Former Julia Farr Centre sale to boost disability services

Artist impressions of the redevelopment slated for Highgate Park.

Leading national healthcare and retirement providers Living Choice and Opal HealthCare have bought the former disability accommodation site Highgate Park, on Fisher St in Fullarton.

The proceeds of the sale will be placed in a perpetual Trust that will fund initiatives that support South Australians with a disability.

Living Choice develops retirement communities throughout Australia and has several developments across South Australia.

Opal HealthCare is a residential aged care provider which owns five residential aged care communities in Adelaide and several others nationwide.

An 11-storey building on the 2.3ha site that boasts panoramic views of Adelaide on its upper levels will be retained in the sale, and the site turned into a "high-end residential, retirement and aged-care precinct", according to its new owners.

Highgate Park, known as the Julia Farr Centre for many years, has a long history dating back to 1878 when Mrs Julia Farr founded a committee to focus on the needs of people.

No new residents have moved into Highgate Park since it was earmarked for closure in 2014, with the last residents moved to supported community accommodation in April 2020.

Options for a suitable memorial to be developed to honour the legacy of Julia Farr and the lives and experiences of people with disability who spent time living at the site are being considered.

In recent years, the site has been owned by a Trust, established to support people living with disabilitgatey, with the Minister for Human Services as the sole trustee.

Highgate Park was sold via an expression of interest in March 2023, after extensive consultation with disability organisations and South Australians with disability.

Living Choice director Ian Tregoning said: “Our vision for Highgate Park seamlessly integrates Living Choice Fullarton in a precinct which is sympathetic architecturally to the existing built form and surrounding community."

He said the site's masterplan included "further retirement apartments, an aged care community in conjunction with Opal HealthCare, residential townhouses and a `central park’ with a large green space for public interaction and use".

A working group facilitated by disability organisation JFA Purple Orange will now provide recommendations on the future priorities and governance of the Trust that will hold the sale proceeds.

JFA Purple Orange chair Tricia Spargo acknowledged that the facility held mixed memories for those who spent time there.

“Many South Australians living with disability spent time at Highgate Park, and while some had positive experiences there are others for whom the site is associated with struggle and trauma reflecting a loss of liberty and personal choice per the institutionalisation approaches of past times – times that we have thankfully moved on from,” Ms Spargo said.

“The sale of the site is a significant milestone and an opportunity for the whole community to reflect on how we build a fairer society that is genuinely inclusive of all people. The proceeds of the sale will play an important role in shaping what the next chapter looks like and ensuring South Australians are supported to live valued lives in community and enabled to reach their full potential.”

Ms Spargo said people living with disability will continue to be at the centre of discussions about the future of the Trust.

“I’m optimistic about what the Trust will achieve and sure it can create a further legacy to Julia Farr and all those connected with Highgate Park over almost 150 years,” she said.

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