Stroke Recovery Association NSW
Established in 1977
The concept of establishing the Stroke Recovery Association began when Allen Rosenberg wrote to the Association of Hearing and Speech seeking further treatment for his wife Anita when she was discharged from hospital. They suggested he contact Mt Wilga Hospital at Hornsby. Ros Oliver a speech pathologist at Mt Wilga Rehabilitation Centre, assisted Anita and Allen set up the first meeting in their home at West Pymble. This meeting took place in November 1977 with 18-20 people in attendance.
It all started from there.
This group called themselves the “Straight Talk Club” and met regularly in different people’s homes.
A couple of years later, a similar club was established in the western suburbs when they heard about the idea of the “Straight Talk Club”. The two groups assisted each other and occasionally met together to share ideas.
In 1980, Anita and her group applied for and received funding from the Youth and Community Services – This was money to employ a speech pathologist to assist the group with speech practice.
In 1981, ‘The Year of the Disabled’, the two groups, Straight Talk and Western Suburbs organised a Seminar on Stroke, which was held at where the University of Technology is now located. This seminar was the catalyst to expand the organisation, with 140 people in attendance.
In late 1981, the name of the Association was expanded to the “Straight Talk and Stroke Club”. An office was established in Chalmers Street, Redfern, in the offices of the then ‘Crippled Children’s Society’.
Even then the office of the Association operated five days per week, however, it was staffed by volunteers. Anita came in every day, Dulcie O’Bree was the secretary, who attended three-four days a week, Helen Buchanan was the Treasurer and Winsome Flower is remembered fondly for her involvement in fundraising. Lubos Schuler began his volunteer work with the Association during this time and only concluded when he returned to the Czech Republic to live with his family in 2015.
The organization was set up as a charity, by Mr. Gary Perl, who remained our auditor until he passed away in 2005. The firm in which he was a partner still carry out our annual audit in an honorary capacity.
Mrs. Lorna Hewson was instrumental in the expansion of the Association to the Hunter region of NSW. Lorna had heard of Stroke Clubs in New Zealand and wanted to set one up in Toronto. She in partnership with Elaine Lenaghan head of the “Straight Talk” Western Suburbs Club in Sydney and went to see Anita Rosenberg at the Surrey Hills office. The people involved in this meeting were Elaine and her husband, Lorna and Ray Hewson and Bruce Howell.
On the 10th August 1984, Anita Rosenberg attended a public meeting that was held in the Toronto Youth Club, to set up the Toronto Stroke Recovery Club. Other people who assisted in the establishment of this Club were Maureen Turner and the Westlake Carers.
Another important period of expansion for the Association occurred in 1985. Peggy Limb, an important and memorable Stroke member, was instrumental in bringing on board Bobby Limb and Dawn Lake as Patrons. It was through their personal organisation, that they invited Patricia Neal, a well known English actor who had survived a Stroke, to come to Australia as a guest of the Association, during Stroke Awareness Week.
At this time the Clubs throughout the State numbered 15 and after Patricia’s visit this expanded to 35.
In 1986, the office of the Association moved to nurse’s quarters, which was part of the old Lewisham Hospital, and owned by St Vincent De Paul in Petersham. In 2007, the Association moved to Putney to the grounds of Royal Rehab Centre Sydney, where we have remained and now have a lovely suite of offices in the Hodson building. Royal Rehab has been a wonderful supporter of the Association throughout the years. This partnership began through Dr. Brian Zeman and Linda Glanfield. While neither remain on staff at Royal Rehab, they both remain involved in the Association and its work in a voluntary capacity.
The next step in the development of the Association occurred when a Strategic Planning meeting was held in the late 1980’s. This was facilitated by Max Farley of South Sydney Rotary Club and led to the amalgamation of the various Stroke Clubs and Straight Talk Clubs under one umbrella. As a result of this planning meeting, the Association became incorporated in 1987, and the name was changed to reflect the amalgamation of all the different Clubs to the Stroke Recovery Association NSW.
The process of incorporation was a long and laborious one that resulted in the Bankstown Stroke Recovery Club and the St George Stroke Recovery Club choosing to remain separate from the larger body. There were three drafts of the constitution before it was adopted. Joy Pearson, her daughter and son-in-law were instrumental in creating a document on which members could agree.
Further funding from the Department of Community Services was received in 1988. It was then that Anita Rosenberg resigned as President to take up the role of the first paid Liaison Officer with the Association. Lorna Hewson became the second President of the Association and served in that position ably for two years (1988 – 1990).
In 1989, the Hunter Stroke Olympics was conceived from a fun day between the Belmont and Toronto Stroke Clubs.
Other club Friendship day have also been commenced since that time.
Brian Corcoran became President in 1990 and through his stewardship and being ably supported by John Rich they set up the Stroke Council of Australia. This was the first attempt in Australia to establish a National body to champion the interests of Stroke survivors throughout Australia. Stroke Associations from Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania were involved. While no longer in existence as an incorporated body, this organisation laid the groundwork for the development of Stroke Australia a body through which the individual state bodies continue to meet and share ideas and resources to assist people surviving Stroke.
In the early nineties grant monies were received from the Brain Foundation and that was used to employ a community worker to work to develop Stroke Recovery Clubs throughout the state. This also began a long and strategically important connection with NSW Health when the then Clubs Coordinator worked on a committee of NSW Health and played a large role in developing the NSW Stroke Strategy in 1997. This strategy led to the development of Stroke Units throughout NSW Health.
The collaboration with NSW Health is still and essential component of the Association’s work today with our Chief Executive Officer representing the views and advocating for Stroke survivors on many important strategic planning committees through the NSW Health Agency for Clinical Innovation.
Brian Corcoran resigned as President and this he indicates was made easy as he recognised the ability of his successor John Rich to take up the position. John had his Stroke in 1987. As part of his rehabilitation he did a training course to improve literacy. It was suggested to him he could use this training to assist in Stroke Recovery Clubs. This was when he joined the Rose Bay Stroke Club and his tremendous work went on from there.
John was instrumental in organizing a submission to the Vincent Fairfax Foundation, which resulted in the grant of $100,000 in 1995. This was an excellent submission. John’s previous contacts with and the esteem in which the Fairfax family held him, led to the success of the submission. To this day, this money forms the basis of the financial security of the Association. Its’ importance cannot be understated.
John’s wife Kate served on the Board of the Stroke Recovery Association as Treasurer from 1995 –1997. She was very much the force behind having the Governor, Gordon Samuels, accept and take up the appointment of patron of the Association. He attended the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the Association at Gunnedah. This position as Patron has been also taken up by all subsequent governors. Each have played an important role in supporting the annual events of the Association, particularly Stroke Awareness Week.
In 1998, Pamela Grant was appointed to the position of President. It was through her tenacity that the Grant from Department of Ageing Disability and Home Care, formerly the Department of Community Services was increased from $13,000 to over $35,000. This period also saw an increase in funds from NSW Health from $5,600 to $86,000. This was a tremendous boost to the Association and enabled us to expand the staffing positions to one full time staff and three part time staff.
John Garbutt became President in 2015 and still leads the Association to this day. During his time as President, the Association has forged even stronger links with NSW Health and is recognized as a credible professional organisation, which offers quality service and essential support to all those in the community who have experienced Stroke.
Past Presidents of the Association include:
Anita Rosenberg 1977 -1987
Lorna Hewson 1988 – 1990
Brian Corcoran 1990 – 1991
John Rich 1992 -1997
Pamela Grant 1998 – 1999
Tony Miller 2000 – 2003
Robyn Artlett 2004 – 2015
John Garbutt 2015 – Current
In 2010, the Association held its first NSW wide Stroke Club event with the Forster Winter Escape, hosted by our Great Lakes and Manning Shire Club. This was a four day event and included several social events and a Stroke Forum.
This proved so successful that it was again undertaken in 2012 and formed part of the celebrations for our 35th birthday.
The Combined Clubs Morning Tea began in 2011 and was initially for Clubs on the Central Coast, however this has expanded and Clubs attend from the Mid North Coast Sydney and Hunter New England.
An Olympics Games day is now held in Sydney having commenced in 2014.
In 2016, the Association completed its sixth bi-annual survey into Stroke Recovery Clubs and members satisfaction with the services provided. Results were overwhelmingly positive about the value of these support groups in the ongoing recovery of people after their Stroke.
When the Association began, it consisted of a small number of people and one “Straight Talk Club”, this has now expanded to over 40 Stroke Recovery Clubs throughout NSW. The Clubs are the back bone of the Associations work and continues to be the source of our information regarding the needs of Stroke survivors and their families.
The Association is a very strong consumer based organisation that regularly consults with members regarding issues affecting their lives. We provide a valuable resource for those involved in all forms of post-Stroke research including that relating to carers.
We have now expanded our services to include a very large advocacy role participating in a number of strategic planning committees throughout NSW for health, disability and transport.
In 2017, Stroke Recovery Association celebrates 40 years of service to the Stroke Community of NSW. From an organisation which began from such humble beginnings, we have grown and developed over the years. However, Stroke Recovery Clubs still form the focal point of our organisation with over 60% of our membership who still attend a Club on a regular basis.
In 2020, due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the subsequent suspension of our face to face Stroke Recovery Clubs, the Association launched the Online Stroke Support groups. These groups have been incredibly successful and are able to cater to a range of Stroke survivors and their carers and families. Reaching members from many rural and remote areas in NSW, the groups have allowed members to connect with health professionals through guest speaker presentations and other Stroke survivors in various other online groups.
In 2021, the Association was thrilled to be able to safely reopen the face to face Stroke Recovery Clubs in NSW.
Sadly the organization’s founder Mrs. Anita Rosenberg passed away in 2011, however her ongoing legacy is a very strong organisation which is and has always been committed to improving Stroke Services throughout NSW to ensure a better quality of life for those after experiencing a Stroke.