History

The Short Statured People of Australia (S.S.P.A.) was founded as the Little People’s Association of Australia (L.P.A.A.), in 1968, by George and Rosemary Whitaker, a short-statured couple from Port Macquarie, New South Wales, a coastal town north of Sydney. In November of that year, they organised the first annual L.P.A.A. National Convention for short-statured people and their families, both from Australia and New Zealand. They recognised that there was a need for an organisation to represent the interests of short-statured people in Australia, which up until that time had been largely ignored by the general community. As a result of this first National Convention, a Steering Committee was formed to establish a draft constitution. The success of this first National Convention enabled the L.P.A.A. to host all subsequent National Conventions on an annual basis in all Australian states, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

A year later in 1969, the L.P.A.A. was formally constituted with a National Council being elected for the first time. Its principal office-bearers were President, Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer.

At the same time the inaugural issue of the L.P.A.A. Newsletter (later called the L.P.A.A. Journal appeared, providing news of interest to members and their families. The formative years also saw close co-operation with the medical profession which provided members with information about the latest research into short stature, while the L.P.A.A. began donating funds to various medical institutions such as the world-renowned Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, to assist with this research.

The early 1970′s saw State branches being formed in Victoria in 1972 and New South Wales in 1974. As well, a social group was commenced in South Australia but it was disbanded in 1977. While internal developments were occurring, the L.P.A.A. also played an indirect role in the formation of LP associations in overseas countries such as New Zealand and Malaysia. National Conventions which had been held annually in New South Wales were now being organised in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

In 1977, the L.P.A.A. held its tenth annual Convention in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, shortly after its co-founder, George Whitaker passed away. At the same Convention, the inaugural annual presentation of the Frank McHugh Memorial Award (later known as the McHugh-Henderson Award) was held. This award was instituted to recognise outstanding achievements by short-statured individuals which brought both credit to themselves and to the Association. Later that year, a bone dysplasia clinic was launched at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria. Another one opened at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney, New South Wales about eighteen months later. The L.P.A.A.’s co-operation with the medical profession was formalised in 1981 when the  National Medical and Scientific Advisory Board (L.P.A.A.) was established.  A year later, the first short stature symposium was held.

Despite constant problems with membership, the S.S.P.A. has always encouraged active participation, especially from its younger members. In 1980, a teenage camp was organised in Victoria and this was followed by another one in New South Wales in 1981. For the first time, the needs of short-statured teenagers were recognised when a youth representative was elected to the National Council in 1980.

In 1982, the L.P.A.A. was represented at the First International Convention of Little People in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. The Association continued to grow through the 1980′s with a branch being formed in South Australia [1983], and within six months it had successfully hosted a convention. Efforts to establish a group in Queensland were tried but failed. By 1987 when the L.P.A.A. held its twentieth Convention in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, both Tasmania [1986] and Western Australia [1987] had also started branches. In 1988, the L.P.A.A. celebrated its twentieth year of operation by hosting the Second International Convention of Little People in Sydney, New South Wales.

During the 1990′s, the Association became truly national when National Conventions were held in Queensland [1992 and 1999], Tasmania [1994] and Western Australia [1996]. Queensland finally established its own branch in 1999 to join the other states.

In 1996, the Little People’s Association of Australia changed its name to Short Statured People of Australia.

[For a more comprehensive history of the L.P.A.A., a book titled "Growing in Stature : twenty years of The Little People’s Association of Australia (1968–1988), by Francis Kelly [a short-statured person, and former President and Chairperson of the Association] is available from the Membership Secretary, Vicki Fallon at e-mail: [email protected].

© 2014 SSPA.