The significance of individual contributions to the history of Kildonan UnitingCare.


Lane, Sharron. (2018). The significance of individual contributions to the history of Kildonan UnitingCare [Thesis].
AuthorsLane, Sharron
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

This thesis explores the history of the Victorian community service organisation which until June 2017 was known as Kildonan UnitingCare, and its historical predecessors, through the prisms of leadership and change. The Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act 1864 established a child welfare system where both the government and private establishments could take charge of children. Successive governments did not merely tolerate these private providers but actively partnered with them, and over the course of two decades this entrenched a decentralised system. The thesis argues that this created an environment where individuals within private organisations could develop new methods of care and use their organisations as a platform to change the nature of the sector more broadly.

Kildonan, established in 1881, provides three examples of such significant contributions. Selina Murray MacDonald Sutherland founded the work as a lady missionary at the Scots’ Church in Melbourne, and achieved a position of such prominence that she was able to persuade government to legitimate the work of private child rescuers through legislation, a recognition that was sought but rarely achieved by child rescue advocates in other parts of the world. In the 1950s two more leaders emerged, transforming not only Kildonan but also leading changes across the sector as a whole. Alison Player brought insights from her training as a social worker to lead the planning process that moved the organisation away from a focus on institutional care in the 1950s. She was followed by Alfred Spencer Colliver who, as Superintendent from 1957, developed the scattered family group home system, and worked alongside government to persuade other child care organisations to follow a similar path.

By comparing a range of sources to reconstruct what has been a poorly documented field this thesis shows how individuals, and the informal relationships they were able to develop with others in the sector, were crucial to the ongoing development of child welfare policy across Victoria’s decentralised array of support services.

Keywordskildonan; unitingcare; child welfare; social work
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Final version
Publication dates01 Jul 2018
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The Argus and Miss Sutherland
Lane, Sharron. (2013). The Argus and Miss Sutherland. Victorian Historical Journal. 84(1), pp. 93 - 103.