The website is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. All transactions are offline. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Pioneering Progress: Arthritis & Osteoporosis WA’s Journey from Vision to Impact

As early autumn graced the city of Perth on March 13, 1972, a small but dedicated group of medical professionals and citizens in Western Australia convened for an exploratory meeting. United by their concern for the challenges posed by rheumatism, this meeting would birth an idea that would resonate across time, ultimately leading to the creation of the Western Australian Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation (WAARF). Little did these pioneers realise that this modest gathering would set in motion a legacy devoted to revolutionising arthritis care across Western Australia.

1972-1978: From Inception to Growth

Modest Beginnings: A Vision Transformed into a Constitution  

The Western Australian Arthritis & Rheumatism Foundation (WAARF) came to life in October 1972, an accomplishment attributed to the dedication of its visionary founders, Drs Phyllis Goatcher and Evan Owen. By June 1972, the foundation had gained the esteemed patronage of Sir Douglas Kendrew, Governor of Western Australia, which lent both credibility and endorsement to their cause. The historic inauguration on October 2, 1972, held at the Government House Ballroom marked the inaugural step of a transformative journey in arthritis care.

A month later, the foundation embraced its constitution, revealing ambitions far exceeding its modest origins. The first meeting of the Board of Management on December 4, 1972, articulated objectives infused with unwavering commitment: to alleviate the debilitating effects of rheumatism within Western Australia’s community.

Beyond Boundaries: Expansion and Empowerment

Infused with determination, WAARF moved its headquarters in 1973, a symbolic gesture demonstrating the organisation’s expanding influence and commitment to extending its reach across every corner of Western Australia. The transition from the ANZ Bank’s Murray St. office to the R & I Bank at 853 Hay Street set the stage for a decades-long journey marked by profound impact.

In the subsequent years, the foundation’s influence rippled outwards. A ground breaking grant for immunological research catalysed a significant step forward, culminating in the appointment of Dr Paul Zilko as the inaugural WAARF Fellow in Rheumatology.

As WAARF’s sphere of influence broadened, so did its outreach. Establishing the first country branches in Bunbury, Merredin, and Albany solidified its commitment to extending relief and progress to all corners of the state. These branches swiftly emerged as beacons of hope, bridging the divide between urban centres and rural communities.

This expansion paralleled the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary, a testament to the transformative power of women in propelling positive change. Their unwavering commitment offered a nurturing support network that complemented the foundation’s research efforts.

Simultaneously, the remarkable leadership of Dr. Phyllis Goatcher garnered community recognition, earning her the prestigious title of Citizen of the Year in June 1975.

 Revealing the Vision: From Awareness to Action

The late 1970s and early 1980s were marked by audacious initiatives that propelled WAARF’s mission to unprecedented heights. The World Rheumatism Year Meeting in April 1977 brought a global spotlight to Perth, attracting a historic gathering of 4,500 attendees. Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the celebrated South African cardiac surgeon known for performing the first human-to-human heart transplant, inaugurated the event.

The fusion of philanthropy and the arts materialised as the City Beach Branch hosted the inaugural WAARF Art Show in 1977. This creative endeavour showcased exceptional artistic talents and served as a platform to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

As the late 1970s unfolded, Dr Phyllis Goatcher gracefully passed the presidential torch to Dr Evan Owen in June 1977. Dr Goatcher’s contributions were acknowledged, leading to her becoming a Life Governor in 1978 and receiving the distinguished Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) title.

In 1978, the inaugural Arthritis Week united the community in a collective mission to address the challenges of arthritis. Through a week filled with dedicated activities and awareness initiatives, Arthritis Week vividly demonstrated the potent impact of community-driven action.

1983-1997: AOWA’s Transitions and Expansions

Empowerment Through Generosity: Dawning of a New Era

This spirit of unity found expression in 1983 with the inception of the first camp for children with juvenile arthritis, held in York. This camp wasn’t just a physical event but a testament to the foundation’s commitment to nurturing emotional well-being and fostering friendship among children with arthritis.

In August 1983, a significant move saw the Foundation transition to 42 Jersey St. Jolimont, where a meaningful renaming ceremony occurred. “Goatcher House” was christened in honour of the esteemed Dr Phyllis Goatcher, a visionary whose dedication had become synonymous with the foundation’s mission.

Transitions often herald growth, and the same proved true for WAARF. September 1983 witnessed the torch passing from Dr Evan Owen to Dr Paul Zilko, who assumed the presidency, guiding the organisation toward new horizons. Dr Owen’s dedication was immortalized through his appointment as a Life Governor—an enduring testament to his unwavering commitment.

A moment of transformative generosity unfolded in 1986 when Dr Phyllis Goatcher significantly contributed to establishing a fund financing visiting Clinical Rheumatologists in Perth. The stipulation that a portion of the fund’s income be reinvested into the capital ensured a perpetual wellspring of support for the cause – a testament to Dr Goatcher’s lasting legacy. This period also witnessed AOWA’s affiliation with the Arthritis Foundation of Australia, bridging geographical distances to fortify the collective fight.

As the 1990s unfurled, the Foundation’s transformative efforts gained momentum. Under the steadfast leadership of Dr. Jack Edelman, who assumed the reins in 1989 and continues to lead today, the organisation orchestrated its inaugural Public Awareness Campaign in 1990. This campaign elevated public understanding and empathy, dispelling misconceptions surrounding arthritis.

A monumental year arrived in 1991, marked by a trio of pivotal changes. The foundation’s name transformed into the ‘Arthritis Foundation of WA Incorporated’, reflecting its escalating influence, while the establishment of the Foundation Trust Fund fortified its financial stability. Simultaneously, the inaugural International JIA Camp at Point Walter showcased a global vision that united young people from Australia and Southeast Asia in forging connections that transcended borders.

The 1990s reached a crescendo with a triumphant campaign to establish the Arthritis Centre. Under the patronage of Sir Francis Burt and Vice Patrons Sir Charles Court, Sir James McCusker, and Dr Phyllis Goatcher, the Capital Appeal was launched in 1992. The funds from the sale of Goatcher House were redirected to this new centre, marking a crowning achievement in the foundation’s tireless pursuit of progress.

1993-1997: Cultivating Hope and Breaking Barriers

A Sanctuary of Care: The Wyllie Arthritis Centre

The year 1993 ushered in a transformative era as AOWA undertook the creation of a customed-built centre – a sanctuary that embodied their dedication to emotional well-being alongside medical care. Guided by Vice President Mr Arthur Smith, the foundation embarked on the ambitious task of constructing the long-awaited Arthritis Centre, a venture promising to magnify its impact.

This vision reached its peak on August 19, 1994, with the official inauguration of the new Resource Centre. The distinguished presence of Western Australia’s Governor, Major General Michael Jeffrey AO, MC, underscored the significance of the Centre within the community.

Amid these significant milestones, a pivotal report by Access Economics in 1994 illuminated the nationwide prevalence of arthritis, affecting a staggering 2 million individuals and imposing a community cost of $5 billion. This revelation cemented the foundation’s resolve to effect tangible change in the lives of those grappling with this debilitating condition.

The outpouring of community support continued, epitomised by Mrs Gladys Hill’s generous donation of land in Dunsborough, netting the foundation $700,000—a testament to the collective dedication to their cause.

In 1994, the city skyline transformed into a vertical challenge with the Central Park Tower Climb of 1,056 Steps—a distinctive endeavour that fused awareness and fundraising. This spirit persisted with the inauguration of the first Healthy Bones Week, focusing on raising awareness and preventing osteoporosis.

The year 1995 bore witness to AOWA’s enduring legacy as the Resource Centre was formally named the “Wyllie Arthritis Centre” in recognition of a substantial contribution by Mr Bill & Mrs Rhonda Wyllie. This momentous year also marked the launch of the Bone Bank, a pioneering initiative to tackle osteoporosis.

In 1996, the landscape of arthritis care underwent another evolution as Osteoporosis WA became a division of AOWA. Additionally, the foundation expanded its reach, establishing 30 state-wide Rheumatology Clinics staffed by 15 Specialists and nine Community Nurses, a testament to their commitment to accessible care.

1997 heralded a significant financial milestone, with the foundation achieving its first operating surplus in five years. World Osteoporosis Day was launched, solidifying the foundation’s dedication to global awareness. Furthermore, the introduction of private practising Rheumatology Service at the Wyllie Arthritis Centre solidified the foundation’s position as a hub of excellence and a sanctuary of care for West Australians affected by bone and joint diseases.

By Lily Lomma, Editor, Arthritis Today

Leave a Reply


No products in the cart.
Skip to content