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Celebrating AOWA’s Golden Jubilee: The Remarkable Story of Arthritis Care in Western Australia

This year we celebrate 50 years of service to the community of Western Australia and reflect on the rich history of our community-focused organisation. The Arthritis Foundation owes its beginnings to three Rheumatologists, Drs Phyllis Goatcher, Evan Owen, and Roger Dawkins, who saw the importance of forming a foundation that would offer extensive care, educate patients, and fund further research.

Arthritis may not be the most headline-grabbing health condition, but the daily struggles are all too real for those who live with this debilitating disease. In the decades before World War II, there was little in Western Australia to support or look after those with arthritic conditions. Although, some pain relief was offered through the developing therapies of massage, hydrotherapy, and electrical treatments.

Our History

When Dr Goatcher arrived in Western Australia in 1953, she immediately saw that the care for rheumatology patients needed to be improved. She found that hospitalised patients were placed throughout Royal Perth Hospital rather than in a dedicated ward. In addition, general nurses had no training in the care of arthritis patients. With no registrar, the clinical medical staff had to be responsible for treatment and supervision.

Progress was gradually made, and in 1957, Dr Goatcher was appointed Senior Physician of the RPH Rheumatology Clinic, and a second outpatient clinic was opened.

Later, specialist clinics for hand surgery and patients with ankylosing spondylitis were also started.

However, by 1972, Drs Goatcher and Owen were convinced that the only way to tackle the problem of patients suffering from rheumatic disease in the state was by forming a Foundation. So, together, they set out on a mission to improve the lives of those living with rheumatic disease in WA.

In March 1972, Drs Goatcher and Evans held an exploratory meeting with just three other doctors and six citizens who were also concerned. From this seed, WAARF (Western Australian Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation) was born. Shortly after, an office was established in Murray Street and was generously provided for free by the ANZ Bank.

In 1991, our name changed to The Arthritis Foundation of WA Incorporated. Then, in 1994, after a successful fundraising appeal, we moved to our present headquarters in Shenton Park, The Wyllie Arthritis Centre, named after Mr Bill Wyllie in appreciation of his considerable generosity.

In 2011, the trading name Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA was adopted to encapsulate our expanding services and broadened vision.

As we look back on the history of our organisation, we are proud of all that has been achieved and grateful for the many individuals who have dedicated their time, energy, and resources to making a difference in the lives of those with musculoskeletal conditions. But unfortunately, many of those instrumental in bringing it into existence in those early years are no longer with us.

From the pioneers who started it all to the volunteers and supporters who continue their legacy, the story of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA is one of strength and determination.

And we look forward to continuing our work for many years to come.

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