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Celebrating 50 Years: The Semlers

Dec 05, 2019

Celebrating 50 Years: The Semlers

Robert Semler has been a loved and valued participant of Warrah for many years. The Semler family have been a part of our community since Warrah’s first days. Robert’s sister, Hannah, reflects on her family’s experience as a founding Warrah family.

Robert was a very cute crawling and just sitting four-year-old when we, the Semlers first met Hannelor, his first ‘kindergarten’ carer and Karl Kaltenbach at Inala. By 1969 at eight years, a mobile little person joined with other children and young adults as boarding school kids in the newly built Waratah and Banksia building.
Stephen and Erika Semler joined with other foundation parents to work tirelessly to raise funds over many years in every way possible including selling theatre party tickets and collecting masses of clothes and household stuff to sell at the Warrah Thrift Shop in Redfern. 
Beauty, colour, the bush supported Warrah’s daily life – baking bread and preparing healthy meals, decorating the dining room, arranging the dormitories, the hallways, Karl playing flute every morning as a wake-up call, the singing, the festival celebrations, the fairs - all filled with warmth, learning, reverence and community.
When Peter Glasby joined the teaching staff – he saw no barrier to taking high school students on a hiking/camping adventure to the Barrington Tops National Park and everyone including Robert had to carry and help wash, set-up tents, climb mountains, get lost and found. Later a group of us joined John and Stephen Ellis for a winter holiday at their Perisher Valley lodge – where were the risk assessments and barriers then?
Following the school years, new opportunities grew – getting involved in enterprises - candle-making, newspaper deliveries, card making, farm packing and distribution runs. Robert was part of the potato packing team – if only he would leave those spuds in the bag! Every fortnight a truck load of Warrah farm and other fruit and vegies would turn up at Glenaeon school with Michael Bauer ensuring no-one left without buying something.
We love the league of nations staff coming to work and live at Warrah originally because it was a Steiner based service. We have made many friends over the years. In the 80’s Clive and Carol Robbins made Warrah their Australian home base when not in New York or elsewhere in the world. The Music Therapy building was built, they trained music therapists, providing one on one music therapy, and music was played at every festival including the amazing handbell Choir led by our first music therapist Enid Rowe who established Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Australia in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Through the late 1980’s and 1990’s, when Government funding increased it was a great help, freeing families like ours from fees and enabling the transition to 360day a year support. The fundraising and struggles of those early years paid off and there was no going back, Warrah was well established.
In the last 20 years, many new challenges emerge for those who require increasing health and wellbeing supports. After living 33 years in Semler Cottage at Thornleigh, Robert, Peter, Joanne, Lynda and Charles love their new architect designed purpose-built Jacaranda in Baulkham Hills when they moved in 7 November 2018. We are all grateful to Georgina Michaelis and the Warrah Board for taking the risk and making sure this house would suit the needs of the future.

Hannah Semler