A permanent ‘Home’ for ‘necessitous Old Colonists’

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A permanent ‘Home’ for ‘necessitous Old Colonists’

May 1, 2019

When George Coppin established the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria, it was not merely about a social club for wealthy colonists. He was determined to help the pioneering colonists who were unable to provide for their old age.

Some six months after the momentous meeting at the Menzies Hotel where the Association was established, the founders decided to establish a permanent home to ‘assist necessitous Old Colonists” rather than respond to the frequent applications for temporary relief.

First, however, the Association had to be granted land, a request which was not as easy as first imagined.

The Melbourne Leader, 11 November 1869, reported that Mr D Ogilvie, Mr W Hull, Mr P Davis and Mr W H Tuckett (the Association secretary) visited the President of the Board of Land and Works to to request a ‘suitable site of land for an asylum which the Association intended to establish.’

The President, Mr McKean, doubted whether he had the power under the Land Act of granting land for an asylum, other than for lunatics. The Association founders were unimpressed, and requested the President to grants given or promised for similar purposes to the ‘Jews, the Freemasons and the Publicans.’

The Melbourne Leader reported:

Mr McKean …”said if those sites had been granted under error, there was no reason to give more of the same kind. In the present land was asked only for persons who had been already twenty years in the colony…It would also be requisite to know what the association proposed to do with the asylum once all those colonists had passed away.”

The riposte was swift, with Mr Davis saying he believed the association wished to have the asylum confined to those who arrived in the colony twenty years ago, and that afterwards it should be used for the children of those persons.’

The deputation evidently succeeded with a grant of land “adjacent to the City for erecting Almshouses upon” being approved.

The government of the day provided four and a half acres in ‘a very desirable situation on the Banks of the Merri Creek adjacent to the Northcote Bridge.’

Soon afterward, the land was fenced, arranged by architect and surveyor Albert Purchas. The first post was erected by Judge Pohlman and plans for two semi-detached homes (12 and 12a Coppin Avenue) were drawn up by architect George Johnson.

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