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Colony 47 memories from 1979 by Nick Lennox, former Community Youth Support Scheme (CYSS) worker and one time Hon Secretary. 

My first memory is arriving behind the church at 47 Davey Street and walking up a cobblestone path along the city side of the church and arriving at the two-storey building at the back. 

There, I discovered a haven for people who were disempowered and dispossessed by society.  

 Jim hasn’t changed since I first met him in early 1979. Smiling, self-deprecating and witty with a keen sense of social justice and willingness to push the boundaries. Jim and Marg and their family were so committed and effective in all that they conceived and created. (Although don’t tell Jim that or it will go to his head). 

During my time as a CYSS youth worker, there are many stories. This is just one of them. Playing football!

My job description seemed to be to take out and exercise the unemployed young people that came to the coffee shop and exercise them so that they wouldn’t beat up people and get into trouble over the weekend! 

They were usually in their late teens or early 20s who dropped into the place at the back of the church to play pool and hang out with each other.  

It was quite a close-knit community of unemployed youth. One of the great events we organised was to play football against the police cadets.  

I’m not sure whose inspired idea this was, but it was certainly a fun and interesting one. Around that time the police college in Rokeby was open. I/we would coordinate with Senior Sergeant “Macca” McKenzie or Mac something. As far as I can recall Macca oversaw physical education and martial arts at the police academy.  

Macca was a giant of a man, at about 6 foot 6 (1.98 metres) by estimation and very tolerant of the antics of the Colony “youth”. 

Macca and I would umpire, and it was not uncommon for heavily smoking, unemployed youth to run out of puff and not be able to keep up with the police cadets. I don’t remember any of the outcomes of any of the games, but everyone seemed to love them despite the cultural differences between the young police recruits and our mob.  

The only transport we had was an old VW Kombi van which was white in colour, fully enclosed at the back and had been bought from someone called Frank whose name was emblazoned on the side of the van. 

We played on the Clarence High School oval and one day we arrived and there was Macca standing there. We slid open the door and out jumped our whole team. Macca rocked back totally bemused by this and he walked over to me and said, “you know Nick, that might be illegal!” 

On another occasion, one of the Colony group members called Long Tact decided he was going to take on Macca and took a swing. In what seemed like a microsecond Long Tact was lying on the ground unhurt beyond his pride with Macca and all the other Colony kids looking on bemused.  

Comment by Jim 

Nick and Sandy were two people who applied to be youth workers at Colony 47 where I decided that their writing was so bad that we would thank them for their application but would not employ them.

On my return from a week off, Marg Rushton who oversaw the coffee shop had decided that I didn’t know what I was doing and had employed both.

They turned out to be two of our best youth workers. They now correspond with me by typing or if they have written anything they ask someone else to read it to me.  

Nick had taken one year off his medical training between third and fourth year to work at Colony while studying for a MBBS which is a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. He then returned and successfully completed those studies. 

Many years later he completed a PhD based on funded research which demonstrated the Comprehensive Health Assessment Program (CHAP) that identified and addressed unmet health needs of adults with intellectual disabilities.  

This program was implemented through a collaboration of people with intellectual disability, their supports (family and or paid carers – when necessary), and their general practitioners.

In 2006 this study resulted in the establishment of a Medicare item to pay for delivery of this process across Australia. 

There have now been tens of thousands of these assessments performed and people recount finding and gaining treatment for cancers, diabetes, and other significant medical conditions. 

It is very gratifying and would not have happened without close collaboration with those close to it.  

His research team then went on and performed other studies. This work changed health policies not only in Australia but in other countries. 

Streaming from his experience at Colony 47, and other opportunities his team have delivered presentations and/or developed educational resources as well for people with intellectual disabilities, their families, carers and health professionals. 

Many of these presentations have incorporated the images of Julianne Colville’s life and the Colville family. These images highlighted the importance of love, connection, inclusion, and respect.

In April 2020 Professor Nick Lennox was appointed Senior Advisor to the Australian Government Department of Health.  

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