A Tribute to Our First Qualified Essential Worker
September 8 2020
In 1964 a small group of passionate social justice activists set up Hanover Welfare Services, one of Launch Housing’s predecessor organizations, in Fitzroy, offering counselling and pension management for men experiencing homelessness. One of these founding staff members was Vivienne McCutcheon, Hanover’s first qualified social worker. Vivienne passed away on Tuesday 28 July, 2020.
Vivienne was firmly embedded in her community. As the minister’s wife and living in a Housing Commission Flat in Collingwood, she was called on for help day and night. She came to see the charm, as well as the gaps in services, in her community.
Armed with her degree in Social Work from the University of Melbourne, Vivienne brought a new sense of professionalism, structure, innovation and creativity to Hanover’s work.
Long-time friend Brian Howe said “Viv was a leader, a very strong person, and a person of great character.”
While Vivienne was working at Hanover she took the time to engage with her clients and made some personal observations. What she discovered was that some of the men were “charmingly funny and sometimes confronting” and in fact some of the men turned out to be wonderful childminders when she had to bring her children in to work.
Professionally, Vivienne continued to advocate for social issues. In 1995 Vivienne acted as the Health Services Commissioner and in 1996 was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australian for her services in welfare, education and health.
The Essential Worker
Decades later Vivienne’s values live on through the work of Launch Housing’s current day staff and clients.
Our staff, like Vivienne, are innovative, creative, strong, and want a better world. To be a social worker now, like in the 60s, you need to value every member of society and believe that changing a system and community is possible.
Today’s staff are living and working through the once-in-a-lifetime COVID-19 pandemic. We are living through a point in history and witnessing swift and sometimes drastic change, showing us that homelessness can be solved where there is political will to do so.
As Launch Housing workers continue to assist and support those experiencing homelessness they are following in Vivienne’s footsteps, working at the center of societal and systemic change.
Their work and their stories build to a louder voice echoing from six decades ago: to advocate for drastic change in the way our society views homelessness and the solutions required to end it.