Disability services offer proud memories for Maureen Horth

PASSION FOR COMMUNITY: Former community services manager Maureen Horth has retired from Orange City Council. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0920jkmaureen2
PASSION FOR COMMUNITY: Former community services manager Maureen Horth has retired from Orange City Council. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0920jkmaureen2

FORMING a playgroup with her friends was all it took to ignite Maureen Horth’s passion for community services.

The community services manager has retired after 25 years at Orange City Council and she said a lot had changed.

Mrs Horth and husband Michael raised six children in Bowral in the 1970s when the Whitlam government started funding community-based services.

“Up until then, anything that looked like a community service was directly delivered by the government,” she said.

“Playgroups were beginning so a group of friends got together and started up a playgroup.”

After encouragement from social worker friends, she became involved in family support services before undertaking a social science degree and managing neighbourhood centres.

She also managed Orange’s neighbourhood centre, which is now the Community Information and Services Centre in Kite Street.

“I was based there for a long time,” she said.

She said Orange City Council was unusual in the extent it took on the Whitlam philosophy.

“It started the occasional care service in the 1970s and then the Spring Street child care centre from the early ‘80s and then Courallie and Yarrawong in the early ‘90s,” she said.

She said many services run by other organisations originally had council involvement, including Live Better and OCTEC, and others like Meals on Wheels were taken on as demand grew. 

But she said the disability services sector was her proudest to work in.

“People with disabilities used to go to Bloomfield and they would stay for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“But there was a feeling that people would function better and develop to their potential in the community – at that stage it was about accommodation.

“Phoenix House catered for four adults, we still have it and one of the women is still living in that house.”

Mrs Horth said other homes had been acquired in the years since.

“Now that we’re moving to the NDIS, which is a totally different way of doing things, but [council] has backed that involvement again.”

Mrs Horth intends to spend her retirement with her six children and 14 grandchildren and travel.

But with ongoing involvement in Abbeyfield, CentaCare and Orange Family Support, she said she was not going anywhere.