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About Catalina Conference Centre

IT ALL BEGAN in 2012 - when we observed that there were not too many places where friends and family could come together in a relaxing atmosphere.

Finding this spacious, single-level facility surrounded by parkland offered a unique opportunity to create a comfortable and homely place where our guests, regardless of their dependence on wheelchairs, walkers or seeing-eyes, would enjoy their stay and want to come back often.

Gradually the WWII RAAF Base Hospital at Rathmines was transformed into a comfortable and inviting facility, by an enthusiastic team of tradespeople and helpers who have taken a good deal of pride in producing a great outcome.

Disability Life Enrichment

Disability Life Enrichment, through the Catalina Conference Centre, is looking to make a difference in the lives of those with a disability and their carers. In providing a venue which is friendly, on the shores of picturesque Lake Macquarie, with surrounding parks and walkways, our aim is to provide an experience which is refreshing and unique.

Mission Statement

We aim to enrich the lives of people with disabilities, by acting to relieve their suffering, both emotional and physical, their distress and feeling of helplessness that results from social isolation; by providing opportunities for group interaction, we aim to assist them to build a sense of community and thereby enhance their well-being, and thereby integrating with the wider community.

The People

David & Heather Hagen

David and Heather Hagen share a passion to help people with a disability to enjoy a better quality of life. This is part of the greater vision that has led them to make a contribution wherever possible, to improve the lot of people less fortunate.

The latest endeavour is the establishment of a charity dedicated to benefit people with disabilities. Disability Life Enrichment Ltd is a registered charity, with the first project being the acquisition of the historic WWII RAAF Catalina Base Hospital located on the lake front at Rathmines NSW, and converting it into a fully equipped disability-friendly accommodation and conference centre, recently opened for business after a 2-year renovation project.

A business partnership of over 50 years has provided David and Heather with treasured memories of people and places. Family who have encouraged them every step of the way, church friends providing practical support and those who have inspired them in difficult times, and the many they have been able to assist along life’s journey both in Australia and overseas.

David commenced his career in business employed by the US based office equipment company Remington-Rand, in 1960. After an “apprenticeship” in sales he left this sheltered environment and established a network of office products stores under the brand Pacific Office Centre. This was in the days when most office machines were manually operated. Typewriters were mechanical, calculators resembled coffee grinders, and there was no sign of copying machines, let alone computers, in business offices.

Heather was beside him all the time, as his dedicated secretary, the role more recently defined as PA. One of the milestones along the way was the convening of Australia’s first Office Expo, in Tamworth Town Hall in 1972. Business competitors were invited to participate and this continued as an annual event for a number of years. The climax of this business career was the establishment of a computer business, developing and marketing software for Point of Sale. The product Profit-Track won significant market share in the grocery industry, with supermarket customers throughout Australia and Pacific regions.

David and Heather now reside in Cleveland, a suburb of Brisbane, and frequently spend time at Rathmines, assisting in the management and operation of Catalina Conference Centre.

Peter Brown, Facility Manager

Peter comes from the Hunter area, and has extensive experience in disability, business management/marketing and training in the healthcare industry. Peter’s youngest daughter, Cassie, was born with a disability and when she was younger, Peter managed an innovative early intervention program based on Conductive Education. As Cassie grew, the family has encouraged Cassie to become an over achiever despite her disability and she has become a champion swimmer, completed the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and now has her sights set on becoming an International level Boccia player. Peter’s wife, Sue, is a nurse with extensive experience in paediatrics and rehabilitation.

With this background and life experiences, Peter has a passion for helping people to grow and achieve independence, but importantly it must be fun. His aspirations for the Catalina Conference Centre is definitely in line with the mission statement for Disability LE in aiming to enrich the lives of people with a disability and providing opportunities for group interaction and growth.


About Rathmines

Rathmines is a suburb of the City of Lake Macquarie, in New South Wales, Australia, located on the western shore of Lake Macquarie between Toronto and Morisset. The area was first settled by Europeans around 1840, and was named after the village of Rathmines in Ireland. Early settlers planted orchards and vineyards, and began cattle and sugar farming.

A Royal Australian Air Force Base was built here in 1939 and continued operations until 1962. Fondly known as ‘tin city’, it played a pivotal role in the defence of Australia and was the largest flying boat base in the Southern Hemisphere. Renowned Australian artist Sir William Dobell was at one time responsible for the camouflage of the base structures. Catalina pilots, maintenance staff and ground crews on the base with their families, (base personnel numbered 3,000) gave impetus to the building of a primary school which was opened in 1941.

Rathmines RAAF Base Hospital, now the site of the Catalina Conference Centre, was built to cater for the medical needs of personnel and their families. Later it became a small hospital serving the community. Subsequently it operated as the Don Geddes Catalina Memorial Nursing Home.

The park surrounding the Catalina Conference Centre borders the largest “launching pad” on the lake – previously the tarmac used by the PBY crews for land maintenance. The local community have ensured that this site remains an idyllic and peaceful place for everyone to enjoy, and the annual Catalina Festival celebrates the contribution of pilots and crews.

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