One of the biggest needs in our community is being addressed.
The first Islamically-oriented aged-care centre in Sydney has just opened, introducing an innovative and culturally-sensitive way of looking after the elderly in the Muslim community.
The centre, Gallipoli Home, caters for up to 102 residents and is located next door to the famous Auburn-Gallipoli mosque in Sydney, Australia, allowing for a community-integrated approach to aged-care.
“When we look at our elderly here, we want them to be respected”, said Dr Abdurrahman Asaroglu, the Director of the centre. “And we don’t want anyone to be able to speak disrespectfully to them.”
Costing $33 million AUD in total, the project has taken 4.5 years from its inception until the first residents arrived on Monday, with $29 million AUD going into the 16 months of construction. Alongside community organisations and fundraising, the centre received $10 million AUD in a capital grant from the Department of Health, which has subsidised the construction.
The centre also received financing from the National Australia Bank that is compliant with Islamic law, or Shari’ah, which is the “first Shari’ah compliant offer for construction financing in the country”, according to Project Director Abraham Hammoud.
In an industry as strongly regulated as aged-care, the centre is required to function according to the high standards of any aged-care home. It therefore incorporates state of the art technology and medical systems to cater for its residents. However, the difference between Gallipoli Home and other nursing homes comes in its approach to culture and tradition, which is evidenced both in its clear Ottoman design inspirations, and in its practices on the ground.
As an Islamically-oriented centre, all staff and carers are required to know about and respect the religious requirements of their “residents”. Halal food, prayer responsibilities, and privacy are all respected and provided for. Most of the housing is individual, with some rooms accommodating for 2 residents, be they a married couple or close friends. Every room has its own private bathroom and washing facilities to ensure the privacy of the residents, as well as the typical fittings of modern comfort, such as Wi-Fi, TVs and heating.
A core part of the centre’s philosophy is their “Permanent Rahma Partners” initiative, which will ensure that each resident has the same small group of people looking after them every day.
“On average in day care 28 people will see that resident in their most vulnerable times every day,” says G.M Andi Richardson. “What permanent Rahma partners does is it basically decreases that number to 6.”
The initiative works closely with the families of residents to ensure that they have regular, scheduled visitors throughout the week. Families are responsible for finding replacement visitors if they are unable to visit.
One of the biggest challenges for the centre was combatting the strong stigma in the Muslim community against institutionalised aged-care. Due to cultural and religious pressure, the responsibility of caring for the elderly typically falls on the shoulders of children or close-family, which can be a dangerous situation for those with special medical needs.
“Let’s make something very clear,” said popular Islamic teacher Mohamed Hoblos. “This aged care centre is not a dumping ground, because I’m sure many people will be thinking ‘Muslims embarking on an aged care centre, what has the ummah come to.’ No this is not the case… Rather we are opening a door for people who can not look after the most beloved thing to them [their parents], and give them peace of mind that we will look after them like our very own.”
“Our duty to our elderly is paramount for the reason of the religious purposes… so the whole thing has to be in a halal [religiously permissible] mentality”, said Dr. Asaroglu. “When they want to practice their religion, as it’s their home, we have to provide, and that’s what we were looking forward to.
The centre will cater for Turkish, Arab, South Asian and many other ethnic backgrounds, making it one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse aged-care centres in the country.