The Origin of Al-Anon in South Australia
As with so many other good things in our state, the instigator and prime mover in the beginning here of Al-Anon was Doctor W.F. Salter of Hillcrest, Deputy Director of Mentle Health Services. At that time he was Deputy Superintendent of Northfield Mental Hospital, and had just begun to treat Alcoholic patients in his hospital - itself an innovation. He was quick to realise that to treat the alcoholic, without involving his or her family, was just going to be a waste of time.
He called me into his office and gave me an article to read, which had appeared in the Saturday evening post. It Described how a wife had stopped nagging her husband to stop drinking, and had taken a quite new attitude to the problem. We dediced to put the formation of a group of Al-Anon at the top of the Agenda for the next meeting of the state committee on Alcoholism, of which he was the chairman and I secretary.
I remember this particular committee meeting vividly. These meetings were held in my own home at the time. We immediately encountered the most extraordinary opposition from the then social worker at Northfield. Dr Salter, usually so quiet and unassuming, became a different person; and put the most forceful and convincing case for the formation of Al-Anon. The motion was carried with this one dissenting voice. Strong help came also from our usually quiet treasurer Betty H. of A.A.
I called the meeting to form a group, to be held at Pitt St. C.M.M., by advising all groups of A.A. and several interested social workers in Adelaide. That meeting was attended by father Tracey, and was addressed by Millie - wife of Bill H. and by Grace, wife of "Motorbike" Alf. The first group, later named "Esperance" began to meet each Wednesday evening, with a handful of women. They ask me warmly to continue coming. But i said No; that i believed that leadership would rise to the top better if they were left alone. And so proved. For the next year or so every Thursday morning at about nine, the 'phone would ring and the voice the other end would say - it's Grace here Barbara" and then she would recount expearences of the preivious evening, and talk over problems, and leaned on me less and less as she gained in experience and strength. The first Christmas Party was attended by the various handful of us and i remember so well Dr.Salter saying "Don't be discouraged, it will grow, nothing can stop it", and so it has proved.
Al-Anon in South Australia initially gave out it's message of Hope on February 22nd 1956 - 58 years ago. A small band of people saw the common need that existed to love and help the families of the sick and needful Alcoholic, and so a group was formed and duly known as "Esperance" [Hope]. And from the first meeting, many, many needful folk have passed through the doorway.