History

The following is a history of the Victoria branch of the S.S.P.A. taken from ‘Growing In Stature’ – a history of the S.S.P.A..

HISTORY OF THE VICTORIA BRANCH

STRONG TIES FROM THE START

Outside of New South Wales, Victoria had the strongest representation at the very first National Convention held in Port Macquarie (NSW) in 1968. During the week of the Convention, Victoria combined with South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia to form a regional group for administrative purposes. This covered areas such as publicity and news, public relations, as well as secretarial business, which were all under the control of Victorian members.

Three members of the Victorian contingent were elected to the National Steering Committee, which was to guide the LPAA through its first year of operation. By the end of 1968, Victoria had a membership of approximately 17 members, of which 10 were Little People.

During its infancy, the Victorian group was dominated by average-sized parents with Short-statured children, many of whom were under five years of age. The influence exerted by the parents on the administrative as well as social development of the group almost certainly contributed to Victoria organising the first state LPAA branch in 1972. Another key element was a matter of geography. Almost all of the state’s membership to that time lived in Melbourne which meant that distance was not an inhibiting factor for meetings and social gatherings, unlike other states.

In 1969, Victoria was to the fore in raising funds and generating publicity for the LPAA. Reports of social fundraising events and articles in newspapers such as the Melbourne “Sun” appeared in the LPAA Newsletter. Such activity was highlighted when George and Rosemary Whitaker visited Melbourne in the same year. In that instance, suburban newspapers throughout the city banded together to start a fund-raising campaign for the Association. With the amount of social functions being organised at this time, the Victorian group deemed it necessary to elect a Secretary from within its ranks to handle the responsibility for this area.

By mid-1969, with the group going from strength to strength, it seemed ironic that it was not able to generate the type of publicity within the LPAA which it was adept at doing externally. Complaints in the form of letters were sent to the LPAA Newsletter Editor, Cec. McWhirter highlighting the lack of items of interest from Victoria, particularly during July and August 1969. These letters of complaint seemed to imply that New South Wales members appeared in most of the news items. In August 1969, George Whitaker warned in his “President’s Prattle” (which was a supplement to the LPAA Newsletter) of Victoria versus New South Wales rivalry in the Association which would threaten its future stability and undermine the significant gains made to that point of time. Any fallout from this episode soon dissipated and ultimately, it proved to be a “storm in a teacup”.

MOVES TOWARDS A STATE BRANCH

By July 1970, there were clear signs that Victoria was working towards establishing a state branch of the LPAA. During that month, a social function which drew members from over 100 kilometres away, was organised to specifically … aid and plan future social activities in this state. LPAA Journal.1

Throughout 1970, fundraising activity continued to be the major agenda for the Victorian group. By now, the frequency of functions necessitated the involvement of not only average-sized parents but also adult Little People such as Jean Ryan and Ron Hammond. Publicity talks also kept the group busy with a wide variety of community organisations being informed about the LPAA and Little People in general.

The development of the Victorian group was of great encouragement to the National Council, particularly with very slow progress being made in New South Wales. In December 1970, the LPAA President, Ted Machin (NSW) in his “President’s Comments” column in the Journal urged the Victorian group … to keep the spirit of LPAA alive.2

During the following year, both the President and the National Secretary, Ted Maynard (WA) made it clear that they wanted state committees not only in Victoria but also in the other states, notably, New South Wales and South Australia. It was recognised that in terms of organisation of meetings and social get-togethers, Victoria was ahead of any other state, but the others were making up ground.

Attendances at social functions continued to rise, with the help of families and friends of LPAA members. Notably, in November 1971, a barbecue held at a family home drew 70 people. An increased emphasis on publicity talks, particularly with adult Little People such as Jean Ryan as speakers, resulted in larger numbers of people, like school students becoming educated about Little People and the LPAA. It also provided another avenue for the recruitment of new members.

VICTORIA FORMALLY ESTABLISHES A BRANCH

In June 1972, Victoria became the first state to establish an LPAA branch independent of the National Council, which at the time was keen to decentralise some of its powers to the states, particularly in the area of fundraising. The first office-bearers of the Victorian Branch were: Chairperson: Jean Ryan (LP); Secretary: Pat Paterson; and Treasurer: Kevin Munroe (LP). It was also to operate under its own constitution with the approval of the National Council, but it was still accountable to the governing body through submission of regular reports of its business, financial and social activities to both Council meetings and the Journal. Branch meetings were held monthly at the homes of members and their families. One month after the Branch was formed, the first National Council meeting outside of New South Wales took place in Melbourne, which was followed by another in February 1973. At this time, arrangements for the first LPAA Convention of Little People to be held outside of New South Wales were well under way. It was to be held in Frankston, a seaside suburb approximately 50 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. The success of the National Convention, which occurred in August 1973 provided a tremendous fillip for not only the Victorian Branch but also the LPAA as a national body which had wanted the states to maintain the impetus it had started in 1968. The power base of the National Council was gradually being decentralised.

Regular social activity continued after the 1973 Frankston (Vic.) Convention, but the participation rate of members, as distinct from families and friends was starting to diminish. This scenario was best exemplified by a report of the Victorian Branch’s annual Christmas Party (1973) which appeared in the March 1974 issue of the Journal. In that report disappointment was expressed that not enough members showed any interest to come. This was despite the fact that over 100 adults and children were present on the day! Under normal circumstances, attendances like that would have guaranteed a solid interest in the LPAA, but events such as Christmas parties were held once a year, so other social fund-raisers required the regular input of members themselves to ensure the long-term liquidity of the Victorian Branch. This situation, subsequently, would not be unique to that state.

FUNDRAISING AND PUBLICITY DOMINATE BRANCH ACTIVITIES

The years of 1973 and 1974 for the Victorian Branch were focussed on two key areas – fundraising and publicity. After the 1973 Frankston (Vic.) Convention, the branch was involved in a constant programme of “money-spinning” activities such as auctions, dinner dances, etc. For not only was this important to Victoria, but it also gave the Association itself a boost in revenue. When the LPAA released its financial statement for the year ended 31 August 1975, at the 1975 Elanora Heights (NSW) AGM, it paid tribute to the work of the Victorian Branch. It stated that the National body’s sound financial position was … probably inspired by the fine results of the Victorian Committee over the previous 12 months.3 (1973-74)

This indicated that, at the time, with only one state branch operating, the LPAA was reliant on Victoria to help it in the area of fundraising on an organised basis. The other states contributed but not to the degree that Victoria did.

Publicity also became a vital activity during this time. While publicity talks had kept the Branch consistently busy over a period of years, they reached a peak during 1974 and 1975. Jean Ryan (LP) assumed the responsibility of presenting talks on behalf of the Association. It was not uncommon for her to appear on a weekly basis in front of church groups, mothers clubs and school children. At one stage, during a six-month period in 1974, she had spoken to over 5,000 people about the problems of being short-statured. By the end of 1975, this figure had grown close to 10,000. Although parents of short-statured children had previously been involved with publicity talks, the presenceof a Little Person speaking to an uninformed audience maximised the credibility of the LPAA as an organisation for Little People, as well as creating a direct impact. Therefore, it was not surprising, that Jean Ryan was in such demand during that era.

BRANCH COMMITTEE EXPERIENCES PROBLEMS

Throughout its early years, the Victorian Branch was dominated by the influence, as well as the input of the average-sized parents of short-statured children. When a formal committee structure was put in motion in June 1972, the participation of adult Little People was actively encouraged. By the time of the 1974 Victorian Branch AGM, adult Little People held more than half of the elected Committee positions, including that of Chairperson, which under that state Branch’s constitution required a Little Person to be its bearer. Correspondingly, the overall numbers of members attending meetings and social functions were starting to fall. Reports of state branch activities to the Journal at that time indicated that the same loyal, diehard members were present at each function. These reports also questioned the interest and commitment of members to the LPAA cause. At the 1975 Victorian branch AGM, a renewed membership drive was launched with the distribution of introduction cards to Committee members for the purpose of attracting interested people to the Association.

During 1975 and 1976, it was becoming clear that problems were beginning to emerge within the administration of the Branch. The major one appeared to be that the workload of the Committee was being left to one or two people, which was potentially disastrous at that time with Victoria being granted the right to host the 1976 National Convention at Swan Hill. Another problem which surfaced during this period was the decline in the number of adult Little People. Although their numbers were always small, they were starting to take responsibility for the branch’s administrative affairs after spending many years relying on the support of the average-sized parents to “run” the Group. Their demise, through resignation or other reasons, meant that the parents would once again be the dominating influence on Branch affairs. It also left a void which would not be effectively filled until the 1980s when the first generation of Little People to grow up in the LPAA would be ready to assume leadership roles within the Victorian Branch.

FOCUS OF THE BRANCH CHANGES TO MEDICAL, EDUCATIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT ISSUES

Despite the administrative difficulties which appeared to be hampering the work of the branch, the 1976 Swan Hill (Vic.) Convention was successfully staged, although the numbers in attendance were down on previous years. Logistically, for the Branch to organise this National Convention with the majority of its members living in Melbourne, and virtually no-one from Swan Hill, which is approximately 350 km north-west of it, proved to be a remarkable exercise.

By 1977, the Victorian Branch was diverting its resources away from areas such as fundraising and publicity to issues of medical support, educational opportunities and employment assistance, as well as social welfare. In October 1976, a sub-committee on employment research was formed by the branch with its aims being:

  1. To investigate what resources are available to members through the Commonwealth Employment Services (CES) re: training and employment opportunities for members.

  2. To gain specialised vocational guidance for short-statured children and counselling services for the parents of these children through the Special Services Branch of the Victorian Education Department.

  3. Investigate which Government departments are carrying out research into the training and employment of physically handicapped people, and co-operate with them where necessary.

During the time that this sub-committee was in operation, contacts were made with the Commonwealth Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, Special Services Section (which was responsible for the CES); the State Education Department, Special Services Branch, as well as the State Industrial Training Commission (Apprenticeship Board). These contacts consisted of letter exchanges, interviews, follow-up contacts, referrals to other sources and also requests for investigations into available resources for Little People and parents of Little People. Other community organisations, which dealt with issues such as employment discrimination were also contacted.

The efforts of this sub-committee in its dealings with both Commonwealth and State Government departments were of great significance to the LPAA, both in Victoria, as well as the rest of Australia. For such a small self-help group, government recognition of their needs, in terms of funding support and access to departmental services, meant that Little People had a chance of equality of opportunity in education and employment, in line with the rest of the community. More importantly, it would result in an improved quality of life.

In early 1978, the Victorian Branch prepared a submission for funding as a self-help group to the Victorian Department of Social Welfare. The submission itself included six key areas were community services, employment, architectural barriers, transport, recreation and information service. In joining with other groups who represented the physically disabled and also prepared submissions, the LPAA was able to achieve significant gains in public transport, housing and building design. During the course of this submission, members of the Branch attended meetings of other self-help groups and gained valuable feedback from these groups.

Links between the Victorian Branch and the medical profession, based at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne became prominent at this time. Not only, in terms of providing specialist diagnosis of bone dysplasia to Little People but also in terms of referring potential members to the Association. At one stage during 1978, contact had been made with six proposed members referred from the Royal Children’s Hospital but unfortunately, this group was not ready to join! The support given by Dr. John Rogers and Margaret Sahhar, a social worker with the Hospital proved to be invaluable as they attended most state branch meetings during this period and gave assistance with the preparation of submissions to government departments, as well as providing access to the resources of other self-help groups.

BRANCH BECOMES A ‘HIVE’ OF ACTIVITY

Although developments within the Branch were dominated by issues of assistance to Little People in education, employment, social welfare, etc, other activities occupied the attention of the Victorian members as well during 1977 and 1978. As always, the Branch involved itself in the field of public relations by continuing with its programme of publicity talks. As well, a circular letter was prepared to be sent to all municipal councils advising that the LPAA was a self-help group and asking the councils if it could be listed in information leaflets or community directories which were sent to rate payers. While business activities were highlighted at this time, regular social events were still organised, including the initiation of Labor Day (in March) weekends away for members which was so successful in its inaugural year that it became an annual institution. Branch meetings which had been held on a monthly basis from the inception of the Group in 1972 were now being organised on a bi-monthly basis. However, throughout the history of the Branch, there has never been a fixed arrangement with regard to the number of meetings to be held over the period of a year. Factors such as the Branch organisation of a National Convention as well as attendance and interest of members have been a major influence on whether meetings should be monthly or bi-monthly. From time to time, innovations such as guest speakers from government departments or other self-help groups have been used in a bid to attract more members, as well as new ones.

COMMITTEE INCREASES IN SIZE

At the 1979 Canberra AGM, the Victorian Branch’s Constitution was amended under the section pertaining to sub-committee membership. Up until this time, the Committee had consisted of Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and three ordinary members. With the constitutional amendment being passed, the number of ordinary members was increased to four, with one being a representative on the National Council. When Victoria was chosen to host the 1980 National Convention at Ballarat, the number of ordinary members was increased from four to seven, due to the amount of organisational work involved in putting together a National Convention programme. It is interesting to note it was the second occasion the Branch held a National Convention at a venue where no members lived, in this case, Ballarat. At one stage, Belgrave (an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges) was suggested as an alternative but Ballarat was preferred.

During 1979, the Branch continued its efforts to publicise and promote the LPAA. From the 1978 Elanora Heights (NSW) AGM onwards, it was busy…. arousing community awareness through speech making to groups like the Salvation Army and Lions, through the media, and attending seminars.4

In terms of promotion, the Branch achieved one its most significant milestones to that time with the production of a leaflet entitled “Social, Physical and Educational Advancement of Dwarfs”. The combined contributions of Sheila Enderlin and Elizabeth Kelly, both mothers of short-statured sons; in collaboration with Margaret Sahhar and Dr. John Rogers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne were involved. Initially, the leaflet in its draft form had the working title “Social and Physical Barriers in Education” or alternatively, “A Guide to the Education of Dwarfs”. The leaflet drew upon the experiences of Little People and their parents and the information provided was intended to create an awareness of the problems that may have arisen within the school environment. Hence, the guide was aimed specifically at both parents and teachers. As a result of the leaflet’s publication the Victorian Branch became the subject of an article which appeared in the Melbourne “Age”. Publicity talks also proved to be a useful vehicle for promoting the guide.

INVOLVEMENT WITH THE “INTERNATIONAL YEAR FOR DISABLED PERSONS” (IYDP) 1981

During 1981, the Victorian Branch was occupied with many projects, which was dominated by the involvement with the United Nations’-sponsored International Year for Disabled Persons (IYDP). Planning for a public awareness campaign had commenced after the successful organisation of the Ballarat (Vic.) Convention held in August-September 1980. Members of the branch attended seminars and spoke to various organisations, as well as joining other self-help groups in holding information booths and promotional displays at trade exhibitions sponsored by IYDP. At one particular exhibition, the LPAA won an award for its promotion. In order for the Branch to maximise the effectiveness of its public awareness campaign, both an average-sized parent and an adult Little Person were in attendance to man information booths, as well as to provide their respective points of view on questions submitted by the public. It proved to be a successful strategy as the public response was enormous. The Victorian Branch was also involved with a television advertising campaign for IYDP with one of its members, Jenny Johnson (later Barrett), LPAA President at that time being photographed leaning over a supermarket freezer highlighting the problem of reach for Little People in public places. Overall, the exposure generated by the IYDP campaign contributed not only to an increased awareness of the LPAA and its services, but also a community tolerance and acceptance of Little People as valuable members of society.

CONSOLIDATION RATHER THAN EXPANSION

Apart from the IYDP campaign, the Victorian Branch became involved with other initiatives during the period of 1980 and 1981. These included the design and manufacture of a footstool specially adapted for the comfort of Little People which resulted in sales not only in this state, but in other states as well. There was also the project to produce portable car pedals which could be fitted to certain makes and models of cars. Although, it was initially, a Victorian Branch initiative, its importance and potential to revolutionise the mobility patterns of Little People, who otherwise would have found it difficult to drive any make of car, led to eventual National Council involvement. However, this project will probably be remembered more for its chequered progress, particularly in regard to meeting approval standards laid down by motoring authorities and the relevant government departments, than its ability to encourage more Little People to drive a car. Not only did the project become bogged down under bureaucratic regulation but also fell victim to the lack of commitment shown by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Department of Engineering which had lost interest after agreeing in the first place to come up with a suitable design for the portable car pedal. In the end, LPAA members had to rely upon advice given by their local automotive mechanic, or make enquiries with engineering firms, who specialised in the manufacture of car accessories designed specifically for disabled people.

The most successful project undertaken by the Victorian Branch at this time, and arguably, in its history was its involvement in the “Four Foot Tall in a Six Foot World” film project. Its genesis came about because of a situation whereby the Victorian branch was receiving more requests for publicity talks than it could normally handle. At the 1980 Ballarat (Vic.) AGM, it was decided that a small group of people in Melbourne would be authorised to have a film produced which could be used for public education. This would enable the branch to at least send the film even if one of its members could not personally give any publicity talks. It would also enable one of the members of average height to more effectively get the message across when they were speaking publicly. The film group approached the ‘Open Channel’ organisation to produce the film. As this organisation was in the throes of establishing a public television station, they were able to make the film for a fraction of its actual cost.

The basic aim of the film was to give … a good insight to what it is like to be a Little Person in a Big World’.5

Specifically, the film was to highlight the parent’s reactions and feelings towards their short-statured children; practical difficulties and solutions associated with short stature; reactions of other people towards Little People; and finally, an emphasis on the message that Little People have the same human and emotional needs and responses as anyone else. The completed film was shown at the 1981 Wagga Wagga (NSW) Convention and received a positive response from the members present. After valuable suggestions for minor changes were implemented, the film became available for use by members. Requests were received from other states, and it was shown extensively in New Zealand, and what’s more, it was nominated for a major TV award in the Community Television section. Interest in the film extended to the USA where the LPA offered to exchange a copy of their film with the LPAA’s. After the film was shown on the SBS Television Network (Channel 0) in Australia it was utilised for its original purpose i.e. to promote the LPAA and Little People in publicity talks to schools, community groups, etc. Since 1981, copies of the film have been seen by groups of all ages and interests all over Australia, but mainly in Victoria and New South Wales. Its impact on community education of Little People has been enormous and probably contributed substantially to a much greater acceptance of short-statured people in this country during the 1980s.

Apart from these projects, the Victorian Branch also became involved in the organisation of the first Short Stature Symposium at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne in November 1981. By concentrating its energies on successfully completing these projects during 1981 and 1982, the branch went through a period which had been … one of consolidation rather than expansion.6

BRANCH CELEBRATES ITS TENTH BIRTHDAY

In June 1982, the Victorian Branch celebrated its tenth year of operation. Although the Average-sized parents continued to wield some influence over the branch’s administration, as they had done back in 1972, many of their children, as well as the young adults would emerge during the course of the 1980s and assume committee positions.

Administrative changes took place quite regularly during 1982 and 1983. As far as State Committee meetings were concerned, observers were allowed to vote for the first time. This was regarded as a ‘local’ rule which meant that other state branches did not necessarily have to conform. Scheduling of Committee meetings underwent reform twice within twelve months. Initially, it was decided to hold meetings on every second Wednesday in the month. At the 1983 Victorian AGM, these arrangements were changed. While meetings were still to be held on a monthly basis, it was resolved to have a night meeting one month and a day meeting in the alternate month. The rationale behind this move was mainly to encourage regular attendance from both families for Sundays (day meetings) and single young adult Little People for Wednesdays (night meetings). Also, at this time, it appeared that the branch’s Christmas Parties for both adults and children were not immune from change either. The existing arrangement had been to hold the two functions on separate weekends but now it was decided to organise them for the same weekend usually to coincide with the LPAA’s National Council meeting. With regard to the revised scheduling of monthly meetings at that time, it is interesting to note that for the Wednesday evening meetings, guest speakers from other community groups were introduced in a bid to attract higher attendances. This innovation lasted for only a few months.

FORMATION OF PARENT SUPPORT GROUP

During 1983, the Victorian Branch distributed a questionnaire to its members not only in Melbourne but throughout the rest of Victoria to find out why they were not attending at least one meeting a year. Throughout its short history, the branch, while it was supported by a strong, loyal core of average-sized parents and young adult Little People, always had a significant number of members who never attended any form of LPAA gathering – whether it be a committee meeting or a social function. A similar situation had occurred in New South Wales where the branch initiated the formulation and distribution of the questionnaire which the Victorian Branch was sending to its members. Although, the response to the Victorian effort was quite poor (just over 30% of questionnaires distributed were returned), the results seemed to indicate that one of the major reasons why the members did not attend meetings or social functions was a lack of time or commitment to other interests. The respondents also stated that if there was greater emphasis on social activities, particularly during the summer months, they would be more inclined to attend. Any information highlighted by the questionnaire was overshadowed by general apathy from amongst the members to actually complete and return the questionnaire. Needless to say, the Branch’s business and social activities did not undergo any revolutionary changes as a consequence of the exercise.

In November 1983, the Victorian Branch was again involved with a short stature symposium held at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. During this symposium and later into 1984, Margaret Sahhar, a social worker affiliated with the Bone Dysplasia Clinic of the Murdoch Institute at the Hospital began discussions with the average-sized parents in the Victorian Branch about the possible formation of a parent support group. This group was to become involved in talking to and counselling new parents of Little People on a personal basis. As a result of these discussions, a programme was formulated which … arose from the expressed needs of parents in the LPAA group.7

Such a programme was required as the average-sized parents often met parents with Newly-diagnosed short©statured children, or spoke via phone contact. Referrals came, more often than not, from the Bone Dysplasia Clinic where an informal system of introducing parents had been found helpful both as a supportive, as well as an informative contact.

In June 1986, ten members of the Victorian Branch attended a meeting at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to hear details of the Parent Contact Training Programme. Also present at this meeting were representatives from other self-help groups such as the Diabetes Youth Foundation and the Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Support Group. Such was the interest shown in this programme by LPAA members that another one was planned for the next year. The second programme in 1987 was held in conjunction with the Haemophilia Society of Victoria (HSV) at their offices in Melbourne. It was planned and co-led by Margaret Sahhar and Ruth Wardlow, a social worker from the HSV and was organised for those Victorian LPAA members who either could not attend the previous session in 1986 or were unable to complete that course due to pressure of numbers. It was divided into six sessions with the main aim of the programme being to develop and enhance skills in concepts of self-awareness, listening, assertiveness, etc. Such was the programme’s worth to the LPAA, that the National Council contributed funds directly to the Royal Children’s Hospital to aid the support given by the Victorian Branch.

Overall, the two programmes dealt with issues such as effective listening, the grieving process, problems involving siblings, sources of support, empathy as opposed to sympathy, as well as communication. Skills were learnt through role play, information handouts and video presentations hosted by trained group leaders. The courses were considered to … be really beneficial in encouraging new members by strengthening a support system within the group.8

It also helped the established members to become more sensitive to and aware of the needs of new parents and relatives. For the first time, parents of Little People were trained to use professional skills in helping other parents of new-born Little People. As a result of the programmes, a summary of expectations of the support group was submitted to the National Council for its comment. Also, a kit for new parents was prepared by the Victorian Branch which followed the lead of the New South Wales Branch. This branch produced a similar kit after its Parent Contact Training programme in 1986.

VICTORIA HOSTS ITS FOURTH NATIONAL CONVENTION

During 1984, the Victorian Branch formed a sub-committee to plan and organise the 1985 National Convention in Kyneton – a small, rural town approximately 80 km north-west of Melbourne. It was the fourth occasion that the branch had played host to an LPAA Convention. In view of the increased amount of activity that such an undertaking would entail, it was decided at the 1985 Victorian AGM to increase the number of ordinary members on the newly-elected Committee from four to six. Most of the branch’s business and social activities during 1984 and 1985 were geared towards fundraising, which enabled the 1985 Kyneton (Vic.) Convention to be successfully held. A pleasing aspect of that particular National Convention was that all states were represented.

THE LPAA LIBRARY IS ESTABLISHED

In November 1987, Rosemary Boyle, a mother of a short-statured son and member of the Victorian branch presented a submission to the National Council requesting funds for a book library to be established for the use of LPAA members. Up until this time, the Association did not have such a resource at its disposal. Funding to cover the cost of purchasing books and library stationery was granted. A library sub-committee consisting of members from the Victorian branch was formed to co-ordinate the buying and collecting of books and articles on all aspects of short stature. By April 1988, the library began to take shape with the National Council grant allowing the sub-committee to purchase a basic collection of suitable texts for members to borrow. In June 1988, the library was ready for use.

It was decided to make the library available at all Victorian Branch meetings and social functions, National Conventions, and where possible, National Council meetings. It was the aim of the library to inform, reassure, support, encourage and stimulate the membership. The Victorian Branch hoped that its members would use this resource frequently and derive the maximum benefit from its usage.

YOUNG ADULTS TAKE OVER FROM THE PARENTS

In 1986 the Victorian Branch reverted to the system of having bi-monthly meetings for one of the rare occasions in its history. Considering the downturn in branch activity after the 1985 Kyneton (Vic.) Convention, it was deemed a sensible move. Attendances improved as a result.

At the 1986 Victorian AGM, the young adult Little People assumed ‘control’ over the Branch’s administration by being elected to all but one position of the Committee. It signified an end to the dominant influence of the average sized parents who had ruled the branch since its inception in 1972. Some of the young adult Little People were children of those foundation members. In the Journal of August 1986, it was noted that: There is only one average size member on our committee so surely the

enthusiasm shown by our younger members augers well for the future of the9

Given that scenario as well as the fact that the younger members were assuming more responsibility in areas such as fundraising and publicity talks meant that the Branch was undergoing a transitional phase from its ‘first generation’ members to its ‘second generation’ members.

THE 1990’s AND BEYOND

During the 1990’s, the level of activity and achievement in the Branch did not compare to the previous decades. However, short-statured members became involved in basketball and would compete in regular basketball competition against a like team from New South Wales for the Rosemary Hobbs Trophy. Later, a junior basketball team was started for short-statured children under twelve years of age.

A number of new young families with short-statured children joined the Branch needing guidance and support, so the emphasis for a time moved away from fundraising to social activities, which included mid-week afternoon get-togethers for mothers wanting to share their experiences and develop coping skills in relation to raising a child of short stature. Perhaps the biggest project to be undertaken during this period was the scripting and filming of “Walking Tall” which was the sequel to “Four Foot Tall in a Six-Foot World”.

As the decade wore on, the Branch consolidated its function as a social group and was able to grow and maintain its membership of between 70-90 members. In 1996 the Albury long weekend was organised for the first time with members of both the Victorian and New South Wales branches attending. Although there was an emphasis on the basketball initially, it would soon become popular as a family weekend, and in time, it would become the biggest event outside of the annual National Conventions.

The beginning of the new century has seen the Branch organize an International Convention at Daylesford and also become a member of the Genetic Support Network of Victoria (GSNV) which is an umbrella network for genetics-based support groups such as ours and provides access to resources to help educate us and the community about the impact of genetic conditions on families and individuals.

OVERVIEW

The mid-1980s onwards, represented a new era for the Victorian Branch. With the average-sized foundation members gradually reverting to a background support role, the young adult short-statured people who had grown up during the development of the Branch were now playing an active part in its affairs. It was a scenario that was perhaps envisaged by the average-sized parents back in the 1970s. These young adult short-statured people, along with the new generation of younger short-statured people who have become active in the Branch’s affairs during the 1990’s and beyond have in combination with the average-sized parents ensured that the enthusiasm for the SSPA in Victoria which had been prominent in the past would continue to be maintained in the future.

References:

1. LPAA Journal, vol. 2, no. 4, June 1970, p. 1.
2. LPAA Journal, vol. 2, no. 7, December 1970, p. 3.
3. LPAA Journal, no. 26, October-November 1975, p. [5].
4. LPAA Journal, no. 51, April 1980, p. 6.
5. LPAA Journal, no. 57, June 1981, p. 3.
6. LPAA. AGM (15th: Mt Seaview, NSW: 1982). Minutes, p. 6.
7. LPAA Journal, no. 89, March 1987, p. 18.
8. LPAA Journal, no. 92, November 1987, p. 18.
9. LPAA Journal, no. 87, August 1986, p. 5.

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