past, present and future

So why is Tweddle called Tweddle?

If we had a dollar for every time we let people know that we are Tweddle, not Tweedle, we'd be rich! It was 95 years ago that Joseph Thornton Tweddle started Tweddle Hospital For Babies and School of Mothercraft. Back then Tweddle was looking after the most vulnerable of children, many of them abandoned or foundling babies.

Joseph Thornton Tweddle (1865-1943), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 14 April 1865 at Winlaton, Durham, England. He was one of eight children and was born into a working family, his father Thomas a butcher. Joseph was educated at the local council school and he had some commercial experience with an ironmongery firm at Newcastle upon Tyne. Joseph had poor health and when it deteriorated he migrated to Victoria in 1887.

He was introduced, possibly by letter, to Henry Angus who worked a farm with his brother at Mincha West. He later partnered the brothers in irrigation development at Kow Swamp and at Benjeroop. The Benjeroop scheme failed due to drought. Joseph then started clerical work with the Colonial Gas Association Ltd, Melbourne, and then with a firm of solicitors. On 5 April 1893 he married Lilian Billis. Sadly his new wife died two years later in 1895.

As an accountant, in 1896 he joined Andrews Bros Pty Ltd, a woollen warehouse in Flinders Lane and by 1899, aged 34, he was a director. In 1904 Joseph married Isabel May Hunter.

He was a member in 1915-16 of a royal commission to inquire into the Victorian Public Service. Its report was scathingly critical of management and operations. By this time Joseph was managing director of Andrews Bros. The firm expanded greatly during World War I and ended up with branches across Australia and in London. In 1933 he became chairman of directors of the business.

Joseph was very active in public service and was councillor (1915-39) and president (1935-39) of Queen's College at the University of Melbourne and a councillor of Wesley College (1921-43). He funded extensions to both Wesley and Queens College which were completed in 1923.

Joseph became aware of the work of Maude Primrose (promoter of the Truby King or Plunket system of baby health care) and of Dr J. W. Springthorpe. As a result he financed the establishment of Tweddle Hospital for Babies and School of Mothercraft as the training centre for Plunket and Primrose nurses. The hospital opened in Footscray in 1920. In addition to his business dealings he also farmed extensively across Victoria and was a well renowned breeder of cattle, sheep and horses.

Joseph attributed his philanthropy to the influence of a devoutly Methodist upbringing. A connoisseur of art and an enthusiastic collector, he was a trustee from 1921 of the Public Library, museums and National Gallery of Victoria. Described as 'one of the best-known figures in business, pastoral and art circles in Melbourne', he died on 16 July 1943 at Richmond. His wife, son and two daughters survived him.

This summary of J T Tweddle's life was sourced from:

John Lack, "Tweddle, Joseph Thornton (1865 - 1943)", Australian Directory of Biography, Volume12, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp 298-299.

Tweddle today

A Child and Family Health organisation such as Tweddle cannot help but evolve over the years responding to the changing needs of the community. This has meant over 95 years of evolution for Tweddle and the families it serves.

From what many perceived as a ‘Sleep School' is now a vital link in The Department of Health and Human Services's long term early parenting strategy for services supporting vulnerable children and families from pregnancy to pre-school.

In addition to the Residential and Day stay facilities for which Tweddle is so highly regarded, services have grown to include one on one and group psychology services, in home support, peer support groups for parents of children with a disability or chronic illness, parenting assessment and skills development (PASDS), Childbirth Education and a program for parents in prison.

A referral is required for families attending a Tweddle Residential or Day Stay program.  This can be organised through your GP or Maternal & Child Health Nurse.  Health Professionals can make an online referral completing our online form.  Our form can also be printed out and mailed or faxed. 

Tweddle is about helping vulnerable parents to feel confident and to have the skills to care for their children which is essential to their child's future outcomes. Every year Tweddle help over 4,000 families with research and evidence based programs and we look forward to continuing our dedication to supporting parents, supporting children for another 90 years.

Future directions

Early childhood safety, stability and attachment between infant and parent are the foundation for learning, behaviour and health through the school years and adult life. Tweddle's services will continue to help build families resilience and reduce and prevent the need for further specialist services.

The Department of Health and Human Services are making a significant investment in earlier intervention strategies and Tweddle Child and Family Health Service form an integral link in this vital chain. Tweddle is working to explore new and innovative service models that are focussed on promoting a secure attachment between parent and child to improve family wellbeing and a child's future outcomes.

Ultimately our vision is to reach and assist more parents across regional and rural Victoria, providing families with the skills and knowledge to confidently manage the challenges of early parenting.

Tweddle would like to acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Custodians, past and present, of this land Wurundjeri on which Tweddle provide its services.

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