The Cleft Palate and Lip Society (CleftPALS) was established to provide support, reassurance, and knowledge to parents and their families of a child born with a cleft condition. This was the vision when the support group seed was planted. The seed has grown over the years with branches in most states around Australia.
Way back in 1974, the days of flares and free love, CleftPALS was born in NSW. It all started when two friends had babies with a cleft at the same time. The friendship and support that they gleaned from each other was so helpful that they decided to share it with other parents.
In Victoria, it was Joel and Ruth Solomon who led the way with establishing a Victorian branch of the National group. They had moved to Melbourne in 1972 and discovered they had a strong need to talk over the various issues with other parents. After much blood, sweat, and tears, CleftPALS Constitution was written, approved, adopted, and guidelines were put in place. Next came official recognition as a “self-help group” with a main focus on the welfare of our children. Medical professionals began to accept CleftPALS and started to attend meetings and contribute their knowledge, assisting parents in their understanding that a cleft can be repaired and their children can and will live normal lives.
CleftPALS as a national organisation is now past its 30th anniversary. The dedication and drive of many people have contributed to this amazing achievement, and special mention must be made of:
Joel Solomon was the founding President of CleftPALS in Victoria. He spent many years on the committee and has remained active behind the scenes to this day, lobbying the government for changes to benefits for cleft patients. He was awarded the OAM in 2007 for services to CleftPALS.
Robyn McKerlie was actively involved with the Victorian committee for around 25 years. Robyn has kept the embers burning over the years when the committee has been a little sparse – Her dedication to providing information and support to families led to her being awarded an OAM in 2002.
Joyce Alley was a speech pathologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital for many years. Joyce played an integral role in the early days of CleftPALS with the gaining of support of medical professionals. She has also dedicated many years to helping our children with speech and continues to be a staunch supporter of CleftPALS today.
There have been numerous committee members along the way that have made huge contributions to CleftPALS during their time, but we won’t name them all for fear of leaving someone out! We’ll just say “thanks” to all that have contributed!