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About Doris Taylor

The Legacy of Doris Taylor

Meals on Wheels owes its existence to the vision of Doris Taylor MBE, a remarkable South Australian.

Doris was born in Norwood in 1901 and, as a result of a childhood accident, was permanently disabled by the age of sixteen, living the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair. Intelligent, compassionate and energetic, she became intensely aware of the problems of the disadvantaged.

By the time Doris reached her twenties, Australia had slumped into the worst depression the country had known. Living at home with her widowed mother, three sisters and a brother, she became more and more concerned with the plight of those whose lives were being devastated by the harsh economic times, especially those endeavouring to raise children. Undeterred by her disability, Doris began organising fundraising functions to provide clothes for the children of the unemployed, at the same time establishing a kitchen in the local school grounds to serve generous slices of buttered bread and lashings of home made soup. At the same time she began lobbying politicians to introduce laws giving far greater security to those who otherwise had nothing.

Her main concerns were for the aged, housebound and disabled, recognising that if these people were to be encouraged to remain living in their own homes, a community service to assist them was vital. She began asking herself the question: “Would a hot midday meal be the most sensible and practical way of bringing sustenance to these people?” Thus for several years she planned how such a scheme could be put into effect.

As a result of Doris Taylor’s courage, persistence and relentless lobbying of politicians, Meals on Wheels was incorporated in December 1953. The organisation was the first of its kind to be constituted in Australia and the first to set out to produce its own meals with volunteer support. It was perhaps appropriate that the very people Doris Taylor was seeking to assist, aged pensioners, provided the first donation of five pounds ($10) to help establish the organisation.

The first Meals on Wheels kitchen was established in Port Adelaide on August 9th. 1954, when eleven volunteers delivered meals to eight clients. Other kitchens followed in quick succession in Norwood, Hindmarsh and Woodville. The first President of the organisation was the late Don Dunstan MP, who would later become Premier of South Australia. He was President of Meals on Wheels from 1954 to 1956.

Doris Taylor’s vision evolved into an organisation that has since been copied in various forms throughout Australia and in many places overseas. Today Meals on Wheels (SA) Incorporated has some 10,000 volunteers, more than 5,000 clients, and 100 branches (including 40 kitchens) throughout South Australia.

One of the interesting pioneering attributes for which Doris Taylor has never received due recognition was her decision to charge for the meal. This was almost unheard of at the time in respect to other charitable efforts, but it received ready acceptance from people who quickly appreciating that volunteer effort was one thing, the cost of ingredients and overheads was another.

Even today at a price of $6.50, the quality and value of the meal is exceptional, and represents about a third of the daily nutritional and energy requirements of an elderly person.

Over the years, Meals on Wheels has had fine support from service clubs, church organisations and religious groups, Government and Local Councils, but more especially the community at large. It is that spirit of co-operation and care that has made the organisation the world leader it is today.

Doris Taylor died in 1968 after witnessing her dream come true and blossom into a unique community organsation. She was a truly great Australian whose legacy will continue to bring support and security to those thousands of South Australians who have chosen to live in their own homes for as long as possible.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Josie Pegler (Doris's Greatniece) permalink
    April 18, 2011 1:34 am

    She also intended that a Podiatry Service and Library Service be available for folk in their own homes. Unfortunately this did not happen.

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