Spiritual support a success at Scottvale, Dandenong

The home’s religious harmony centre has provided residents peace of mind.

Scottvale, located in Dandenong, a cultural melting pot in Melbourne’s south east has a wide range of residents from different ethnic backgrounds. Facility Manager, Liz Ngari recognised that as a result the home needed to provide a way to support this diversity.

Last year, Liz led her staff through a six-month project called ‘Supporting Diversity within Residential Aged Care,” with the goal of increasing their collective cultural intelligence. Liz says this program “helped us to more fully understand how food and culture are very much a part of a resident’s identity.”

This project has led to the creation of the “Religious Harmony Centre” at Scottvale, which has been hugely successful, for two major reasons. The first of these is that it has allowed spiritual support to become centralised, not relying on outside sources to provide it.

Secondly, the centre provides a peaceful environment in which all religions are welcomed.
“It was a natural extension to view the religious needs of the elderly as being as important as any other aspect of aged care.

“I wanted to make it a separate, relevant place where individuals could connect with their religion; with others or on their own” explains Liz.

The success of the Religious Harmony Centre is due to an open process in which all interested parties- including family, staff and community representatives, from all backgrounds, were consulted.

“Everyone was so supportive and we received information and materials from community religious leaders and many others- everything we needed such as idols, prayer books and artefacts.”

“We practice tolerance by living together harmoniously as a family, but each person is free to worship as they wish.”

This approach has been aided by the multicultural nature of the staff at Scottvale.
“When a resident is unable to read the Quran for themselves or say a Catholic prayer, for example, it gives them enormous comfort that a staff member can do so for them- and in their own language,” Liz says.

There was however, one problem. Each religion has its own key symbol. Liz needed to find a symbol that was neutral yet comforting for all. After more consultation, a prayer tree was decided upon.

“It was the ideal choice. A tree has deep roots and all contribute to its strength. Its many branches provide solace for anyone seeking shelter, and a tree doesn’t judge who sits beneath.”

Important symbols from each religion represented in the home are located throughout the tree. “It brings all that we’re trying to do together and it represents the life of the religious harmony centre. Everyone loves it!” Liz reveals.

The benefit has been profound to not only residents, but relatives and staff, with a range of positive feedback received such as “This has become my favourite space in the facility-thank you” and “I can now help my husband pray when I use the room. It means a great deal to us both.”

Congratulations to Liz and all the wonderful staff at Scottvale for the continued success of this space. What a wonderful initiative!

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