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Early in 1977 Dame Marie Breen, the State President of the Victorian Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and member of the executive of the National Council for Women, began informal approaches to the members of the National Council of Women regarding the lack of information services in the Gippsland region.

Mrs Tina Bons, secretary of the National Council for Women, South Gippsland Branch, decided to initiate a Citizens Advice Bureau in Leongatha.  An interim committee consisting of President Mr. Jim Williams, Vice President Mrs. Lesley Welch, Secretary Tina Bons and Treasurer Mrs. Pat Bell set about obtaining funding, finding premises and seeking volunteers.



6th July, the Honourable Brian Dixon, Minister of Social Welfare, officially opened the South Gippsland Citizens’ Advice Bureau at its initial premises in Russell Court, Leongatha.

Jack and Joy Edney provided the bureau space for a nominal rent. The Apex Club painted the rooms, Leongatha Furnishings provided the carpet, Barbara Morris organised office fittings from spare furniture at Oakley & Thomson, Solicitors and Peter Norton painted the signs.


15th August, committee meetings moved from the Leongatha Education Centre to Russell Court and a ‘McIntyre’ card system was established to track and cross-reference CAB activities.

Initial opening hours were Monday and Thursday 11 am to 3 pm and Friday evening 7 to 9 pm. Volunteer training was established at the bureau after ‘remote’ training proved too inefficient.


Displays at Leongatha, Foster, Korumburra, Mirboo North and Yarram Agricultural Shows.


Following renovations at the Memorial Hall complex, the bureau moved from Russell Court to a small suite near the shire council chambers entrance in Michael Place, Leongatha. Councillor Harold Vagg was a great supporter of the CAB and suggested the relocation. The Woorayl Shire Council provided the CAB with an annual grant, office space and power.

Late 1980s

The CAB forms a valuable association with the Westernport Regional Association of Community Information Centres. WRACIC covered the south-east area of Melbourne, Springvale to Hastings, Narre Warren to Morwell. Since the formation of the Victorian umbrella group for community organisations, Community Information & Support Victoria (CISVic), the CAB receives information, training support and accreditation from this body.


CAB Tax Help is established and operated at the bureau by Mary Pickersgill. This service, to assist non-business taxpayers with preparing and lodging annual returns, is provided annually at EOFY and normally conducted through the Australian Tax Office web portal.


Funded directly from local shires after the VCS ceases funding. Mirboo, Korumburra & Woorayl Shires merge with South Gippsland Shire Council in 1994.


CAB President, Trainer and Tax Help Co-ordinator, Mary Pickersgill receives the Woorayl Citizen of the Year Award.


Charity Christmas cards first went on sale at the bureau.


Foster outreach office operated on Fridays for a period of time.


Inquiries to the CAB are now at 6,026 per annum, from a base of just 160 in 1978. The bureau has kept detailed records of inquiries since its inception and continues to do so.

Late 1990s

Desktop computer provided to the CAB by the Commonwealth Bank. Information regarding organisations within the shire transferred from the paper-based ‘McIntyre’ system to the new ‘Infocom’ data base. System installed and initiated by Barbara Carpenter and maintained by Cheryl Savage.


CAB begins to collect and collate Client Statistics in accordance with a system created by Community Information Victoria. These statistics are used to give government agencies accurate and current data on the kinds of services the community requires and uses regularly.


Centrelink Touch Screen job search facility installed. Later supplanted by a number of individual employment agencies after the demise of the government-run Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).

Early 2000s

Computer equipment regularly updated.


CAB establishes permanent connection to the internet. Amongst other advantages, this facility allowed integration with Community Information Victoria (now known as CISVic).


South Gippsland Volunteer Resource Centre established by Maureen Sivyer to offer training to unemployed youths and others in order to develop work-ready skills. Owing to a lack of ongoing funding, the centre closed in 2002.


Co-ordinator and Secretary, Margaret Gwyther receives the Woorayl Citizen of the Year Award.


Based on the Infocom data base, the Community Directory was established and administered by the CAB. Support was provided by the shire for this volunteer-run service, with links directly to the shire via ‘phone and the shire website. In 2019, the service became the responsibility of the shire’s IT department.


Refurbishment of the bureau’s interior to comply with current Health and Safety standards.


Following the government’s closure of Leongatha’s Centrelink office, the CAB successfully tenders for the operation of a sub-branch, with the office transferred to recently refurbished premises at Michael Place. The sub-branch, with Centrelink-trained staff drawn from our volunteer cohort, has been in continual operation since.


The South Gippsland Citizens Advice Bureau and Visitor Information Centre is established in the (current) corner premises at the Leongatha Memorial Hall complex.

Late 2000s

A monthly newsletter for committee, volunteers and interested parties is created by Nick Peck. The CAB Express, first produced as hard copy and later as a PDF file is a valuable addition that keeps volunteers, spread far and wide, informed about the bureau’s activities.


CAB opening hours go to 7-days a week, with the bureau now open 363 days a year.


The CAB-operated Centrelink sub-branch increases its opening hours to 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.


Founding member Tina Bons celebrates her 90th birthday and 40 years’ service to the CAB.

2017 – Founding member Shirley Reeves is awarded an Order of Australia medal for her community work, particularly with youth in South Gippsland shire.


Direct funding from the South Gippsland Shire for operating costs ceases but provision of office space and power costs maintained. CAB continues to receive indirect federal funding via the Department of Human Services (Services Australia, 2020) to operate the Centrelink sub-branch.


Although volunteer-run, the South Gippsland CAB has successfully sought funding from a number of sources throughout its operation. It also supports other organisations’ funding efforts via the sale of Christmas cards and limited tourism-related items.


Funded by the Victorian Department of Community Services via the Shire of Woorayl


Funded directly from local shires after the VCS ceases funding


Mirboo, Korumburra & Woorayl Shires merge with South Gippsland Shire Council. Limited funding and in-kind support from the newly merged shire entity.

Additional funding from the Department of Human Services in order to pay Centrelink staff and operate a sub-branch.

2019 – Direct funding from the South Gippsland Shire ceases but office space and power costs maintained. CAB continues to receive federal funding from the Department of Human Services (Services Australia, 2020).


Past South Gippsland CAB members

Betty Anthony

Kitty Barrow

Tina Bons

Jessie Burgraaft

Val Caithness

Evelyn Carfrae

Marge Carfrae

Dorothy Derricot

Mary Eagger

Jack Edney

Margaret Gwyther

Joan Hulands

Ken Lehmann

Yvonne Leslie

Susannah Martin

Freda Morris

Marjorie Newton

Noreen Norton

Shirley Reeves

Margot Rodwell

Corry Schelling

Betty Spaull

Joy Stanley

Rolf Taylor

Jim Williams

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