Wanneroo: Sunflower Care Services gets council support despite concerns


Joseph and Katherine Karunarathna (owners Sunflower Care Services). Picture: Martin Kennealey
Joseph and Katherine Karunarathna (owners Sunflower Care Services). Picture: Martin Kennealey

CHANGES to a Wanneroo home gained support from councillors despite concerns over its use as a respite care facility.

Sunflower Care Services sought retrospective development approval from the City of Wanneroo for modifications to its Caporn Street site.

The property was endorsed as a single house and bed and breakfast in 2013, which allowed for a maximum of five guests to occupy four rooms for up to four weeks, some of who had disabilities.

Following a complaint last year, the City inspected the site and found it was operating a respite care facility for people with disabilities, with about 15 people residing there.

The report presented at the September council meeting said it did not align with existing approval and found many other non-compliances and unapproved structures.

Owners Joseph and Katherine Karunarathna have experience working in the disability sector and run similar facilities in Marangaroo and Carabooda.

Mr Karunarathna said there was a shortage of facilities available and the 1.5ha Wanneroo site offered greater freedom to occupants, with access to a pool, activity centre, open space and animals.

They cater for people with intellectual disabilities, including autism and acquired brain injuries.

“Having this sort of environment…helps to burn their energy and calm down their behaviour and give them a good sleep,” he said.

“It’s like a second home, a home away from home.

“We’ve seen a lot of life changing behaviour change, we have a different approach.”

Danika Basevski’s grandson has used the facility for more than four years and said it had greatly benefitted him.

“He used to be very, very unsettled,” she said.

“If he wasn’t happy there, if they didn’t treat him like they do, he wouldn’t stay there.

“There he changed for the better.”

Angie Thomas travels from Willagee for her son to stay at the Wanneroo property.

“There’s not many places he can go, he loves going to Sunflower,” she said.

“It’s a good place and so many people want to go there.

“It’s such a healthy place for him.”

Following mediation with the City through the State Administrative Tribunal, the Karunarathna’s sought permission at the property for a maximum of six occupants, including the two property owners, a caretaker, two to five carers on site during the day and two at night, and retrospective approval of the caretaker’s dwelling, sheds and changes to existing structures.

The report classed the development as a single house and ancillary accommodation, which was already approved, and said the four tenants would receive personal care but not medical assistance.

It recommended approval of the modifications subject to conditions, including that the occupants would live there for a minimum of six months and be listed on a confidential register that could be inspected by the City on request.

Councillors debated use of the facility at the September briefing session after planning implementation manager Pas Bracone said it was not capable of approval as a care facility but could be considered as a single home.

Cr Samantha Fenn said an application made for a respite care facility in 2006 was rejected and was concerned the most recent request was the same but using “different language to meet requirements” and described it as a “blurred line”.

Cr Dot Newton agreed it was difficult to view as a house when there were conditions on how long people could stay.

“We can’t keep referring to this as a house in my opinion,” she said.

Mr Bracone said the City sought legal advice on the issue and “from a planning point of view it’s a single house”.

Cr Dianne Guise believed the planning rules were “clear cut” and was comfortable the owners had signed an affidavit regarding the care to be provided.

“I can’t stress how much our community needs this type of care,” she said.

The majority of councillors supported the proposal at the meeting, with Cr Fenn voting against because of concerns it could be categorised as a nursing home, which changed planning outcomes.

Mr Karunarathna was pleased they received approval but was disappointed at the restrictions placed.

He said they were reapplying for funding from the Disability Services Commission after it cancelled their contract late last year following complaints about the facility.

MORE: Perth weather: rainy weekend forecast

MORE: Perth residents reminded it’s not too late to vote

MORE: Changes to abalone fishing season to help improve safety