The Gabriel Centre is today an umbrella term for the various activities taking place with the support of the Gabriel Trust, which was established from the work of Maternal and Child Health Nurse, Joan Salter.
Joan Salter established a private maternal and child health centre, called the Gabriel Baby Centre in 1976. Her intention was to bring a particular view of the growing child to interested new parents, informed by her study of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy of the human being. She chose the name after the angel of the Annunciation, the protective spirit watching over the child’s progress from the development in the womb to birth and beyond, until school age is reached.
Her books, “The Incarnating Child” and “Mothering with Soul” were based upon her study course on child care which she ran for parents for many years. In her foreward to “The Incarnating Child,” Joan Salter wrote that she wanted to bring something ‘new’ to the vast number of publications available on childcare and parenting. This was not to reject the information which was already available, but was intended to bring a much needed spiritual perspective of the human being which parents instinctively were seeking, and continue to do so today in an ever increasing materialistically oriented world. This perspective is the three-fold human being comprising body, soul and spirit.
Joan wrote: “My task has been to present the spiritual reality of the child, and to outline a practical childcare which recognises this… Parents and educators must be deeply concerned for the whole body and the soul. Sense impressions, fantasy play, opportunities for being active in the limbs, heart and head at the right time, all these things take on a new and wide-flung dimensions affecting each individual and thus the whole of humanity. It is an immense and urgent responsibility, hardly yet recognised. Many parents today just begin to sense it as they seek to ‘do the right thing.’ Their children are the hope of tomorrow.”
With this emphasis on the core role parents play in providing a foundation for healthy child development as an essential contributing factor toward growing a healthy society, Joan Salter shared her knowledge borne of many years working with parents and children, and from her life long study of Anthroposophy.
Working in collaboration with Joan Salter for many yeas was Bettye Palmer, a midwife who worked deeply with women having home births, and who later worked in the Critical Care Nursery at Knox Private Hospital, before becoming the Manager of Maternity Services there.
Toward the end of her life Joan Salter asked Bettye to carry forth the impulse of the Gabriel Centre. In 2007 Bettye completed post-graduate training, as part of this process toward leading the Gabriel Centre into the future. Bettye brought a creative, nurturing and dedicated energy to her task of taking the Gabriel work forward, and under her directorship the Centre grew and established lasting relationships with mothers and babies who came through the door to Bettye’s consulting room. The rich legacy left by Bettye’s inspiration left a lasting foundation upon which the Gabriel Centre rests today. Bettye Palmer died in 2011.
Today the Gabriel Trust seeks to carry this impulse through its various activities:
- Maternal and Child Health Nursing
- Gabriel Conversation Groups
- Gabriel Playgroups
- Gabriel Talks