- 16 Mar 2013
- The Sydney Morning Herald
- Damien Murphy
Two lives and a city intertwined for eternity
At the age of 15, Arthur Stace was arrested and jailed for being drunk. Thirty years later, in August 1930, as the Depression descended onto Sydney’s poor he walked into St Barnabas Anglican Church, Broadway, and heard the evangelist and temperance crusader Canon Robert Hammond.
Stace gave up the grog that night. He also converted.‘‘I went in to get a cup of tea and a rock cake but I met the Rock of Ages,’’ he was to recall.
Two years later, in 1932, both men presented gifts to their home town that are still there today.
Stace’s copper plate rendition of the word ‘‘eternity’’ appeared on city footpaths.
Hammond initiated a home ownership scheme for unemployed men and their families in an area that became the suburb of Hammondville, near Liverpool. Hammondville evolved into a model for aged care and in more recent years, it amalgamated with Hope HealthCare and is now an influential voice in residential care and services, particularly in dementia.
Historian Meredith Lake has traced the journey – from soup kitchen to a mega Christian charity – in a new book, Faith in Action: HammondCare
She said HammondCare had now outgrown Anglicare Sydney, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Smith Family, Lifeline and even the RSPCA.
Dr Lake was commissioned by HammondCare to write the history but said the story pointed to the resilience of certain Christian institutions and ideas, not least in the charitable arena.
‘‘It joins a growing body of scholarship that questions overarching narratives of secularisation and declining Christian influences in Western societies . . . narratives which inform the writing of much earlier welfare history,’’ she said.
HammondCare has been a major beneficiary of the growing policy of various governments to outsource welfare and health.
Dr Lake said she had been shocked during her research to learn the NSW government only operated three refuges for older people. Hospitals allegedly refused to admit older people with chronic illnesses.
‘‘Charities are not matadors, lone combatants in the struggle against bull-sized human needs,’’ she said.
‘‘Governments, as well as the market and the family, also have a dynamic presence inside the ring. Australia has a ‘mixed economy’ of welfare: the nation’s charities have long gone about their work in ways informed by the contribution of the state, among other institutions.’’
Dr Lake said the lives of Hammond and Stace remained curiously intertwined.
Hammond put Stace in charge of one of his ‘‘Hammond hotels’’, inner-city refuges where men could get a bed, a shave and a hot meal. Stace also distributed used furniture to the poor at St Barnabas’ emergency depot.
Stace’s ‘‘eternity’’ seeped into Sydney’s DNA. At the turn of the century celebration it was proudly emblazoned across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Hammond died in 1946. Shortly after his wife Pearl died in 1961, Stace moved into the Hammondville home. He passed away there in 1967, aged 82.
Faith in Action: HammondCare by Meredith Lake (UNSW Press, $69.99).