A Brief History 

scosa has had a very influential role in the evolution of disability services and support in South Australia, and we continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of thousands of people through trialling of new programs, expanding our range of activities, and promoting a model of greater self-determination, independence and opportunity.

The Formative years (1946- 1950)

Our foundations, like many not for profit organisations, came from the most humble of beginnings and driven by people with a common personal cause. Despite modest resources and a lack of funding nothing would overcome the fierce determination of a small group of parents who simply wanted a better life for their children who were born with cerebral palsy.

The evolution of scosa, as it exists today, is linked to the Spastic Children’s Parents’ Group of the Crippled Children’s Association, which was born in 1946 to promote discussion between parents of children born with cerebral palsy, especially with regard to management in the home.

Around the same time other developments were taking place that would drive change and have a major impact on families trying to support their children with cerebral palsy.

In particular, we were fortunate to benefit from the leadership of Miss Daphne Gum, who was born near Pinnaroo in the Mallee region of South Australia, and went onto spend much of her early life in Adelaide. She had a background in teaching and after a six year stint as a Governess on a sheep station in New South Wales, returned to Adelaide as a House Mistress at Woodlands Church of England Girls’ Grammar School.

By 1944 Miss Gum developed a passion for wanting to work with sick children, although there were no opportunities in Adelaide at the time. Her break came when she successfully applied for a teacher for training in work with children at the Spastic Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

At the time it was known that this training could well provide the pathway to open a similar facility in Adelaide, and so it was then that Miss Gum returned to Adelaide in 1945 following an invitation.

During the first months of 1946 Miss Gum, accompanied by a social worker, visited the parents of every known child in Adelaide with cerebral palsy who were around school age.

From there it transpired that on 6 March 1946, in a single room within the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, that the first school for cerebral palsy was opened in South Australia under the determined guidance of passionate Director, Miss Gum (who was later awarded an OBE and OAM for her ground breaking work and tireless dedication).

The next evolution in these formative years came on 18 April 1950 when the South Australian Spastic Paralysis Welfare Association was formally incorporated, with office bearers comprised mainly of parents of children with disabilities within the Western Suburbs of Adelaide.

This organisation was to become known as the Spastic Centres of South Australia Inc in 1983 and from there, the name scosa was subsequently adopted.

Woodville Operations

The current scosa site at 100 Woodville Rd, Woodville was officially opened in 1952 and was known at the time as the Woodville Spastic Children’s Home. Over the ensuing decades the Woodville site was the high profile centre of scosa’s activities, providing a broad range of disability services including schooling and training, physiotherapy, respite accommodation, sport and recreational pursuits and other supports.

It also acted as the base from where a number of highly successful fundraising campaigns were managed, in particular the very popular Miss South Australia Quest, which generated, in today’s terms, millions of dollars for major building projects and equipment purchases. In response to changing community opinions and values, the last Quest was held in 2000.

While being the central Hub of activity and service delivery for around three decades, from the early 1980s services based at Woodville were decentralised to suburbs across Adelaide to provide greater access to services. While Woodville retains a strong part of scosa’s history, today it functions more as a base for support functions including general management, finance and information technology, fundraising and marketing, and staff recruitment and development. The James A Nelson Hall continues to be used also for special participant activities, including dance therapy, and also staff training.

Nearly all of scosa’s core programs and services are nowadays delivered at our Hubs across Adelaide, Clare and Port Pirie and also adjacent community facilities, such as sport and recreation centres, libraries, learning centres and other local venues. Refer to scosa Hubs for more detail.

Changing Nature of Services

scosa was founded to support people living with cerebral palsy and their families. While this remains a key focus, over the past two decades, in particular, scosa has expanded its services considerably to meet the needs and expectations of people living with a broader range of complex disabilities including autism, down syndrome, hearing and vision impairment, epilepsy and other physical and intellectual disabilities.

Furthermore, the model of service delivery continues to evolve and now, more than ever, our focus at scosa is upon the delivery of personal outcomes to maximise opportunity, independence and potential. To learn more, refer to What we offer you

Contact us to learn more

Contact scosa to find out more about our services and how you can get involved.