News

Fran Galvin is all for helping others

By Lachlan Durling

FRAN Galvin is the first to admit she has done some outrageous things.

Things which have seen locals with disability — and their families — flourish.

However the life member of Vivid admits it was a sustained team effort from a group of committed locals that has made the organisation into what it is today.

"The thing that stands out in my mind about those early days of offering services was that we worked with an amazing group of parents who were ordinary people in extraordinary situations," she said.

"We tried to make our days full of fun and I think we did that everyday, we did some outrageous things that we would probably be jailed for these days," she laughed.

Fran's involvement began right at the beginning, when local doctor James (Jim) Alexander called a public meeting in Echuca in 1963 to establish a support network for children with disability.

And Fran was ready to help in any way she could. So Vivid — then called Tehan House — became the next chapter in her life.

"As a staff, you were teachers, nurses and people without qualifications, but with a lot of empathy about the human race, not just people with disability, but everyone," Fran said.

"I have to mention Jack Squire, he was an amazing man and without him there is no doubt this service would not have got off the way it did.

"We became the flavour of the month with the community who were extremely supportive, we raised funds pretty easily and people were willing to be part of anything that made other peoples' lives more fulfilling.

"Because there were no expectations of children with disability, they (parents) were often told by the medical profession to put their children into institutions, that they had no future and we didn't believe this. Not one iota."

And soon, a supportive committee rallied together.

"We had people such as Anne Arnold who was a trained nurse, she was invaluable because we had some children with multiple disabilities who had a lot of health difficulties," Fran said.

"The little times were the good times, when there was improvement in areas that were sometimes so minimal they were hard to see, but they were great times because you could see the growth in people and what they became interested in."

However life wasn't without it's challenges for the Tehan House families and staff.

But they were up to the fight — and came out on top.

"I can remember the first time I took a group of people with staff to have a counter meal at the Caledonian, good grief, that was outrageous and we got into quite a bit of trouble for that," Fran said.

"A man disagreed quite strongly with subjecting people to these 'terrible vices' and so on.

"It was just outrageous because we were taking people to somewhere where perhaps people wouldn't like 'them' to be there.

"There are other people there, people eating, would we upset them? We didn't believe we would and we certainly weren't getting them all drunk as was perhaps insinuated.

"However we continued to do it and it's now a very commonplace thing for people to go and have a counter meal at a hotel.

"It was one of probably the first things that hit the community. This group of people could manage a whole lot of things in the community that they had never experienced before.

"And now, you wouldn't think anything of it."

Now, 56 years on, with the history of the organisation laid out in full colour in the Our Vivid History book, Fran looks back on the challenges and triumphs with a sense of pride.

"It is magnificent to see what the organisation has grown into today. I feel quite humbled that we were part of this beginning and laid the groundwork for a lot of things," she said.

And also with a sense of humour, with one sentence perfectly summing up the past 56 years.

"I think, in some ways, I like to do slightly outrageous things so that people would be challenged," she laughed.

Vivid launched the book last night, with Fran being one of the keynote speakers. Our Vivid History is available to buy for $20 from the Vivid office at 461 High St, Echuca or online at wearevivid.org.au