Jul 09, 2021

“I feel really upset”: Award-winning aged care home still remains closed 7 years after completion

The Walumba Elders Centre

Now angry residents are blaming the government for a series of blunders that are limiting the ability of the remote town’s older residents to remain ageing in place.

The town of Warmun lies in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, 3,000 kilometres northeast of Perth.

The aged care home, called The Walumba Elders Centre, was built in 2014 and received the Health Award at the 2015 World Architecture Festival. 

The structure was built as part of a government program to rebuild the town after floods devastated the area in 2011.

Yet the home has never opened after the government failed to provide funding for operation, and now millions has to be spent to bring the building up to current standards. 

When the building opened, high electricity costs and upkeep of the state-of-the-art facility caused major problems for the town’s leadership. 

The community has had to cover $100,000 insurance bills every year for a building that lies vacant and unused.

The Western Australian government managed the build and intended for Warmun Community Incorporated to operate the facility. However, the local community wanted a third party to come in to help the community run the facility, according to a report by the ABC.

“I feel really upset.”

Purdie added, “We trusted people to come in to do the work for us and thought that we were just going to put our old people in and it’s going to be open,” Purdie said.

The federal health department told the ABC the previous aged care home that was destroyed in the 2011 floods was not funded by the commonwealth, therefore it was not the federal government’s role to fund the new facility.

The ABC has reported that the WA government only focused on building the home, not the ongoing operations. However, the state government is contributing $500,000 to upgrade the building, necessitated by recent changes to the building code.

A statement from the Commonwealth Department of Health said funding for operations will be provided when the building work is complete.

Community leaders are desperate to have the home open so Warmun’s elders can be cared for on Gija country.

“We’re still waiting,” Purdie said.

“We still want … to see my people get the best care so they live happily ever after on their country,” she added.

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