History of SPELD (SA)
from the speech presented by Keith Grundy AM, first chairman of SPELD (SA), at the reopening of the SPELD SA centre
SPELD was founded on May 29, 1969. From day one it had all the hallmarks of a charitable
- It was responding to a perceived need in the community.
- There was one person, Shirley Dibden, who was prepared to put her ‘hand to the plough’ and break new ground.
- And, there was a band of people who were prepared to give their energy and enthusiasm to ensure the growth of a fledgling organisation.
In the early days, Committee Meetings were held in the Dibdens’ sitting room which soon became adorned by a number of beer cartons. These cartons constituted SPELD’s first filing system. Then, thanks to the generosity of the late Dr John Slade, SPELD moved to premises overlooking Light’s Vision.
Awareness spread rapidly mainly through speaking engagements at schools and to parent groups across the city and in many country centres. Weekend seminars were introduced to provide teachers with an understanding of specific learning difficulties and the most effective methods of remediation.
A significant development was the establishment of a joint SPELD/Education Department committee to identify the nature and needs of these children, the first such committee in Australia. Its formation reflects the concern of the South Australian government of the time and the growing demand for SPELD SA’s services.
A crisis developed in the mid 70s when it became necessary for SPELD to vacate its North Adelaide premises. When suitable accommodation was not forthcoming, Shirley set up a mini office with a chair and card table in the parklands. There was a sign advising passing traffic: “This is where SPELD will be next week! Can you help?”
The Dunstan government of the day together with the Kensington and Norwood Council under Jack Richards quickly put their heads together and out of the blue the building at 298 Portrush Rd, and the means to purchase it, became available. At last SPELD had a permanent home.
Shirley Dibden served as Foundation Director of SPELD for almost 25 years. Her services to the community were recognised in 1976 when she was made aof the Order of Australia and, in 1994, when she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate for her outstanding work in education and literacy by Flinders University. Shirley retired from SPELD in 1991.
The organisation receives a grant from the Minister for Education and Children’s Services but is dependent on donations and income from sales and services to maintain its present level of service delivery.
SPELD entered a new era in 1999 when Jan Polkinghorne, one of our tutors, joined SPELD SA as a consultant and opened our eyes to the possibilities available for supporting our clients through computer software and assistive technology. The Information Technology Information service was developed by Jan and has since grown to three members, who are leaders in their field.
2003 saw the widening of Portrush Road and with it the need to move services from the front of the building to the back, to escape traffic noise. Thanks to a grant from the Lions Club of Glenside, which was matched by SPELD Council, the SPELD building underwent a transformation. The reception and library areas, as we know them today, were created, and the wall between the conference room and waiting room removed to provide an area large enough to accommodate an audience of 50. On June 2nd, 2004, the Shirley Dibden Centre was re-opened in the presence of Her Excellency Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, then Governor of South Australia.
Next, came purpose-built shelving for the library and the space, at last, to increase the range of resources for sale in the shop.
As so SPELD (SA) evolves. The building has changed, services have changed but SPELD remains a small organisation with a dedicated staff, good friends, a wise and supportive Council to provide guidance, and longstanding volunteers. Thanks to a wide network of tutors, parents and other professionals, SPELD’s influence continues to spread throughout South Australia and beyond.
From the speech given by Keith Grundy, AM, first chairman of SPELD (SA) at the re-opening of the Shirley Dibden Centre on 2nd June, 2004. Recent additions provided by Angela Weeks