Graham Cavanagh-Downs stepped down as Chairman this year, after more than three decades serving on the Board of Christadelphian Homes.
When Graham first joined the Board of Christadelphian Homes in 1986, the organisation ran a nursing home out of a large old house in Strathfield, and a hostel in Padstow Heights.
More than three decades later, the organisation has experienced tremendous growth, largely due to the efforts of Graham and those who have worked with him.
“It was clear to me in the early days, if we were to provide the sort of services that were needed, a larger and more professional organisation was required,” Graham said.
“The founding brethren of the Strathfield facility established it to care for the aged Christadelphian community. Reading the early comments from the opening of Strathfield, it was clear to me that they did see the future possibility of serving a wider community than our own, and that thought stuck in my mind for a long time.”
The first big project Graham and the Board took on was redeveloping the Strathfield site and building the Southhaven nursing home at Padstow Heights.
“It was very much hands on in the first few years, for Board members. Until we grew to a size where we could afford a comprehensive management and support structure, for the Board, the early days were very much ‘hands on’ helping out with a lots of jobs,” he said.
In the early 1990s, the Board formally examined the goals of the organisation in order to identify its future direction.
“We made a decision that, even though looking after any Christadelphians who needed care would remain our first priority, the real reason we were growing in size was to enable the Christadelphian community to provide outreach into the community, by providing a loving and Christ-like environment for people who needed care,” Graham said.
“We had a lot of experience in aged care, and caring for the aged seemed to all of us a great opportunity for good works, through our involvement with our neighbours in the community.”
The changes across the aged care industry over the years Graham has served on the Board have been immense, including the current major challenge of government funding cuts in the face of higher care needs.
“In the early days, our residents in the hostel were still driving cars. Now, we only look after those needing high care; most of these people would be in hospital if they weren’t in aged care. There is a failure to see the real issues facing the aged care industry, and the continuity and clear direction for the future is sadly lacking.”
He attributes the strength of the Board over the years to growing the organisation into what it is today.
“We have a top-quality professional Board, who have, over time, developed a well-run modern organisation which continues to improve in spite of the enormous challenges faced.”
The support of his wife Dorothy had also been instrumental over the years, Graham said.
“She’s been fantastic, and is well-known at most facilities from when we visited together. Of course, with her nursing background, she was always a very good sounding board, particularly around the issues of care.
“I do pray that God will continue to bless and guide our efforts with this important outreach activity on behalf of our Christadelphian community and that the organisation will continue to develop and grow in order to achieve long term sustainability, while always maintaining high quality of care,” he said.