LOOKING BACK: Peter Bortolin and Carmel Rose were at Mary’s Grange residential aged care centre in Lismore when it was officially opened by Gough Whitlam 40 years ago.
LOOKING BACK: Peter Bortolin and Carmel Rose were at Mary’s Grange residential aged care centre in Lismore when it was officially opened by Gough Whitlam 40 years ago. Leah White

Ozanam Villa reflects on history

PETER Bortolin and Carmel Rose can remember the day, 40 years ago, when then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam made the journey to Lismore to officially open Ozanam Villa on June 8, 1975.

"Whitlam came and he was a very charming person," Mr Bortolin recalled. "He was good at talking. He spoke to me in Italian because he said he wanted to practice his Italian."

Current and former staff and residents gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ozanam Villa low level residential care accommodation, now known as Mary's Grange, yesterday morning.

Mr Bortolin said it was in the main communal area that the St Vincent de Paul board, which he was on, had a meeting and he jokingly suggested they should asked Gough Whitlam to officially open the Villa.

"I said it as a joke to get Gough Whitlam and the president at the time said 'yes, good idea' so we tried it through Doug Anthony, who was our local member, and a week later Whitlam accepted our request," he said. "It was also because this was National Party territory so he wanted to put his word in."

Ms Rose, who started work at the aged care centre on March 17, 1975, a few months before it opened, said there was only five staff at the beginning - a number that has since grown to more than 30.

She said on the day of the opening, the five ladies were busy getting food and drink prepared.

"It was absolutely great," she said. "I was working here for nearly 33 years and I've been retired for nearly nine years.

"I thoroughly enjoyed what I did, I loved the aged people.

"We used to have bus trips away and take the oldies for a day out and we used to have fashion parades… we had line dancing, we had fetes, great Christmas parties."

"I still hear from different families every Christmas."

Mary's Grange was initially opened for independent residents but has since changed to suit the residents aging in its care.

In 2014, the ownership of Mary's Grange was transferred to St Vincent's Hospital as part of its vision for a pathway of care for low to high-level continuing aged care.



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