STAR Victoria was established in 1970 when parents of people with an intellectual disability recognised that, whilst trying to improve the circumstances for their own children, it was essential to change community attitudes to intellectual disability. Then, as now, we are committed to equity and full community inclusion and participation for people with intellectual disability, from birth to pre-school through to adult education and employment, recreation, and all aspects of ordinary life.
We have celebrated many successes, including the closing of institutions and ending forced sterilisation of women with intellectual disability. STAR has played a leading role in the transition toward inclusive schooling and built a program to support self-advocacy by those with intellectual disability. We have been present and active when immense changes are occurring in our sector, and STAR is respected by decision-makers for the depth of our knowledge and the quality of our advice.
Ethel Temby MBE. 1914 – 2012
We owe a debt of gratitude to the late Ethel Temby MBE, a leader for the rights of people with intellectual disability and their families for more than forty years.
Ethel emphasised the right of a person to participate in all aspects of life, and the contribution that each person makes to their community. She was awarded an MBE in 1975, a Churchill fellowship in 1976 and a Centenary Medal in 2001.
Rowan Temby was the youngest child of STAR’s founder, the late Ethel Temby, and her husband Alan. When Rowan was born, his parents were told, “You must make up your own mind, of course, but in our opinion, you should put the baby in Kew Cottages* and forget him. Never visit him again.”
Rowan became ill when he was two and half months old, and was not expected to survive the night. Thankfully, he did survive, and from that point forward he was embraced as a member of the Temby family. Rowan’s birth and life and others like him who were destined to live at Kew Cottages led to the establishment of STAR Victoria.
Rowan’s mother, Ethel Temby writes in her book Seeing Red – from Anger to Advocacy about Rowan’s journey from Kew Cottages to living at home, leaving school, and leaving home. It was his deliberate choice to leave Kew Cottages and stay at home, and it was his deliberate choice to move out of home at age 22 – well before his older brother Peter.
In his book about parental love in challenging circumstances Far from the Tree – Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon says “This book’s conundrum is that most of the families described here have ended up grateful for experiences that they would have done anything to avoid.”
Rowan’s unique life has touched so many. When those who knew Rowan look back, they see how at every stage of knowing him, he enriched them in ways that could never have been imagined.
* Kew Children’s Cottages was an institution that provided accommodation and educational instruction for intellectually disabled children. It was closed in 2008.