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The Catholic community associated with a
heritage-listed chapel at the Repatriation
General Hospital is thankful the building
will remain, but is unsure who will use it
once the war veterans’ facility is wound
“I think it is very important that it stays
open because it is a sanctuary, it’s
historical and it’s sacred,” said Nora
Kunzel, Catholic chaplain at the Repat
Hospital for the past 10 years.
“I think it serves as a site to honour
those that have suffered so much,”
said Fr Michael Brennan, who has been
celebrating Mass at the chapel since 2012.
“This chapel carries a great deal of value
in such a vulnerable community; people
here have a history of war and hurt and
post-traumatic stress and all the other
associated stresses and it’s not just those
in the wards, it’s their families too.”
The chapel serves a multi-faith community
with a weekly Catholic Mass and an
ecumenical service twice a month.
The Repat’s faith community includes
ward patients, outpatients, their families,
nursing staff, chaplains, locals and onsite
aged-care clients. Mrs Kunzel said it was a
growing community with up to 23 regular
attendees at the weekly Catholic Mass.
“There are people who look forward each
week to coming to Mass and many of
them make a big effort to attend,” said
pastoral care visitor Carlien Bannister, a
former chaplain and volunteer for the past
Over the next two years, Repat Hospital
services will be integrated into other
hospitals, palliative services will move to
a new building at the Flinders Medical
Centre and a $15 million veteran’s mental
health precinct is being established at
The chapel, museum and remembrance
gardens will be retained with ongoing
public access. Orthotics and Prosthetics
SA, the VITA facility and the Flinders
University Health Services building will
also remain onsite.
Expressions of interest for Repat Hospital
site usage were called last month. A
decision is expected in 2016.
The chapel was built in 1942 during the
Second World War as part of the Repat
Hospital and has been the place of more
than 70 Anzac Day and Remembrance
Day services, countless funerals and one
Mrs Kunzel said a 75-year-old patient
was baptised in the chapel, while another
returned to the Church after a 45-year
absence. “The chapel and its community
do a great deal to enhance the wellbeing
of patients,” she said, adding it was a
site filled with symbols of war, sacrifice,
and humanity at its best and worse. She
pointed to the 18 stained glass windows
in the chapel – each depicting different
wars, the army, navy and air force, those
left behind and those who cared for the
“There is history and heritage here; it is
sacred ground; a lot has happened in this
chapel,” said Mrs Kunzel.
“I come in here sometimes and there will
be people sitting and finding solace, other
times there will be people here desperately
praying for a relative or friend who is
dying,” she said.
The official launch last month of a
community garden on Catholic Church
land has been marred by the brazen theft
of several fruit trees.
“It’s just horrible,” said renowned Adelaide
chef Rosa Matto, who harvested produce
from the garden to cook dishes at the
opening event on November 22. Up to 60
people attended the opening.
“If they would have waited 12 months
we would have given them the fruit from
those trees,” said Kilburn parishioner Anne
Elliott, a member of the Kilburn Peace and
Welcome Garden reference group.
An appeal has been made for donations
to help maintain the garden after funding
was diverted to replace the trees and add
a new security system in response to the
thefts. Funds are also needed to install a
gate to keep the garden safe and secure.
The Kilburn Peace and Welcome Garden
has been developed by Australian Red
Cross, with the Clearview-Kilburn parish,
Mercy Works (the development agency
of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and
Papua New Guinea) and St Brigid’s School
to give locals and asylum seekers a way to
connect by working together and learning
new skills in a sustainable way.
The garden is located behind the Mercy
House of Welcome – a support service for
asylum seekers set up by Mercy Works in
the annexe to the Kilburn parish hall and
opposite St Brigid’s Church and the parish
Parishioner Luis Arriola discovered the
theft in October after the 5pm Spanish-
speaking Mass held on Saturdays.
“I was supposed to check the dampness
of the soil and I knew straight away
someone had taken them,” said Mr Arriola.
“Initially I thought it was vandals but there
was no other damage,” he said.
A week later, thieves struck again, this
time taking two more fruit trees.
“I was very disappointed and felt
dispossessed because it’s an effort we are
doing for the community and someone is
really hurting the community because we
will not have fruit from the trees,” said
“It’s really unfortunate this has happened,”
said Urrbrae TAFE SA tutor Douglas
Clarke, who has been leading a team of
horticultural students to complete the
garden and share their skills with the
community. “They have stolen from the
community, from Red Cross and from the
Mercy House of Welcome – it doesn’t get
any lower than that.”
Red Cross community development
officer Zia Durrani said it was hoped the
installation of 24-hour security cameras,
which were not part of the garden’s
original budget, would stop future theft.
He said the garden was developed for
locals, asylum seekers, parishioners and
the school community to grow and harvest
fruit and vegetables together as well as
build cultural bridges and new skills for a
“One of the constant challenges of this
garden is that it is open, because that was
the idea – to make it available to all,” he
Anyone wanting to donate to the
community garden can contact
Meredyth Taylor, from the Mercy House
of Welcome, on 0434 450 666, or email
SACRED SPACE: (L-R) Repatriation General Hospital pastoral care visitor Carlien Bannister, Catholic chaplain Nora Kunzel
and Father Michael Brennan in the Repat’s heritage listed chapel.
Photo: Nat Rogers
Greedy thieves target community garden
Chapel remains but purpose uncertain
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
DEVASTATED: Fruit trees were stolen from this community garden being tended
to by Kilburn parishioner Anne Elliott and (L-R) asylum seekers Xuyen Nguyen and
Phuong Lien Nguyen.
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