On Wednesday 29 March, residents, staff and invited guests joined Archbishop Peter A Comensoli to officially open Calvary Health Care’s landmark retirement living, health and aged-care precinct, Calvary Kooyong.

A procession wove its way through each part of the integrated precinct giving residents, patients, families, volunteers, and clinical and support staff the opportunity to share in the celebrations.

Designed to support the changing health and lifestyle needs of patients and residents, the $154 million precinct is built on the site of the former Calvary Bethlehem hospital in Melbourne’s Caulfield South.

It brings together 69 premium retirement living units in the Hyson Apartments, 83 contemporary residential aged-care rooms in the Huntly Suites, Calvary’s in-home care and Calvary Bethlehem’s existing specialist hospital and health service for people needing palliative care or living with progressive neurological conditions. It will also include GP and other health services.

Calvary’s National Chief Executive Officer Martin Bowles said Calvary Kooyong heralds an exciting step forward in the delivery of integrated care, saying ‘Calvary Kooyong sets a new benchmark for integrated living and care.’

‘The whole aim of Calvary Kooyong is to support our residents and patients to live well and in place as they age or as their care needs change. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved and thank everyone who has contributed and worked so hard to turn our vision into such a wonderful reality.’

More than 70 people attended the official opening ceremony and blessing, including Calvary Ministries Chair the Honourable Michael Lee, and representatives of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Glen Eira Council, peak health agencies, those involved in the precinct’s development and construction, interfaith groups and the traditional owners, the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation.

‘Pools of silence in this thirsty land’

One of the ways that Calvary supports its residents in ‘living well’ is through the provision of a beautiful chapel, which was blessed by the Very Reverend Denis Stanley, Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, at the inaugural Mass in February.

Fr Stanley described the chapel as a unique part of the precinct, offering comfort and healing amids the purposeful daily business of life and work.

Quoting Australian poet James McAuley, Fr Stanley expressed his hope that the chapel would ‘be a blessing for everyone who crosses this threshold’ and ‘set pools of silence in this thirsty land’, becoming a place of refuge and comfort for those experiencing the ‘thirst for healing, the thirst for care, and that thirst for the good of others’.

Fr Stanley was joined by retirement and aged care residents, staff and volunteers, Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, and Father Ray Scanlon, who served for many years as site chaplain at Calvary Bethlehem until his retirement in 2022.

Stained glass, retained from the original chapel on the site, has been incorporated into the new chapel—one of the many ways that the site’s 80-year history of healing and health care has been incorporated into Calvary’s ongoing mission to provide quality and compassionate care to the most vulnerable, including those reaching the end of their life.

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Graham’s story

Graham Archer personifies Calvary Kooyong’s long-held vision and underlying care concept of supporting its residents and patients to live well and meet their changing health or social needs.

‘This whole place really is a total package,’ says Graham, whose world changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

‘I’ve received so much benefit from this concept of Calvary’s, and the positive attitude of everyone around me whose whole approach is “We’re here to help”.’

The whole of Calvary Kooyong is designed to meet people’s changing needs—whether they are living in the Hyson retirement units or Huntly Suites aged-care home, or are receiving specialist palliative care at Calvary Bethlehem hospital, Victoria’s statewide provider of services for people living with progressive neurological conditions.

Graham was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in October 2022 after initially experiencing difficulty using his right hand. By December, he had become a patient with Calvary Bethlehem and soon realised that he would not be able to live at home on his own any more. His concerns about where he would live and how he would cope quickly mounted.

But his move with other patients to Calvary Bethlehem’s new sub-acute hospital at the Calvary Kooyong precinct in early January proved a game changer for the former Puffing Billy Railway administrator. It opened up options that Graham had never thought possible—the chance to live in a place he could call home again, and receive the care he needs on the same site.

‘It broke me up. I didn’t think there was a chance any of that could happen, and they made it all happen so quickly and so smoothly,’ he said.

You just can’t imagine how I feel. I’ve been blown away by the care and people at Bethlehem and here at the new precinct site. Everyone is so focussed on doing the best for me. The whole philosophy is geared towards maximising the care and what independence I can achieve within the limits of my condition and ability.

There is much that the keen stamp collector, gardener and traveller can no longer do, but he’s not giving up and is instead taking a positive attitude and leaning on the support of his adult children and the staff at Calvary Kooyong and MND Victoria.

‘I’ve just had to accept it. It has been hard, but I recognised that I could never live alone again. I also can’t drive again. My right arm is virtually useless now for doing much, especially anything involving fine motor skills, and I’ve now only got about 50 per cent use of my left arm.

‘I struggle with a lot of things—cutting things up, doing up buttons, zippers, opening packets, bottle caps, writing. So many simple things that I took for granted all my life. I get so frustrated now because it takes me ages to even get dressed.

‘But I have decided that I’m going to do the very best I can with what I have got. I’m not going to crawl into a hole and give up. The positive attitude of everyone around me, it rubs off.’

Calvary was founded by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary and is run by Little Company of Mary Health Care (LCMHC).

LCMHC Board Chair Jim Birch said the Kooyong precinct represents a new chapter, enabling Calvary to continue its mission of providing quality, compassionate care and services for an extended community.

Calvary has been providing care and health services from this site for 80 years, and we are very much looking forward to an exciting future that incorporates retirement living, aged care and health services in one integrated location.

In 1885, six courageous Sisters sailed into Sydney to continue the mission of Venerable Mary Potter and the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary to care for those in need. Thus began Calvary’s enduring legacy of care in Australia. Today, Calvary continues their mission in hospitals, home and virtual care services, retirement living and residential aged care homes across five states and two territories.

For more information about Calvary Kooyong, visit www.calvarykooyongprecinct.org.au.

Banner image: Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Calvary Kooyong General Manager Shannon Thompson and Calvary Health Care CEO Martin Bowles unveil the plaque. (Photo courtesy of Little Company of Mary Health Care.)