 1986. The Resource Centre specializes in early and middle childhood audio and print publications and includes bookstore, library and resource room facilities.
The launch of a newsletter Signpost in 1989. Funded by the Commonwealth Government, Signpost was distributed free of charge to children’s services throughout Queensland.
The opening in 1990 of a 58-place long day child care centre at Warry Street, Spring Hill, and a 45-place occasional child care centre at Quarry Street, Spring Hill.
Sponsorship of a second Family Day Care Scheme in 1994 at Caboolture (situated 50 kms north of Brisbane). This is the largest family day care scheme in Queensland.
VETEC registration as a training organisation in 1998. The Gowrie (Qld) Inc now provides nationally recognised certificate and diploma courses in children’s services.
Sponsorship in 2000 of a third Family Day Care Scheme situated in Indooroopilly and called the Lady Gowrie West Family Day Care Scheme. This Scheme services the western suburbs of Brisbane.
The launch in October 2000 of Reflections, a national children’s services magazine produced by Gowrie Australia. Reflections and a local insert Postscript Queensland replaced Signpost as the Brisbane Lady Gowrie’s publication for children’s services throughout Queensland.
The launch of the Lady Gowrie Community Space Project in 2001 focused on early intervention and prevention strategies to break the cycle of harm for children and young people. The Project developed a HUB – an initial point of contact with facilities for networking and for providing an outreach service for families and other agencies
The establishment in 2005 of a parenting program based at the Lady Gowrie Quarry Street Child Care Centre. The “Through the Looking Glass” program is designed to support families where there is a parent/child relationship under stress. This program provides support and child care as a package for families with children aged 0-5 to help develop richer relationships.
Sponsorship in 2006 of two Family Day Care Schemes and one Long Day Care Program all in the Redland Bay area.
The establishment in mid-2007 of a Gowrie Early Years Centre servicing the Caboolture Shire. Aimed at building on family strengths, the centre is an integrated, universal service model that brings together health, education and the community. It aims to provide a space for families and the community that is able to support the wider community.
Today, The Gowrie (Qld) Inc. caters for some 1,900 children and their families. The organisation plays a very significant advocacy role and is committed to high quality practices in programs for young children and their families, and in training and professional development in children’s services.