Towards the end of 1980 the two Masonic lodges of Cowra moved towards investigation of provisions of frail aged accommodation in Cowra, as the result of motions put forward by Messrs R.E. Collett and J.W. Smith. A feasibility study committee was formed and by October 1981 found that such a project was beyond any one organization’s capabilities.
A public meeting was called for Sunday 29th November. The type of accommodation required was determined to be a Hostel, as Cowra already had a 75-bed nursing home and 16 self – care units. Approximately 80 people attended, with 16 different organizations represented. Being a community meeting the Shire President, Cr. A.J Oliver was the Chairman. Representatives of the Freemasons Benevolent Institution (FBI) and the United Protestant Association (U.P.A.) addressed the meeting. The F.B.I pledged to support the concept with a donation of $120,000 provided the local masons raised $30,000 and that local businesses, organizations and residents fully supported the concept.
Messrs. Kevin Wright and Arnold Spackman were asked to form a steering committee to investigate “That the concept of a retirement complex for Cowra had sufficient support to meet the financial involvement required”.
On 24th March 1982, some 60 persons met at the Masonic Lodge to select the following committee:
Messrs. Kevin Wright, Arnold Spackman, Bill Murphy, David Jessett, Gery Thistleton, Bernie Jones, Ron Pengilly, Peter Barrat, Maurice Beard, Tom Baird, David Lewis and Mesdames Barbara Bennett, Dorothy Heilman, Jackie Farrar, Beth Bryant and Cr. A.J. Oliver.
The executive elected was as follows:
Chairman Maurice Beard
Vice chairman Kevin Wright
Treasurer Bill Murphy
Secretary Arnold Spackman
Publicity officer Dorothy Heilman
Six months later, on the 29th September a second community meeting was held and about 150 people were present to hear the following points:
- To provide a 40 – 49 bed hostel
- The approximate cost would be $1.2m to $1.4m.
- A Board of Management be formed and represent the community, the F.B.I, the U.P.A and Cowra Shire Council.
- To be known as Cowra Retirement Village Association which was to register as a charity
- That The Board of Management continues to work in conjunction with F.B.I and U.P.A.
- That the site for such a building be adjacent to Bellevue Lodge in Holman Place.
- Trusteeship of the land be vested in F.B.I
- Residence in the hostel to be open to all of pensionable age irrespective of religion, Masonic affiliation or place of residence.
- That entry cost is based on F.B.I entry fee structure.
To be financed by:
Legacies & Bequests
Donations of Goods
- That all-present becomes members of “Cowra Retirement Village Association” at a membership fee of $1.00.
All points were accepted and so the project commenced. Some problems associated with the trusteeship were encountered early in 1983 and as a result it was determined, by the committee, that Cowra Retirement Village Limited, a company, limited guarantee, be formed to be trustee for five acres of crown land adjacent to Bellevue Lodge and to be registered as a charity.
Funding and tendering
The estimated cost of the project was $1.2m to $1.4m, but before the project could commence, the committee had to have sufficient funds on hand to cover 1/3rd of the capital cost of the building plus the costs of furnishing, landscaping, access roads and architect fees before subsidy would be granted. In 1983, subsidy of $12,000 per bed was available, and it was not until the subsidy reached $20,100 per bed in 1986, that Cowra Retirement Village Limited had sufficient funds to commence the project.
Thirteen tenders were received and ranged from $1,198,950 to $1,704,000, with Mansley Constructions of Cowra being successful with their tender price.
Councillor C.P. Treasure officially laid the Foundation Stone on Sunday, 10th May 1987 and work proceeded.
Construction time was originally 32 weeks, however wet whether and non-delivery of materials caused some delay, and the keys were finally handed over on 8th January 1988.
Staff commenced duty towards the end of January, and all spent many hours cleaning and preparing for the intake of residents.
Mrs. M Tuffin was the first to take up residence on 11th February 1988 and by 18th February 15 residents were in permanent residence.
Mr. John Sharp, Federal Member for Gilmore officially opened Bilyara the 6th March 1988.