Thelma and Les, post retirement
Once their babies were out of nappies, Thelma became a journalist at The Australian Jewish Herald, published weekly in Melbourne. After 18 years of columns on music, the arts, travel and community organisations, Thelma took the opportunity to go back to Melbourne University, this time to earn a degree in Journalism. And this time with her daughter (me) on the same campus!
I have already documented Thelma’s community work. Courage to Care offered workshops, presentations, exhibition viewing and facilitated discussions designed for high school students. And one section of Bnai Brith Victoria provided scholarships for teachers to travel to Israel and to learn in in-depth teaching programmes.
The VCM wanted a book that could be published in time for the century anniversary of the organisation. The final version of the book ENTERPRISE, 100 Years of the VCM was written by Thelma Webberley, edited by CF Sullivan and published in 1979.
The Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers
across the state of Victoria
Book Orphanage says the book is a hardcover, 10½" x 7½", with dark-blue cloth-bound boards with gold title to spine, 218 pages, photographs and a foreword by the Premier of Victoria. This book traces the first century of the VCM, which started in one hotel room and, at the time of writing, had 6,000 members and wide influence in industrial matters in Victoria.
Now to the book launch itself. Printed sheets were added inside the book saying Many people contributed to the preparation of this history of the first 100 years of The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Among the members of VCM staff who contributed to the production of the History, were Mr CF Sullivan and Mrs T Webberley. Mr Sullivan was responsible for guiding the compilation of the material included in this work while Mrs Webberley, in writing the text, did so with great enthusiasm and dedication.
The Foreword was written by the Premier of Victoria, the Honourable RJ Hamer. I was particularly interested to hear the premier say inter alia that the Chamber was interested in technical education, being part of the Administrative Staff College, Council of Public Education, Council of Melbourne University and its Faculty of Economics and Commerce, Victorian Institute of Secondary Education, Victorian University and Schools Education Board.
There are 17 chapters in the book, covering the era of the first men with the first visions (eg Robert Harper, the Chamber’s first president) until the completion of the Chamber’s anniversary and its plans for the future. My personal favourites were the chapters set in the post-war years and the 1950s, discussing the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Mr Chifley, socialism, unions and industrialisation. This was a very influential era for my family, and for the primary schools we all went to.
After the formal speeches in front of Victoria’s dignitaries at the book launch, Thelma Webberley gave the best speech of her professional career. And no time before or since had she ever had three State Ministers shaken her hand on one day!
A separate letter to Thelma Webberley was written directly from Brian Powell, Director of the VCM. Mr Powell’s invitation to the function on 2nd May 1980 was to thank Thelma in front of the VCM staff, for her writing of the book. That function would mark the internal release of the VCM history “Enterprise”.
The books, printed sheets acknowledging the authorship and editorship, and the Director’s personal invitation to Thelma all came to me in my late mother’s library. They are treasured items. Plus I was delighted to find a Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers’ Certificate of Membership at the National Wool Museum in Geelong.
ENTERPRISE, 100 Years of the VCM
A Decade of Achievement: Phillip Institute of Technology
Later Thelma worked with students and wrote journal articles, books and newspaper columns at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (now RMIT University). In preparation for RMIT's School of Media and Communication to be developed within the College of Design and Social Context, the journalists and publishers had to work very hard. The School eventually hosted advertising, audio-visual, communication, creative writing, editing and publishing, film and television, journalism, music industry, photography and public relations.