Page 78

Display as text


Matron and a resident, c.1910,
at the corner ofCoppin and
McArthur avenues, Old
Colonists' Homes, Rushall
Crescent, North Fitzroy.
(Courtesy of Old Colonists'

Board of Land and Works to arrange a deputation to request a grant
of land adjacent to the city for erecting Almshouses upon'.2

The government provided a reservation of four and a half acres 'in
a very desirable situation on the banks of the Merri Creek adjacent
to the Northcote Bridge'.3 The fencing of the land was arranged by
architect and surveyor Albert Purchas.4 Plans for two semi-detached
cottages designed by G. R. Johnson were approved by the council qf
the OCA. The foundation stone of the cottages was laid by the Presi-
dent, Judge Pohlman, on the day of the first annual general meeting,
1 July 1870.5 By December of that year the first inmates were

One of the distinctive characteristics of the OCA was that it was
devised as a collective enterprise. A number of benefactors could join
in the building of the village, each having a cottage bearing his name.
This was an ingenious balance between co-operative responsibility and
private patronage. To donate a cottage was to pay tribute to a pioneering
generation and to claim an individual place in Victoria's history. The
dual appeal to charitable impulse and pioneer myth-making may be
seen in one of the OCA's letters to a donor's widow:

The Cottage Home erected at [your husband's) cost and bearing his name upon
its Memorial Stone will inform the generations to come that among the Early
Colonists of this fair land, there were some who in the hour of their prosperity
considered the possibility of a day of adversity to others and bore their part
in making provision for others on such a day.7

It was in this context that the OCA was founded. Needy old colonists
as a group were seen as the deserving poor by virtue of their years
in the colony. It was assumed that their hard work in past times had
disadvantaged them in 'the battle of life'. The rhetoric with which the
association sought public support made frequent reference to the hard-