The Dalgarno Institute was named after a woman who was a key figure in the early reformation movements of the mid-19th Century. Isabella Dalgarno personified the spirit of a large and growing movement of socially responsible people who had a heart for both social justice and social responsibility.

These other focused people took on the prevailing culture blighted by alcohol abuse, and the associated marginalization of women and children along with corruption and bigotry. They stood up against it and said ‘enough is enough.’ They were ridiculed, belittled and seemed powerless against corrupt attitudes and officials, but they cared enough about the community and nation to make a difference. They sought to change the landscape, and they did. In fact, it took the concerted effort of these altruistic folk to ‘nudge’ the Government of the day to start making changes.

However, before that, there wasn’t much that stood between the society and destruction from the systemic problem of alcohol and other substance abuse. One such event will give you an idea of what these earlier proactive and protective people were up against.

Mrs. Dalgarno was involved at a Melbourne Total Abstinence Society Meeting in 1844 at Scots School, when a bunch of drunken thugs, led by Phillip Anderson from the Commercial Inn, burst into the meeting and with a violence inflamed by alcohol, tore the meeting apart and trashed furniture, broke windows and assaulted, what Anderson and his mob called, the ‘water demons’. (Yep, you read right!) But it gets worse! To add insult to injury when Mr. Anderson was brought to the courts to give account for his reckless, violent and shocking behaviour, he was confronted by an ally on the bench. The magistrate who was to hear the charges was Mr. Hull, a wholesale spirits merchant!

So here we have an orderly meeting attended by sober people wanting to see change for a society being wrecked by alcohol, being violently destroyed by drunken thugs, then coming to a key purveyor of the very substance that is destroying not only properties, but individuals and families.

Your guess as to what happened next? Magistrate Hull said that it was inappropriate for a woman to speak before They cared enough about the community and nation to make a difference. 3 Dalgarno Institute | Minimising harm by maximising prevention men and in essence, if she had held her tongue and not spoken out against drunkenness in such a challenging manner, she and her meeting would not have been set upon... So, the charges were dismissed, and what’s more the Total Abstinence Society had to pay Mr. Anderson’s costs! Only days later, a pub owner of the Scottish Hotel in Bourke St was presented to the same Magistrate Hull, on charges of horse whipping the President of the Total Abstinence Society for calling him a “procurer of whores”.

For this brutal and vicious attack he was fined a laughably low amount... Such was the sway of certain elements of the Alcohol industry, and the indifferent and egocentric government, over the culture. It doesn’t take any great insight to see that the need for intervention is back on the table! The Dalgarno Institute is a growing coalition of groups, agencies and individuals, all founded on over 150 years of heritage in social and cultural impact.

This community based and community empowered health education charity continues to build on the incredible service of past groups, organisations and unions across the nation. Concerned Australians who didn’t simply protest a problem, but provided positive alternatives and enacted social justice and social responsibility changes that resonated for decades in individual, family and community lives.