SACOSS was formed in 1946 as a broadened, restructured and renamed version of a Youth Welfare Coordinating Council that had developed earlier in the decade. SACOSS was, and remains, an umbrella organisation with a membership consisting of organisations active in the community and social services field, along with individual associate members.
Through a range of committees and working parties, SACOSS tackled many issues and played an integral role in the development of organisations such as Good Neighbour Council, Mental Health Association, Shelter, Community Information Strategies Australia, Volunteering SA, Citizens Advice Bureau, Welfare Rights Centre and Community Employees Association.
Originally records were kept at the homes of committee members before an office was set up in Grenfell Street. After several moves, including locations in Morphett Street and Waymouth Street, SACOSS settled into the Torrens Building on Victoria Square in July 1997. In May 2007 SACOSS moved to Marjorie Black House in Unley.
Selected highlights in our history last century include:
- Actively promoting “Multiculturalism”, well before this term was used, by promoting acceptance of non-English speaking post war migrants, including establishing the Good Neighbour Council in SA
- Talking publicly about mental health issues and encouraging help services that assisted people with mental illness to be supported to remain actively involved in their local communities. SACOSS enabled the establishment of the Mental Health Association, which then worked with Adelaide Central Mission and the RAH to establish the Lifeline telephone suicide prevention counselling service, the second such service in the world and celebrating 50 years of assistance in 2013
- Advocating for sex education in schools and services for single mothers
- Helping to establish Service to Youth Council, one of the world’s first organisations to actively develop and apply streetwork/detached youth work approaches to engaging with marginalised and disaffected young people
- Writing and providing clear, easy to apply handbooks on a wide range of aspects of community sector management
- Helping the community services sector to understand and use information technology, specifically through the project that became CISSA (Community information Support SA)
- First raising the spectre of youth homelessness in 1978, and other emerging homeless issues, also leading to the formation of Shelter SA
- Supporting innovative services to assist people with a disability, including establishing Phoenix Society – sheltered workshop.
Over the last few years, SACOSS has played a leading part in securing:
- Funding for more financial counselling positions to assist those struggling with rising cost of living
- A review of electricity prices in SA which saw a recommended reduction in retail prices which in turn led to deregulation of the market with a promised 9.1% reduction in prices
- A $30 per year increase in the state concession for water bills for low income South Australians
- State government allocation of $1.4m over 4 years for consumer credit legal services in SA
- Changes to legislation on the Compulsory Third Party Insurance to protect the rights of vulnerable people injured in motor vehicle accidents
- Federal and State government funding to community services organisations to cover costs of Fair Work Australia’s Equal Remuneration Order granting much needed pay equity to workers in our sector
- Legislation to protect the independence of the sector and the rights and ability of community organisations to advocate for policy change.