Former Director of Personal Advocacy Service Leonie Reid gives The eRecord a first-hand account of working with founding member Tom Tranter, who passed away last 2017.
In the mid-late 1980’s, I was a Parent Representative on the Catholic Education Commission of WA, and had put myself forward in an effort to gain greater acknowledgement of the needs of children with disabilities within the Catholic education system.
I had a young daughter with special needs (now recognised as Aspergers Syndrome/high functioning autism) and soon found that there was nothing available in the way of support at our local Catholic school.
As a family we had been forced to make the heart-breaking decision of moving Stephanie, the youngest of four children, into the state education system where we were led to believe there would be better opportunities for her.
However, this proved to be not the case. In spite of Stephanie’s difficulties in fitting in to the social environment of the school, she loved going to Church and she loved the routine and rituals of prayer and the Mass.
While on my journey with the Catholic Education Commission, I was introduced to Sr Eileen Casey and heard of her vision of a support program within the local church.
I followed with interest as the Personal Advocacy Service slowly became a reality and I came to see the potential of the structured faith program that it offered, and not long after the Personal Advocacy Service was established, there was a vacancy for an additional staff member as the program was being developed.
A completely different approach to involvement within the life of the Church, I knew it was something that my daughter and others like her could benefit from, and jumped at the opportunity to apply and was thrilled to be accepted in to the ministry.
So began my journey of 22 years as a member of staff – first as a program coordinator and then as Director from 1996–2012.
It was through this involvement that I came to know Tom Tranter in his capacity as trusted Treasurer of our Board of Management and as a parent who shared the challenges of a daughter with special needs.
Throughout the years, Tom was one of the most dedicated and hard-working supporters of the organisation, always pushing to maintain the integrity of the Personal Advocacy program and keeping it true to the initial goal of integration into the faith life of the Church.
To Tom, life without faith was nothing, and he didn’t want his daughter left in that situation.
It always pained Tom to see how slowly the Service was growing although he, of all people, knew the implications of limited funding. I found him to be incredibly helpful in analysing the budget figures and providing the forward predictions of what would be needed if we were to expand.
He was part of the arduous journey to gain state and government funding in the mid-1990s and part of the later struggle to adjust to the constant changes in Government policy and funding accountability.
I have no doubt there were many nights that Tom spent pouring over the finances of the organisation, trying to come up with new strategies for attracting extra funds and support from the Church community.
Tom’s passing came as a great shock to all the staff of Personal Advocacy Service, both past and present, and to the many volunteers who had been involved over the years.
A warm and loving person, Tom was always present at every function and event that was organised.
He and his wife Fay never failed to send a word of thanks a day or two afterwards as further encouragement for the staff, just to let them know how much their work was appreciated.
Tom was a true champion of people with intellectual disabilities, always promoting the gifts that they have to offer the rest of the community if given the opportunity.”