Inside the Catalina Conference Centre, at Rathmines, ahead of its official opening | photos

THE former RAAF base hospital at Rathmines has been renovated and transformed into a multi-purpose venue which will be officially opened soon.

The historic building’s new name, Catalina Conference Centre, tells only part of the story.

The property is now available to host everything from business conferences and corporate team-building weekends, to family reunions, hobby groups, grey nomads and residential camps for disability, church, school and social groups.

The building was bought in 2014 by Disability Life Enrichment, a charity committed to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

The charity’s founder David Hagen said the building’s layout and lakeside location was a winning combination.

“When I saw the building, I wanted to turn it into a space that benefited the community,” Mr Hagen said.

“The spacious facilities, and peaceful surrounds on the lakefront, combine to make this centre a truly unique property. It’s a place where people can meet together, even if only for a few days, and build meaningful relationships.”

Heritage issues have limited the extent of renovations permitted to the property.

Indeed, the building’s origins as a hospital and, later as the Don Geddes Catalina Memorial Nursing Home, are still clearly evident in the wide corridors and wheelchair-accessible doorways, 20 bedrooms, commercial-style kitchen and laundry.

But an overhaul of the electrical wiring in the building, and the installation of LED lighting, air-conditioning and multi-media equipment including flat-screen televisions has provided all of the mod-cons expected of a modern conference and accommodation venue.

“We’ve endeavoured to make the most of what’s here without making massive building changes,” Mr Hagen said.

COMFORTABLE: The former hospital rooms have been transformed into hotel-style bedrooms. This one boasts three beds. Picture: David Stewart

COMFORTABLE: The former hospital rooms have been transformed into hotel-style bedrooms. This one boasts three beds. Picture: David Stewart

There are five meeting rooms in the centre, including the main conference room which seats 100 people.

The remaining breakout rooms comfortably cater for groups of 10 to 20.

Among them is a quiet meeting room.

It’s a sparse and informal room, with a couple of lounges, and no TVs or other electronic distractions, just views out onto the centre’s grounds.

Mr Hagen explains that this room might be a space for quiet reflection or respite from a noise activity room, or a starting point for a friendly chat.

“Social integration is the main aim of this program,” Mr Hagen said. “It’s a simple room, but one with a very important function.”

The recreation and games rooms are where guests can enjoy everything from indoor bowls and table-tennis to electronic gaming on big screens.

The 20 bedrooms offer a mix of single and double beds, in various configurations, with up to four beds in a room, and all of the 19 bathrooms are disability friendly.

Outside, the property has an undercover barbecue area in a large fenced yard close to the lake.

The new set-up can accommodate up to 50 people as a residential-type retreat, and up to 100 as a daytime-only facility.

The new centre has already played host to a range of user groups, and the feedback has been unanimous, Mr Hagen said.

“The main comment we get is about the structure of the property – how everything from the yard, to the bedrooms, to the kitchen looks as if it was purpose-built for the disability sector,” he said.

And word of the centre’s appeal, coupled with the charm of Rathmines, is spreading quickly among the disability sector, especially in Sydney, he said.

“There are disability groups coming out of Sydney where the kids have never had a country holiday.”

The centre was also becoming noticed by the business sector as an alternative to conference centres attached to five-star resorts.

“If you’re looking for a conference venue with good facilities ranging from conference rooms to a waterfront barbecue area, to sporting fields and a village environment with nice cafes and dining facilities, then Rathmines is the forgotten part of the lake,” Mr Hagen said.

Prices range from $80 per person, per night, for business groups, down to $30 per person, per night, for the disability sector, he said.

  • For more information, contact the facility manager Peter Brown on 0402 460 000 or visit