Unique Karinya community aged care centre to turn forty

John Lee got involved in managing one of Australia's only community-own aged care homes by accident.
John Lee got involved in managing one of Australia's only community-own aged care homes by accident.

John Lee got involved in managing one of Australia's only community-own aged care homes by accident.

He saw red when he heard the Karinya committee were considering using out-of-town contractors to build the five dwelling $100,000 complex.

He came along to just give them a piece of his mind. Forty years later, he's into his third term as president.

The aged care home has changed since October 26 1979. It's a lot bigger, with 24 units and a house and plans for more.

One thing that hasn't: the entry fee is still zero.


"We've got a selection committee (instead). At the moment we'd have at least 8 applicants," he explained.

"When a unit becomes available, such as we've got down here now with unit 4, then the selection committee will interview every person that's on the list and then it's taken on what we think is need.

"Need can be an old lady in a big old house and she can't do the lawns, it's falling down around her - loneliness, there's all sorts of things that come into the equation."

Residents have to pay modest rent, but it's substantially less than the aged care pension. People come from all walks of life. Some people who rent a unit are used to dirt floors; others might have owned a mansion.

He said it was one of the things that separates Karinya from larger commercialized aged care not everyone can afford.

Even the name is friendly, an Indigenous word for "happy home".


But it wasn't easy constructing the "unique" centre, said President Lee.

It took fourteen years to get the plans off the ground, with the idea first mooted in 1961. Then they had to raise the money, $100,000 - "real hard" to do in those days.

John was president of Apex at the time and helped raise the money, hence his warning about local contractors: "if Karinya, being a local project, expected further help from the local community then local builders and tradespeople should be used".

They were and have always been since.

Then when the first five units finally went up, they had trouble enticing people to rent, forcing an extension of applications.

"A lot of people were apprehensive; it was a new project and they weren't sure about coming in here."

It wouldn't have got done without the enormous work of then-mayor and committee president George Priest.

"It's been of great interest to me to see this place develop from the first meetings that I went to where there was virtually no money, we had no land.

"But George Priest had this idea and it was going to happen!"

Karinya was finally opened by local MP Ian Sinclair, forty years ago on Saturday October 26. The centre will hold a quiet celebration on Saturday October 19 from 10.30am.

What is the number one benefit of Karinya?

"It's probably giving people a safe and comfortable place to live, whereas if they were living as individuals in flats elsewhere that may not be the case," said John Lee.

"They've also got the comfort of knowing that any problems are fixed pronto."