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Calvary first for ageing Vietnamese community


The first South Australian aged care facility to provide an area specifically designed to meet the cultural needs of the Vietnamese community was officially opened and blessed last month.

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The recent $40 million redevelopment of Calvary Flora McDonald retirement community at Cowandilla provides a total of 153 beds – including 29 beds catering for the Vietnamese community.

Known as the Thien Tam (House of Benevolence) the beds were instigated by the Vietnamese Australian Benevolent Foundation SA, which identified a need for Vietnamese-specific residential aged care in South Australia. The community group then formed a relationship with Mary MacKillop Care to make their vision a reality, with the project completed by Calvary Retirement Communities after it acquired the Cowandilla site in June this year.

Chairman of the Foundation, the Hon Julian Steffani AM, and Board member Hung (Henry) Van Phan were among special guests at the opening of the facility on November 27. Flora McDonald resident Pattie Coverlid welcomed the 250 guests at the ceremony, with the chair of the National Board of the Little Company of Mary Health Care, the Hon. John Watkins AM, declaring the facility officially open. The building was blessed by Vicar General Father Philip Marshall.

South Australian regional manager of Calvary Retirement Communities, Anne Hooper, said the Vietnamese-specific aged care places situated within the broader retirement facility was a direct response to the ageing profile of the so-called ‘boat people’ who fled their war-torn country between 1975 and 1990.

“The Vietnamese community has become an integral contributor to the multicultural fabric of South Australia, while still strongly retaining its own cultural heritage and this initiative respects that – and reflects the fact that these people are now ageing and need our care,” Ms Hooper said.

At the 2016 Australian Census, 14,337 people born in Vietnam were living in the State.

“The majority of those are aged in their 40s, 50s and 60s and are beginning to think about retirement and care in the next stage of their lives,” Ms Hooper added.

“In planning to meet the needs of ageing Vietnamese, we engaged with the Vietnamese community to determine their specific needs and have hired nurses and care employees who can speak Vietnamese.

“There is culturally specific food available and as an illustration of how close the Vietnamese/Australian relations cultures have merged, both menus are available to all residents at Flora McDonald.”

Calvary Health Care’s new South Australian office on Wakefield Street was also opened and blessed on the same day.

Fr Charles Gauci with outgoing Calvary Health Care CEO Mark Doran (right) and incoming CEO Martin Bowles.

Outgoing CEO Mark Doran reflected on the journey of the organisation over the past decade and commended South Australia’s operations and its continual focus on “putting people at the centre of everything we do”.

“People are what this organisation is about,” he said, before cutting the ribbon and officially opening the office that will house employees from several areas, including Calvary hospitals, community care and retirement services.

Father Charles Gauci blessed the building and gave thanks for “God’s continuing presence within our caring community”.

“In particular, we pray that God’s presence will guide the integration of our Calvary services to enhance the work of the many people located in this facility to further improve the outcomes of the clients and patients we serve,” he said.


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