The story of Scalabrini’s aged care village in Griffith is one of Italian migration to the area, the passion of the Italian community and how that passion has created something that now contributes to the city as a whole, regardless of cultural or religious background.
In 1982, members of Griffith’s Italian community began a labour of love: the establishment of a nursing home suited for migrants who had flocked to the Riverina after World War II.
The project was the brainchild of Elsa Dal Nevo, an Italian-born Griffith resident, who was concerned about a shortage of nursing home accommodation in the town. There were long waiting lists for aged care beds and none of the town’s nursing homes were ideal for residents whose first language was Italian.
With more than half of the local population being of Italian background, a nursing home where the elderly could speak their native tongue, enjoy familiar cuisine and be supported in their religious and cultural traditions, was the answer.
After calling a meeting to discuss the problem, within weeks the Griffith Aged Nursing Home Steering Committee was formed.
However, the weight of the task became apparent and advice was sought from Scalabrini Village, which had established a nursing home at Austral for Italian migrants in 1974, providing a template for Griffith. After discussions, the Griffith campaigners and the Sydney organisation agreed to join forces.
The steering committee was replaced by the Scalabrini Village Committee Griffith. Scalabrini Village provided financial and administrative support, with the locals working on fund-raising, building community support and finding a suitable site.
The Ladies’ Social Committee, also known as the Ladies’ Auxiliary, was formed in 1984 and became a mainstay of the village for nearly three decades.
Initially headed by Mrs Dal Nevo, it gained a reputation for energy, creativity and determination and had the knack of attracting hundreds of people to luncheons, gala evenings, fashion parades, movie premieres and concerts. It also helped organise hugely popular spring festivals once the village was built and produced the popular MIA Cuisine cookbook.
Over many years the women raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and brought the community closer together in the process.
After challenging and winning an appeal lodged by an outside party against a government grant - where money was frozen and fundraising came to a standstill for nearly a year – construction started in late 1987, finishing in September 1988.
Scalabrini’s villages in Sydney and Griffith adopted a new model of care in 2016, giving residents more control over their day as possible. Staff now engage with residents by placing greater emphasis on relationships and knowing personal preferences and passions, while upgrades have made living and social spaces homelike and stimulating.
Chicken enclosures and raised garden beds were built at the Griffith village, with residents able to collect eggs and grow vegetables and flowers. There is also a Men’s Shed at the village.
Scalabrini Griffith continues to evolve with community needs and expectations, regulations and aged care research. It opens its doors to people of all cultures and religious backgrounds, continuing to champion its heritage and the essential Scalabrini ingredients of family, faith, fun and good food.
Celebrating the milestone
THE 30th anniversary of Scalabrini Village was celebrated with a cocktail party at the facility on October 25.
The party followed an afternoon mass, led by Fr Savino Bernardi and with Sr Maria Elena and Sr Ester, which was open to residents and the wider community.
Guests were welcomed by village manager Elizabeth Harpley, before Scalabrini chief executive officer Elaine Griffin and board chairman Professor Leroy Certoma both addressed those present.
Former president of Scalabrini Village committee (1991-2007) Joe Catanzariti was also called on to reflect on the institution he led for so many years.
After a prayer by Fr Savino the anniversary cake was cut, followed by a toast from the CEO and the presentation of a book written especially for the 30th anniversary of Scalabrini Village.
The final task of the official proceedings was the planting of a tree in honour of Nico Torreson and Elsa dal Nevo, whose drive and determination led to the establishment of Scalabrini Village.