Founded in 1887 as the Charity Organisation Society, then Citizen’s Welfare Service of Victoria (1947-1996), drummond street services has a remarkable history. As one of the longest serving welfare organisations in Victoria, drummond street services was also one of the first welfare services in Australia.

History. Independence. Service.

Our history not only provides a unique historical account of our role in the development of welfare and social work in Victoria, but also traces the major social issues and events in the lives of Victorian families. With a proud tradition of independence from church and state, drummond street services has developed a distinctive and important role in advocating for all Victorian’s.

Our Foundation

Public outcry over the death of destitute casual worker and sometime seamen, John Jackman created remarkable change over a century ago.

Jackman was discovered by a local Constable lying close to death in a lodging house in A’Beckett Street, Melbourne on February 9th, 1887. Bundled into a cab by the constable and rushed to the Melbourne Hospital, Jackman was examined by acting medical officer, Dr Wilkinson and diagnosed with peritonitis whilst still in the cab. An outbreak of Typhus however saw the hospital at capacity, and attempts to admit Jackman for treatment failed. Further attempts to have Jackman admitted to the Alfred Hospital were also unsuccessful and Jackman died in the back of that cab.

The coronial inquiry that followed fuelled an ongoing public outcry over the weakness of the prevailing hospital and charity system and led to a public meeting on 12th May 1887. Attended by all the leaders of the existing charity organisations, it was Professor Morris (Professor of Modern Languages, Melbourne University) who proposed that the Melbourne Charity Organisation Society be established to organise charity, and not just be one.

Working with the network of charitable providers, the service was tasked with facilitating change from indiscriminate charity to the current model of casework with individuals and families. This casework was informed by empirical research and the efficient deployment of scarce resources. The Service’s army of volunteers and paid inquiry officers linked those in need to casework provided by other charities, and investigated cases to ensure that the needs of the deserving were met rather than the “impostor, cadger and mendicant”.

From foundation to the early 1950’s

A period of economic depression, chronic unemployment and poverty drove dramatic reform for charities and the Service. Convening the first Australasian Conference for charity in 1890, the Service believed that the relief measures put in place were pauperising the poor. They set about developing a range of labour market programs to tackle the issues that they had identified, but many would argue that the Service had underestimated the nature and level of the poverty at that time.

This led the Service into conflict with other charities, the government and the organised unemployed themselves. But the Service worked tirelessly towards hospital reform and administrative restructure and in 1922, the Hospital and Charities Boards was established. Throughout that period the Service provided inquiry officers to several metropolitan hospitals to ensure beds were available for those who needed hospitalisation.

Publishing two journals – The Charity Review and The Other Half (which ceased in 1937) along with a range of conference proceedings, the Service fulfilled a unique function and in turn became leaders on major social issues both in Australia and around the world.

Through the onset of the war and the rehabilitation of returned soldiers, the Service became increasingly involved in child welfare issues. The 1920’s saw the opening of Morris House, the Service’s new location and the co-location of other charities. This heralded a time of cooperation between charities and the standardising of social work practices by the promotion of social casework.

With the onset of the great depression the Service expanded its role in the distribution of relief. While maintaining its political emphasis on employment over financial aid, the Service assisted single women to survive and thrive.

By the late 1920’s, the Service supported the establishment of the first hospital almonry. A major step towards a university social work course, MCOS became the major provider of casework training and a prime agitator for the first social work course at Melbourne University.

In the post-depression years, the Service expanded its casework and social work services to foster care placements. Due to World War II, the Service expanded its services further to the rehabilitation of soldiers and their families.

The end of the war gave rise to the welfare state and new concepts of social improvement. The state took over various roles held by charities, seeing many close their doors. The Service’s long-held position as a key trainer and institute of social work ensured its viability, but this role also soon diminished. These changes brought about the Service’s change of name in 1947 to the Citizens Welfare Society of Victoria.

The early 1950’s to mid-1960’s

The advent of the welfare state resulted in a time of great uncertainty for the Service. It required them to carve out a new structure and purpose, and develop new areas of work including an elderly counselling service, a hearing clinic and a residential service for young women. These services would later cease because of a need to consolidate the Service’s work into new areas of funding. In 1957, Morris House was sold and temporary premises were found in Victoria Parade.

With the passing of the 1959 Matrimonial Causes Act, the Commonwealth funded marriage and family counselling, and this became the dominant work of the Service. The Service became an approved provider in 1961 and it began to settle on this discrete area of social work. This heralded a shift away from its external role with the broader welfare sector, to a primary focus on service delivery.

The mid-1960’s to the 2000’s

In 1965 the Service acquired and moved into new premises in Drummond Street, Carlton. Focussing on relationship issues of couples, individuals and their children, the Service offered movement therapy, play therapy, parent training and pre-marital counselling. In the 1980’s there was a shift in approach to include psychodynamic psychotherapy and group work. The Service gained specialist expertise in the area of infertility and its impact on marriage and in 1981 published an Infertility Resources Handbook.

Throughout this time the Service maintained an education and training focus, delivering a range of courses and supervision to professionals in the field.

2006 – to the Present

For the last 16 years drummond street services has been under the leadership of CEO Karen Field. Field’s vision has seen drummond street services diversify their offering to truly intersectional practice serving individuals, families, and marginalised communities including refugees, asylum seekers and LGBTIQA+ people. Adopting a whole of family approach, Field has also driven the transition towards a co-production/co-design service delivery model. Recognised as leaders in delivering services to families and communities, 2006 saw the creation of the Centre for Research and Evaluation (CRFE) with our long-time partner Deakin University. The CRFE not only assists drummond street services to establish an evidence base in all its practices, but also assists other like agencies to bring an evidence base to the forefront of their service programming.

Field has also taken drummond street down the exciting path of innovative technologies by linking vulnerable families to supportive universal prevention and early interventions through free smart phone applications. In 2014 drummond street has designed and developed two mobile phone applications. These apps represent the Service’s commitment to innovative technologies and services for all Australian’s. Click here to find out more about our apps.