Drummond Street Services celebrates 125 years of care

In 1887 a destitute man died outside a Melbourne hospital because there weren’t enough beds to admit him. The death of John Jackman sparked a public outcry that eventually led to the birth of the Charity Organisation Society – the first incarnation of Drummond Street Services.

Three name changes and 125 years later, the Carlton community service is one of Victoria’s longest-serving welfare organisations. 

Last year Drummond helped about 2000 people from 700 families across Melbourne.

Leanne Black and Anita Smith started working for the service in the mid-1990s, and say Drummond has been through dramatic changes even in the past two decades. 

Ms Smith, a counsellor for the service, describes Drummond 18 years ago as more of a “boutique counselling agency”. 

She says she typically worked with individuals or couples and usually over long periods. 

These days Ms Smith says Drummond has a much broader community focus and caters to people with more diverse backgrounds. 

She says it offers a range of programs including services for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, young people and newly arrived Australians. 

“We have also got better at working out why people are coming and what we can do to meet those needs.”

Ms Black started at Drummond as an administrator 17 years ago and is now the service’s business manager. 

“When I started there was just one old computer; now every counsellor has a computer on their desk,” she says. 

She has presided over the services’ shift to electronic administration and helped manage Drummond’s temporary relocation down the road – after a suspicious fire in 1999. 

The fire burnt out the stairwell of one of Drummond’s three connected terrace houses, damaged a second and meant the service had to relocate for almost a year. 

Ms Black says Drummond’s practice of locking confidential files behind closed doors helped prevent the blaze from spreading and doing more damage.

Next year Drummond will sell its Carlton terraces, embarking on another big change.

Chief executive Karen Field says regardless of where the organisation is based, it will continue to meet community needs. 

She says in 125 years Drummond has always been there, from rehabilitating returned World War II soldiers to counselling in the wake of the Black Saturday fires. 

“There is almost nothing we have not done or have not seen within the welfare sector,” she says. 

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