It is due to the efforts of 16,000 Riverina women that Wagga was able to build the 2WG Old People’s Home, now known as The Haven, located in Bourke Street, Mt Austin.
In response to a petition, a public meeting was held in Wagga Wagga in February 1946. Opinion at the meeting was unanimous in that a home for the aged was very necessary, since the unhappy alternative was to send loved ones far away to the city for care. Eight months later, in October 1946, the 2WG Women’s Club decided their focus would be to raise funds for an aged care facility and so the fundraising really kicked off.
The general objectives of the 2WG Women’s Club, which began in 1937, were to bring the women of the wider listening area together for social and benevolent activities. The club helped to alleviate many of the women’s isolation and provided a source of companionship.
The club’s long serving President, Mrs Ada Webb, known to radio listeners as “Cobby,” was an inspiration to members. She was extremely enthusiastic about the cause and her encouragement drove all the club’s branches across the Riverina to support the fundraising activities.
The Opening of the 2WG Old People’s Home
Stage 1 of the project went ahead in 1951 after Mr E Roberts, the owner of 2WG, purchased eighteen acres in Bourke Street, Mount Austin. An amount of £55,000 had been raised and, with a subsidy of £10,000 from the Commonwealth Government, the first of the self-care units were ready for occupation by 1955.
On 4 March 1955, 2,000 people witnessed the Governor of New South Wales, Sir John Northcott, unveil the foundation stone. As part of the ceremony, the Governor handed the keys of the first completed unit to Mrs Webb, in recognition of the hard work done by the 2WG Women’s Club.
The first occupants were Mr and Mrs T Mathers of Leeton who were reportedly overcome with emotion at the prospect of living in a secure and comfortable home. They were able to move in on 1 April 1955. Mr and Mrs Mathers were in their 60s and had lived in the Riverina for the last 30 years, Mrs Mathers being born in Hay. Mr Mathers travelled from town to town, picking up labouring jobs whenever he could, such as rabbiting, fencing and land clearing.
On being handed the keys in a small ceremony, Mr and Mrs Mathers told everyone there, “This is the first home we’ve ever had… You should see the place we lived in for the last four months. Our home was the laundry of a private home. Two small rooms served for everything.” They were especially impressed with the tiled bathroom, never having had a “real bathroom” before.
The furniture and furnishings for cottages No. 1 and 2 had been donated by Mrs and Mrs E Roberts (of 2WG) and the Junior Chamber of Commerce officially adopted the first two cottages, which apparently meant they would be taking a “friendly interest” in the residents and their homes, providing whatever assistance might be required.
Sixty years later, The Haven is still a wonderful home for the aged. Further facilities have been added, such as the Nan Roberts Residential care, Wendy Hucker Nursing Home, and the Fred Louden Dementia Lodge.