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Health History. 2011;13(2):84-103.

'A group of parents came together': parent advocacy groups for children with intellectual disabilities in post-World War II Australia.

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  • 1Sydney University.


In the late 1940s, small groups of 'interested parents' and 'concerned citizens' began to gather in community halls, hoping to assuage the 'plight' of their intellectually disabled offspring. These meetings led to the formation of an association dedicated to the foundation of schools, day centres, or hostels for their children. By the 1960s, at least one of these groups existed in every Australian state. Together, they established several hundred schools, farm colonies, hostels, and workshops, and successfully lobbied state and federal governments to fund their ventures. Just as importantly, their extensive publicity campaigns changed the public discourse surrounding intellectual disability. Despite their wide-ranging influence, these groups have been largely overlooked by historians. In this paper I survey the rise of the parent groups, their philosophy, and the facilities they operated.

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