Dr Brian Dickens - Founder of Westhaven

Doctor Brian Forster Dickens was born in Armidale in 1922. During the Second World War, he earned three distinguished medals, including the Pacific Service Medal during his 33 months fighting on a Navy frigate.

Supported to go to University, Brian was able to realise his dream of studying medicine. It was while he was training in obstetrics at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that Brian met Eula, and the two were married in 1952.

In late 1953, Brian and Eula took their life savings of £200 and their young son Peter to Dubbo, where Brian set up his medical practice. Two more children, Susan and William would soon follow.

In 1957, Brian was instrumental in setting up what would become the Westhaven Association. Beginning as a daycare centre in the Scout Hall for children with a disability, the Association had grown to encompass a school, hostel, farm and sheltered workshop within ten years.

In 1968, Dr Dickens joined a volunteer Australian surgical team with the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, spending three months in war-torn South Vietnam. This commitment to service would earn him another two medals.

Dr Dickens received an Order of the British Empire in 1971 'in recognition of services to the community'. Later that year, he was elected as Alderman for Dubbo Council, a position he held from October 1971 until September 1977. In 1975, Dr. Dickens was appointed as a member of the Intellectually Handicapped Persons Review Tribunal, a position he held for three years.

The year 1981 was a year of highs and lows. On Australia Day 1981, Dr. Dickens was named ‘Citizen of the Year of Dubbo’. However, during this time, Brian’s daughter Susan was fighting Leukaemia, a battle she lost in July 1981. She was 26.

Dr Dickens was elected to the Intellectually Handicapped Persons Review Tribunal for another three years in 1984, and was was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 1986 'for service to the mentally and physically impaired'. Also in 1986, Brian retired from the Westhaven Association. In 1989, he is again elected to the Intellectually Handicapped Persons Review Tribunal, this time for one year.

The 1990s saw Dr Dickens take on projects away from Westhaven, while still working towards the care and protection of others. In this role, Dr Dickens worked hard to ensure the establishment of the Orana Gardens Aged Care Facility. He was elected onto the board of the Dubbo RSL Aged Care Association during this time, and this position led him to being elected Vice-President of the board in 2001.

Dr. Brain Dickens died quietly at Lourdes Hospital Dubbo on the 20th September 2003. He was 81.