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Celebrating 50 Years: Early Times at Warrah With The Stephens

Apr 15, 2019

Celebrating 50 Years: Early Times at Warrah With The Stephens

Parents Bob and Joan Stephens and twin daughters Joanne and Lynda are one of Warrah’s earliest families. A little of their story appears below.

Joanne and Lynda were born in 1962 with disabilities undiagnosed. At that time we were living at Bondi Beach and I just happened to read the Bondi Weekly, a local paper, and there was a notice inviting people with children with disabilities (not the language used then!) to a meeting who would be interested in starting up a day service. There was about 4 parents there, all with children with disabilities and we all bonded very quickly. It was put to us that we could open up a school in an unused church at Vaucluse. At that time my girls were four. Susan Haris was going to be the Principal, and it was called Miroma. Susan used to pick the girls up every morning at nine and return them at 3pm every day.
 
A few years later Susan told me about a residential place in the pipeline to be built in Dural and asked me would we be interested in the girls going full time. I wasn’t sure. She took me and the girls to meet Karl Kaltenbach. The girls’ names were put on a client listing. As the building had not been built as yet I was happy to think that they could have a life outside of home, just going to Warrah and coming home the same every day.
 
When the building of Waratah was to start the parents were asked to help with the clearing of the site. Reuben Lane was one of the first Chairmen of the building committee, and also the man who drew up the plans. The task we had was not easy. We used a chain saw for cutting trees down and clearing low scrub and it was on every weekend! We had help from one parent who owned earthmoving equipment (Tony O’Neill) who made our task so much easier. It was an all in effort and it was done with a lot of smiles and laughter plus very sore muscles and blisters. Karl, our first CEO, had gone back to Germany but told Reuben not to cut down any trees which had a ribbon tied around the trunk. Well there was dozens of ribbons all over the area. Sorry Karl, some had to go.
 
When the building was completed and ready to take in the first people things had changed quite a lot. We had a gravel road in, and a bigger turning circle. Mac Bumpstead, the Chairman of the Board who had the adjoining land next to Warrah, did the opening of the building, and it was quite moving to all of us when the time capsule was lowered into its resting place at the entrance lobby of Waratah.
 
The day the twins started at Warrah Susan Haris picked us up in her car to take us. It was very sad, but we were happy at the same time because we knew they were going to have a better life than what we could give them. They took to that life with open arms. They went sledging in the snow, joined the girl guides and were members for years. Some weekends the guides would take them camping.
 
We are eternally grateful to Warrah for all who work hard to care for our children.
 
Bob and Joan Stephens

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