Sixty years, same purpose

COMPASSION: Westhaven CEO Christian Grieves said caring for people was the priority. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
COMPASSION: Westhaven CEO Christian Grieves said caring for people was the priority. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

It’s been sixty years since Westhaven first opened its doors and while the organisation may have a different form to what it once was, CEO Christian Grieves said at its core it was still the same.

In 1957 Westhaven opened as a school for children with intellectual disabilities, run by local doctor Brian Dickens.

“I think there was a vision that it could help families and I think it’s just a different approach these days. I think there’s still that recognition there that it’s about helping families to cope and participate normally in the community but there’s also a focus more on people with disabilities. We focus more on their ability, what can they do rather than what can’t they do,” Mr Grieves said.

There are about 300 staff at Westhaven, and the next financial year, Mr Grieves said the company would pay more than $15 million in wages and superannuation.

While the high number of staff meant there was always someone who had a connection to the organisation, being so well-known there were also high expectations, the CEO said.

A lot of Dubbo would remember the farm Westhaven used to run, Mr Grieves said but nowadays most would associate the organisation with the Two Sheep ugg boots. Last year marks 40 years since Westhaven began making the comfortable footwear.

However, Mr Grieves said Westhaven’s primary responsibility was looking after those with a disability who needed ongoing care.

“What makes Westhaven very different from other disability service providers is that we do everything. People might work for us, and then they live in a house that we’re organising, and then we might take them on holidays and if they are unwell we go with them to the hospital,” Mr Grieves said.

While in places such as Sydney the services may be offered by different providers, the CEO said in Dubbo the community expects Westhaven to be able to help with a range of issues.

“We basically designed the way that we operate so that if someone needs something we can do it. It’s rare that we say no to people,” Mr Grieves said.

The next big challenge for Westhaven was the roll out of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) at the start of July, the CEO said.

It would create immediate challenges in the next two years, Mr Grieves said, and within the next ten years it would mean a lot more work, and an increase in staff.

Westhaven’s milestones

1958—Westhaven School opened with 17 students.

1964—O’Brien House opened as a residential hostel in Palmer St.

1966—An adult hostel is opened at Burrabadine Reserve.

1971—St. Faith’s Hotel leased from Anglican Church to provide accommodation for 50 people.

1972—Fire destroyed the RAAF hanger housing the original sheltered workshop

1975—The new workshop and administration building opened in Hawthorn Street.

1980—Westhaven Village Hostel officially opened in Wheelers Lane by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

1981—South Dubbo Rotary Club donates a swimming pool to the Village Hostel.

1997—Westhaven opened its new $1 million housing project comprising five new duplexes and group homes.

2016—Westhaven celebrates 40 years of making the Two Sheep Ugg Boots.

2017- Westhaven turns 60.