'It was home for those men': celebrating 73 years at the Coolibah
Established in 1946, our Coolibah Social Connection Hub is celebrating 73 years. A collection of historic photos is now on display at the Coolibah in Fitzroy. Brotherhood founder Father Gerard Tucker opened what was then called the Coolibah Club on April 27, 1946.
Coordinator Marica Cindric says it began as a place offering shelter, warmth, companionship and a hot meal for older men who resided in the local slums, rooming houses and low-cost hotels.
‘Father Tucker’s response to a perceived need, was characteristic of his “deeds not words” approach to social action and service delivery,’ Marica says.
Known as the Mum of the Coolibah, Jess Millott worked at the Coolibah and was manager for 23 years from1962. She wrote in a newsletter:
‘The Club was rough then, just bare boards, but it was home for those men, it was men only in those days … there was no such thing as home help – we’d do all of that, cleaning and washing, often in our own time.’
In 1954, the Coolibah opened its doors to women for the first time. However, the story goes that it was not until a television was set up in the women’s room that there appeared to be any mixing between the women and men.
Nowadays, women and men enjoy a wide range of activities together, as well as sharing a nutritious lunch and breakfast which is on offer six days a week.
‘For so many elderly people, the main problem is loneliness,’ Marica says. ‘We focus on helping them stay independent, living in their own homes, instead of relying on hospitals or other institutions. For many members the Coolibah is a second home, and for some it is their home.’
‘Coolibah members are encouraged to take control over their own lives. We use a wellness and empowerment approach, with members able to make decisions about what is important to them.’