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Ethel Mary Temby MBE

It's impossible to pinpoint when Ethel Temby's commitment to teaching, protection of the Victorian countryside, human rights and social justice began.

Honour Roll

It has been that way for all of her long life. The Victorian community has been the primary beneficiary of all of her work, but her influence has stretched to national and international spheres.

In 1945, Ethel Temby was the full-time Organising Officer of the Youth Hostels Association (YHA) employed by the National Fitness Council. To further the YHA aim of assisting young people to develop a greater love of the countryside by providing simple, inexpensive accommodation, Ethel helped establish youth hostels throughout Victoria. Ethel was a member of the Silverleaves Conservation Association in Phillip Island and its Hon. Secretary for over 30 years.

In all that time she worked tirelessly to preserve the natural character of the area, both personally and by organising work parties for the prevention of erosion of the foreshore, the elimination of pest plants threatening indigenous vegetation and replanting programs in the area's reserves.

Ethel began the Council of Adult Education (CAE) Adult Literacy Pilot Project in 1974/75 and continued until 1995. She pioneered experiential learning in adult education and shaped the methodology of the programme and demonstrated that teaching/learning began with the student's own experience. Her teaching was always an affirming process.

Ethel's commitment to human rights and social justice appears to have been part of her life for as long as she lived. However, the fact that the Temby's sixth child was born with an intellectual disability in 1958 has meant that, for over 40 years, a great deal of that commitment has been channelled into gaining greater recognition for the rights of people with an intellectual disability throughout Victoria and Australia wide. In 1962, Ethel was already an active member of the Kew Cottages Parents Association. At this time there were practically no community services to support families whose intellectually disabled members were living at home.

Conditions in all institutions were appalling and overcrowded, but especially at Kew Cottages. With a State election due Ethel organised a handwritten letter which was sent to every political candidate, informing them of this situation and asking what they intended to do about it. At public meetings candidates were again challenged on these issues. As a direct result of this campaign the overcrowded conditions at Kew were greatly alleviated and the development of support services in the community was accelerated.

Ethel introduced to Victoria ideas that have now become commonplace and accepted throughout the intellectual disability field, if not the general community. She introduced Australians to concepts such as early intervention, 'normalisation', integrated education, and to programs such as Parent to Parent, Interchange and Citizen Advocacy, all of which have become successful and widely used models to support and enable people with an intellectual disability to live in the community.

Ethel worked to empower parents to fight for better, more integrated services for their sons and daughters. In the mid 1960s and 1970s, when it was still the widely accepted practice to institutionalise people with an intellectual disability at birth, Ethel did her utmost to convince parents, politicians and the community that something better was both necessary and possible.

The fact that these ideas and principles now have broad credence throughout Victoria and indeed Australia, is largely attributable to the work of Ethel. Ethel worked tirelessly to ensure that people with an intellectual disability, their families, friends, and the community, are properly informed about, and take an active part in, shaping our society.