UCCESS STORY: SRS active support leader, Erin Herrick, Luke’s mother Lynda Richards, SRS resident Luke Richards and SRS CEO Marian Luehman are all smiles as the new Carrazza Complex proves it worth. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

SUNRAYSIA Residential Services (SRS) has been providing accommodation for people with a disability for many years and it recently opened its newest purpose-built complex.

Located in Fifteenth Street, Mildura, the complex comprises four self-contained apartments.

Named the Carrazza Complex in recognition of the Carrazza family’s generous contributions to SRS over many years, each of the apartments feature a spacious open-plan kitchen-dining and living room area, as well as a built-in laundry with washing machine, a large bedroom, study and ensuite.

The kitchen is equipped with all the latest mod-cons including a double-door refrigerator, electric stove, dishwasher and all the essential electrical appliances.

One of the complex’s new tenants is Luke Richards 34, who moved into his new accommodation shortly after the building’s completion in October last year. Luke has a package under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which has enabled him to live independently – a great relief to his his family.

Luke’s mother Lynda said that the move has been “life-changing” and brought her great peace of mind. 

“We have always wanted Luke to live independently and to have him go into this new complex was a golden opportunity for us. When it did come we thought we would give it a go to see how it would suit him,” she said.

“A few years ago he wouldn’t have been ready, but now he is, and it’s been the icing on the cake.”

Prior to moving into his new residence, Luke was living at home with his parents on their sultana property.

Since moving into the complex, Lynda said Luke had grown. 

“He has really grown – virtually blossomed in a fashion which is the best thing for us,” Lynda said. 

“It makes us feel more comfortable knowing that he’s being taken care of and there’s 24-7 support.

“ There are carers there all the time and we know that he is safe, and that’s all that matters – as long as he is safe and he’s happy. It’s all about Luke. It’s not about us.”

There’s no doubt Luke is enjoying his new independence, something he says is a whole new experience for him. 

“It’s different. I didn’t really know what to do at first, having a place of my own was all so new, but it’s great now,” Luke said.

The first thing you notice when you enter Luke’s apartment is that he is a dyed-in-the-wool Bombers fan, with his red and black scarf proudly draped over a book-stand, and taking pride of place in the corner of the living room.

Lynda said that the change has made life better for Luke on a number of fronts. 

“He can see he is with his peers now, whereas when he was living with my husband and me, we couldn’t provide the sort of activities and community engagement that he now enjoys at his new residence,” she said.

“Luke would never have picked a broom or a vacuum cleaner at home, but now I hear that he does a lot of the vacuuming around his apartment and he can make his own breakfast. So his skills have improved since he’s been here.”

Lynda said if it wasn’t for the NDIS, Luke wouldn’t be there. 

“There would be no way that he could afford to go into a unit, because the disability pension doesn’t stretch that far,” she said.

SRS active support leader, Erin Herrick, said Luke had progressed well since moving into the residence. 

“Before he came here, he couldn’t shave himself, unlock a door, or sweep the floor. Now he does everything including making his own breakfast, cooking toast, making a coffee – it’s a amazing the difference his coming here has made.”

Having Luke in his own residence has not only brought enormous peace of mind to Lynne and her husband, but also to Luke’s grandparents who are in their 90s. They are very happy and content knowing their beloved grandson is in a place where he is making his way in life – living independently for the first time. 

SRS CEO, Marian Luehman, said her organisation was working incredibly hard to build to the highest possible standards of accommodation which is reflected in quality of the new Carrazza Complex, which is considered Platinum Level.

At the same time, SRS is trying to keep the overheads down which is challenging.

“We have had a long association with Joe and the Carrazza family and we really appreciate their ongoing support for SRS,” Marian said.

“We have a fund-raiser every year at the Pizza Cafe and over the years Joe and his team put so much effort into making it a great success for us and it’s wonderful. “

Ms Luehman paid tribute to the work of the complex’s builder, Garraway Developments headed up by managing director Ben Garraway and his wife Amy.

They built the complex in a timely manner and exactly to specification, Marian said.

“They were fantastic people to work with and they clearly understood what was required to be able to build the complex to the standard that we need under Livable Housing Design. 

“Ben put a lot of effort in – even travelling to Melbourne to undertake a course so he had a full understanding of the concept. 

“He met with the families, he talked with people in the sector and really got involved with what it was about and he thoroughly invested in the project and we are extremely grateful and thank Ben and Amy because they also donated the hoist for people with disabilities – that was a huge contribution.” 

Marian said SRS’s buildings are all designed and built to accommodate any level of care. 

“We have already got the engineering done, if someone needed tracking installed, it is already in the ceiling ready to go,” she said.

 “So we can adapt what we build to suit the needs of the families moving in and I think that is really critical when you build – you need to be as flexible as you can.”