Vera Garvey was born in Miles, Queensland, on 19th April 1919, the third of four children. Her family moved to Brisbane when she was about four years of age. Vera met her husband, Ken Raymer, in 1938 through church and tennis groups. He became a Flight Sergeant attached to the Catalina Flying Boat section of the RAAF, and served two periods in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. They married on 14th June 1944. Ken died on 27th August 1944.
Vera joined the newly formed War Widows Guild of Australia and was involved in a wide range of fund raising activities. Vera was shocked when she learned how little WWI widows were receiving, and worked tirelessly to have the government keep its promise that it would look after servicemen’s families after the war.
As a graduate in Social Work from the University of Sydney in 1952, her contribution to her profession in the fields of child development, child and family welfare, and the general community was outstanding. She prepared a submission regarding the need for child guidance clinics in Queensland in 1958. The first child guidance clinic in Brisbane was established in September 1959 following the report to Parliament.
Vera was heavily involved on committees leading to the formation of the Old People’s Welfare Council (now COTA Queensland). Vera was also involved in establishing the Catholic Marriage Advisory Service, which led to the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau (now part of Centacare). She worked with other social workers to re-establish the Queensland Council of Social Services and to compile a directory of Social Services in Queensland. Between 1957 and 1960 Vera was involved on the executive committee for the Council on the Ageing Queensland.
Vera returned to study at the University of Queensland, and graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work in 1979. She worked in the Department of Children’s Services, researching and compiling a history of child welfare in Queensland, “Centenary of Care for Children”, to celebrate the centenary of the Orphanages Act.
After retiring in 1983, Vera rejoined the executive committee of the Council on the Ageing (until 1992), during which time the council continued its sponsorship of services for older people – she was involved in planning to establish the University of the Third Age (U3A) and the Older Women’s Network. She also provided a quarterly newsletter for the Council on the Ageing from 1987 to 1991. Between 1985 and 1986, when the home and community care program was introduced, Vera encouraged the committee to contact all interested organizations and churches in the area and, as a result, three local committees on the ageing and disabled were established in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.
Vera’s personal manner and qualification as a social worker was an invaluable asset throughout the 60 years of her involvement. Her interest in social welfare and social justice never wavered, and she retained her membership in a number of organizations. Vera was a foundation member of the War Widows Guild, served on the Guild’s Council, and was awarded Life membership in 2006. Vera volunteered regularly with the Australian Federation of University Women. She was a member of a committee which re-wrote the constitution for this group and, based on the knowledge and experience she gained on this committee, she was able to assist Walking for Pleasure Brisbane (which she had belonged to since 1988) in drafting their constitution and applying for incorporation in 1998.
With the exception of compiling “Centenary of Care for Children” while employed in the Department of Children’s Services, all of Vera’s contributions to the community were voluntary. She was an excellent role model throughout her life. Her wise counselling, tact and negotiating skills earned the respect and admiration of all who served with her.
In 2002 Vera was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her volunteer services to the community. Receiving the OAM was one of the proudest moments of her life.