History of the Villa Dalmacia Association to 2010

Board of Villa Dalmacia (Inc) 1989

Back Row: Denis Tomasich, Vic Jakovich, Norm Srdarov, Tony Ingrilli

Front Row: Anton Pogorelich, Norm Marinovich (Chairman), Alec Banovich, Max Zuvela

History of the Villa Dalmacia  Association (Inc)


Speech delivered by Dr Norman Marinovich at the Croatian History Group Breakfast held at the Fremantle Sailing Club on the 1st of October 2010.


Villa Dalmacia aged care facility is the result of work of not just a few but of hundreds of people.


It’s a fine example of how a strong, cohesive community can achieve great results in the face of what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.


Before I go into the story of how it all happened I must first apologise to the many people who have made a significant contribution over the years to the development of the Villa but who I won’t have time to mention.


Secondly, I will use the terms “Slav” and “Yugoslav” in discussing the early development of the Villa as that was how Australians and their bureaucracies referred to the people we know as Croatians, Serbs, Bosnians etc.


Let us go back to how it all started.


The issue of the need for aged care accommodation was raised by a number of Yugoslav people in the 1970s but nothing came of it.


It was the convergence of two societal factors that lead to the successful realisation of that goal.


Firstly, a rapidly increasing number of Yugoslavs who had migrated to Australia before and soon after World War 2 were ageing, becoming frail and were a concern to their family and friends.


Secondly, the children of these ageing Slavs had grown up, been educated in Australia and were therefore more adept working with the Australian political system and bureaucracy in striving to develop services for their aged and frail family members or friends. It was from these children primarily that a group formed which worked to establish the aged care facility we now have.


The original team.

I meet “Bano”, Alec Banovich, in the early 1970s. He is a Belmont boy whose parents came from Zaostrog, which he claimed was the cultural centre of Dalmacia, which I knew was wrong as that honour belongs to Zupa, where my Mum came from.


Bano graduated as a pharmacist and opened a shop in South Fremantle. Aside from his successful pharmacy he was very active in Yugoslav community affairs being one of the prime movers in the development of the Spearwood Dalmatinac Club and also filling the very demanding role as an unpaid social worker for the local Slav community. As a lot of his customers were also my patients we often discussed the major problems our people had in getting appropriate care when they needed aged care services.


By 1980 we concluded that we needed to work to develop an aged care facility for frail aged Slavs in WA.


In 1981 we made a submission to the Cockburn City Council (CCC) requesting a grant of some land in Azalia Rd, adjacent to the “Dali” Club, where we could build a nursing home. We were knocked back. We decided that we needed more expertise in development and asked Max Zuvela to join us.


Max had grown up in Spearwood, gained his architectural qualifications in WA and had been heavily involved in a number of community project in the metropolitan area. His research revealed that although some of the land on the east side of Gorham Way was zoned as public open space, residential development had been allowed. He suggested to rectify this anomaly, the vacant land which was an extension of the inappropriate residential development and where the Villa is now, be rezoned for the purpose of allowing a nursing home to be built there.


In September 1982 we made a submission to the Cockburn City Council and the Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority (MRPA) for the land to be rezoned for our purpose. The Council agreed in principle.

In October 1982 we had meetings with the local residents and the CCC to explain our proposal. Concern was expressed about potential increases in traffic flow in the area.

In February 1983 the MRPA rejected our proposal for the rezoning of the Gorham Way land.

In the same month the new Labor Government was elected. We asked the new Minister for Planning, David Parker, to review the MRPA decision. He arranged for us to meet with the Chairman of the MRPA, Ian Wilkins.

In October 1983 we met with representatives of the other Yugoslav Clubs who agreed to offer their support for our proposal but there was some disagreement on the preferred site.

March 1984, the MRPA agree to sell 1.6 ha in Gorham Way for the purpose of building a not for profit aged care facility for a price of $65,000 to be paid immediately.

April 1984 Bano, Max and I met with the Board of Sumich and Sons- Jack Sumich, Spiro Novak, Charlie Bacich, Ivan Petkovich, Lori and Budi Sumich. They agreed to give a donation of $65,000 in four instalments. This was a major forward step in our project.





Also early in 1984 we decided we needed more expertise and a more formal structure in our group and organisation so in January 1984 we incorporated ourselves as the Yugoslav Australian Nursing Home Association. In the previous year or so we gradually invited onto the Board new members who had varied skills necessary for us to attain our goal. These were Vic Jakovich who had strong business skills and later on proved to be an outstanding fundraiser, Denis Tomasich who was an administrator with the Education Department and Honorary Secretary of the Spearwood Dalmatinac Club, Norm Srdarov who was a lawyer, Anton Pogorelich who had been active in community affairs and was a registered builder and Tony Ingrilli who was on the board of a number of market gardening organisations and widely known in the Slav and Italian communities.

The Association was granted tax exempt status in February 1984. In early 1984 we commenced regular formal monthly meetings at 36 Holdsworth St in Fremantle and continued meeting there until we moved to the donga on the building site in the late 1980s.


June 1984, the Commonwealth Department of Community Services and Ageing (DCS&A) advised us that our application for a nursing home was unlikely to succeed and suggested we apply to develop a 40 bed Hostel for the Aged.

September 1984, the CCC rezoned the Gorham Way land to permit use for aged residence.

November 1984, DCS&A reject Hostel application.

At that time the Hawke Labor Government made moneys available for the development of Ethnic Specific Aged Accommodation.

May 1985, we made an application to the Federal Government for approval and funding for a 40 bed nursing home as data showed that there were more than 1000 people of Yugoslav birth above 70 years of age in WA. These numbers fulfilled the guidelines set by the DCS&A for the provision of nursing home beds.

May 1986, DCS&A rejected our application stating there were too many nursing home beds for all aged in WA.

May 1986, John Dawkins , the Federal Member for Fremantle, arranged for me to meet with the Minister for the Aged, Don Grimes in Canberra.

September 1986 the Minister reversed the Department decision on the grounds that we were to be a State wide provider for an ethnic group of which sufficient numbers were aged, that there is a need for such a facility and that we were a viable community organisation. He gave approval for 39 beds and Commonwealth funding of $860,000 on the proviso that we raise $200,000 before September 1987. We therefore commenced a search for a professional fundraiser and in August 1989 appointed Jan Yerkovich to that role at generous fee concession.


In late August 1987 our Fundraising Campaign was launched at the Spearwood Dalmatinac Club.

The Patrons of the Campaign were George Schaffer (Calsil Brick), Vice Yovich (Consolidated Construction), Jack Sumich (Sumich&Sons), Tony Andrijasevich ( Ranch Auto), Mal Bosich ( Bosich Engineering) and Kevin Watson ( State Manager ANZ Bank).

With the help of Norm Marlborough, State Member for Peel, we had Premier Brian Burke launch the Appeal. Before an enthusiastic crowd he committed the State Government to donate $125,000 to our Appeal. He later told us that he had been advised to offer a donation of $100,000 but was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the crowd that he unilaterally raised it by $25,000 much to the consternation of his staff.

The Campaign goal was to raise $750,000 and we hoped to borrow the rest required to complete our project. We expected our project to cost more than $2 million. Our fundraising efforts were so successful that we ultimately raised $1.2 million.

December 1987, DCS& A advised us that approval will be granted provided we purchase the licenced beds we require. With the assistance of Pauline Iles, who was the director of Nursing at the St Michaels Aged Home in North Perth, we were able to purchase 39 bed licences from the Kallarra Nursing Home for $200,000.

March 1988 building commenced by Tecon Construction which was owned by Anton Pogorelich and John Petkovich. Anton acted as Project Manager, was present on the site virtually daily for the next year until the completion of the building and provided his service at no cost to the project.

The earthmoving work was provided free of charge by Renzo Della Bona, Sam Jakovich, Joe and  George Radonich and their namesake and neighbour George Radonich who lived just down the road.

Air conditioning was donated by Vic and Peter Jakovich of Jako Industriies.

Many other people provided goods and services at no cost and with great enthusiasm. For instance —– —     Zabica  did a large part of the painting at no cost.

Ultimately our architect Max Zuvela estimated that the total cost of the construction of $2.15 million would have been 30% higher were it not for the donations of labour and goods by members of our community.

In mid-1988 Zarka Sumich was appointed as the Director of Nursing of the Villa so that she could commence detailed planning needed to make a functioning nursing home out of what was at that time a half competed shell of a building. In this planning she had invaluable assistance from Kevin Lamb the recently retired Administrator of the Perth Dental Hospital. Kevin donated his time and expertise, meeting a number of times per week with Zarka to put in place all the factors necessary to ensure the nursing home was fully commissioned in time for the official opening. They were assisted in their task in the early months of 1989 by Vince Sinagra who was appointed to the role of Administrator.

The Official Opening of the Villa took place on the 23rd of April 1989 in the presence3 of  Peter Staples , the federal Minister for the Aged, and John Dawkins , the Federal Member for Fremantle. Also present were Bob Maher and John Pyke from the DCS&A who had been extremely helpful in promoting our case to their Department.

After the opening the Villa rapidly filled its beds and, because of the excellent level of care it provided to its residents, has since then been in high demand from families wishing to provide the best environment for their elderly folk.

Fundraising continued mainly initiated by the Womens Committee consisting of Nada Zuvela (Chair ), Maria Della Bona, Vesna Banovich, Jadranka Jakovich, Jean Srhoy and Anna Strk. They arranged a number of Jumble Sales, Balls, Breakfasts at the Fremantle Sailing Club and Fetes in Manning Park. Not only did these activities raise approximately $200,000 for the Villa in the first few years but it also drew together community members from the whole Metro area such as Joe Ozich and Olga Bebich, from the Hills and the Swan, who donated wine and grapes and members of the North Fremantle Croatian Club who provided cakes and musicians.


1991, the Villa continued to thrive. Norm Marinovich resigned as Chairman and was succeeded by Alec Banovich

1994 Vic Jakovich took over as Chairman. During his tenure a 10 bed Hostel was added to the Villa at a cost of $850,000. It was designed by Tsigulis and Zuvela, the work was project managed by Tony and Steve Srhoy with fundraising successfully run by Vic Jakovich and Alec Banovich. As on previous projects the individuals mentioned donated their contributions to the Villa as did many others who helped complete the project.

1996, the Day Centre was built at a cost of $250,000. Fundraising was successfully managed by Vic Jakovich and Max Zuvela and included a $30,000 donation from Watsonia. The Centre has been a great success under the leadership of Jadrana Surjan and a large group of volunteers including Reggie Petkovich, Jessie Bond, Rita and Elsie Tomasevich, Ena Andricich, Maria Gastevich and many others.

1997, Ivan Unkovich appointed as Chairman.

1999, Teo Prka elected Chairman

2001, Zarka Sumich retired as Director of Nursing and Anna Nolan appointed as replacement.

2003, Dementia Wing of 20 beds constructed at a cost of $2.3 million. A fundraising campaign raised $1.6 million and was run by Max Zuvela, Teo Prka, Brad Miocevich, Steve Sikirich and Vic Jakovich. As usual many people donated in services and equipment such as Renzo Della Bona donating all the earthwork services.

2004, Brad Miocevich elected as Chairman.

2004, Teresa Hickman appointed as Director of Nursing and Administration.

2008, commencement of $1.0 million refurbishment.

2008, Steve Sikirich elected Chairman.

2009, planning commences for Independent Living Units.

So, in 2010 the Villa has evolved into very successful aged care facility because of the high quality of care provided by its ethnically diverse staff, excellent administrative oversight and a committed and proactive Board.

Also the active involvement of members of the community has enhanced that care and also limited the cost of running the facility. Special mention must be made of Tony and Steve Srhoy who have made an invaluable contribution to the development and maintenance of the building and gardens, the Paulik family who have not only been generous donors of money but of flowers for the many functions held by the Villa, the Radonich families have always donated any transport requirements, the Della Bonas for earthworks and organising the spectacularly successful breakfasts and those wonderful people already mentioned who have been volunteers in the Day Centre.

There are many others who have made and continue to make significant contributions without which the Villa would not be the excellent facility that it is.

Finally a snapshot of the Villa now.

It has 50, mainly high care beds, 20 dementia specific beds.

45% of the residents are of Croatian origin, 35% Italian, 14% other European and 6% Anglo-Saxon.

20% of the staff are Croatian, 6% Italian and 10% African

40% of the residents pay no out of pocket expenses.

So there we have it.

Thank you.