In late 1974 (or early 1975), the committee of TasCOSS decided to close the organisation.
At that time Dr Eric Cunningham Dax, undertaking research into ‘multi-problem families’ for the State Government had allowed TasCOSS to use a room in what became Clare House and his secretary Anne Rood provided a strong support. TasCOSS had employed Jean Gibbs as a part-time administrative secretary over the previous year or so.
However TasCOSS’s resources were extremely limited. The Australian Assistance Plan had provided community development staff and offices across Tasmania, with the Southern Regional Council for Social Development also having a substantial budget for distribution to community groups and activities and by comparison it seemed that TasCOSS was no longer necessary.
Second thoughts led to the motion to wind up the organisation being rescinded and Ann Hughes was employed, using a small bequest, for six months as a project officer to assess whether there was a role for TasCOSS and if so, what it might be.
Betty Cusick was the administrative secretary, and when she went to work for Bruce Goodluck on his election in 1975, Doreen Hazelwood was appointed.
Ann was one of only two qualified social workers employed outside government at that time – the other being Clem Kilby, the Director of the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau and TasCOSS committee member.
The next period was very exciting for TasCOSS. It became clear that there definitely was a role – even if not a lot of money.
Ann Hughes worked as Director for the next 18 months or so – sometimes paid only for a day or two per week, while more stable funding and accommodation were sought.
The national COSS movement was growing in strength and TasCOSS benefited from its participation.
Active lobbying eventually led to some core funding from the state government and TasCOSS was able to operate on a more settled basis. Highlights of this period include the revitalisation of the Mental Health Association – against forceful opposition from the Mental Health Services Commission because former ‘patients’ were involved.
Shelter was established under TasCOSS auspices with ACOSS support and Duncan Kerr from the University Student Union worked with TasCOSS to set up the Tasmanian Tenants Union. The Social Work and the Environmental Design departments at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education were vibrant centres committed to community involvement so there were many students who shared the social justice concerns of TasCOSS and were keen to be involved.
TasCOSS mounted a successful argument to the Parliamentary Public Works Committee that prevented the building in New Town of a maximum security Remand and Assessment Centre for children and young people. The politicians said they were ‘just making a decision about a building, not about welfare services’;
TasCOSS pointed out that their decisions about priorities would have major implications for the nature and quality of services for years to come. There was a strong commitment to a state wide TasCOSS – in days long before email, video conferencing or even speaker phones.