Western Region Health Centre (WRHC), formerly the ‘Trade Union Clinic and Research Centre’, was established in Footscray, in Melbourne’s west, in 1964 by the Australian Meat Industry Employee’s Union (AMIEU) in response to the high incidence of injury in the meat industry.
This innovative Clinic broke new ground in providing treatment for people who had industrial accidents or work related illness, and in conducting research into causes and possible solutions. Instrumental in establishing the Clinic was Mr George Seelaf, then Secretary of the AMIEU, who lay the foundations for the Clinic’s first Medical Director, the visionary Dr Moss Cass to bring health services to the workers.
With the demise of the meat industry in the 1970s, the Clinic became Western Region Health Centre and engaged in providing health and support services for the largely low-socioeconomic local community, at a time when support for community-based healthcare was increasing. Greater ethnic diversity in the inner west, as new waves of immigrants including people from refugee backgrounds, added to the already complex demographics of the area, and called for greater health outreach services in order to connect with the community.
The 1990’s saw considerable growth for WRHC as it expanded its reach throughout the western region. This growth included the opening of a public dental clinic in Paisley Street; pioneering work in the development of the Refugee Health Service Model in partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture; and the merge with the Braybrook/Maidstone Community Health Centre.
In the tradition of its founders, throughout its fifty years of service delivery, WRHC continued to be quick to recognise and respond to community needs. Post-millennium WRHC commenced delivery of mental health services; opened a primary health service for injecting drug users; took over management of the School Dental Service in Geelong Road, Footscray; extended its range and spread of mental health services; launched an arts program to engage community and improve health; embedded a community advisory committee in the organisational structure and processes to support input from consumers; added many specialist services; and expanded services across the west.
By 2014 WHRC operated from 20 locations across Melbourne’s western region and delivered an extensive and diverse range of health and support services. The focus of WRHC had shifted since its inception, away from the labour movement and industrial safety, towards community and in particular, people experiencing disadvantage who needed services most.
2013 Premier’s Award for Primary Health Service of the year
2010 & 2009 Victorian Government’s Fair and Flexible Employer Recognition Award
2005 Premier’s Award for most outstanding Ambulatory Healthcare Provider