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Dr Athel Hockey

"We (the Slow Learning Children's group) did move - to a series of clinical quarters: one was opposite PMH - dedicated by Mr Hawke's father. And it was a good set-up for staff - and it wasn't just medical staff. And it had a really nice play area which we used for observation, physiotherapy and occupational therapy - a diagnostic play area. It's still my belief that you can learn a lot about all children - particularly intellectually handicapped ones who may not be verbal or just as responsive as others, by just watching them having a play outside. Later I had another two sons who used to like to come there with me. Rob was about their age and he used to play in the OT group, and I remember there was an autistic little boy who was thought to be totally mute, and Rob said to me 'He talks to me; he talks all right'. So you don't know.

I suppose the most important person, to me, was Mrs Monica McGillivray. There were other people - Glad Newton - but Mrs McGillivray was an incredibly kind, wise woman - a teacher; and she became a friend and guided me and many others - including Guy Hamilton and Professor Bill McDonald into what it's all about. We owe her an enormous debt. Her husband was organising secretary of the SLCG and they had a son, David, with Downs. I kept in touch with that whole family for a long while - I used to go and see Monica who was busy driving her 92-year-old sister-in-law when she was getting on to that age herself.

A visiting Professor Wright and his wife Beatrice were at the University. We used to meet at my house and we coined the name 'Irrabeena' - they liked the idea of an Aboriginal name - it's meant to be 'awakening'- I don't know if you're awakening the doctors, or you're awakening the public - or who you're awakening - but I thought it was a good name, and so did we all - because we chose it! There was Lionel - one of our social trainers - an ex-shop steward from London and he called us the 'Irrabeens' - it was really quite funny.

With the development of social trainers and not nurses, you could develop early intervention in the people's homes. The social trainer could be the final common pathway between the parent and the therapist, and the doctor and the social worker. Parents liked to have that final pathway with one person they could relate to. We got a lot of feedback and information, and it's still been a wonderful system."