Kojonup farmer George Church leaves long-lasting memory

Headshot of Tom Shanahan
Tom ShanahanCountryman
William Harvey, Kevin Broome and Robert Sexton.
Camera IconWilliam Harvey, Kevin Broome and Robert Sexton. Credit: Tom Shanahan/Tom Shanahan

The amazing legacy of a much-loved farmer and World War II veteran was unveiled on Friday with the opening of a $1.4 million medical centre in Kojonup.

Long-time Kojonup farmer George Church died at the age of 96 in 2015 — a year after promising $530,000 for a new medical centre in the town he loved.

A keen sheep trader and a regular at the Katanning Regional Saleyards, Mr Church was also involved in a generous land swap that provided the site for Kojonup District High School’s farm.

Six years on from his death, those who knew Mr Church last week said giving back to the community was a fitting way for the true gentleman to say goodbye.

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The generosity of Mr Church and his wife Patricia, who died in 2013, touched many lives.

Kojonup grazier George Church was a regular at the Katanning Regional Saleyards.
Camera IconKojonup grazier George Church was a regular at the Katanning Regional Saleyards. Credit: Countryman

As well as donating money towards the medical centre, Mr Church’s dying wish was for profits from the sale of his estate — including an historic farm on the outskirts of town — to go to charity. The pair’s farm sold at auction in early February 2018 for $2.55 million, with the money donated to Telethon Kids Institute, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Lions Eye Institute.

Kojonup residents gathered to honour Mr Church’s generosity at the official opening of the George Church Community Medical Centre, which has been called Korrinup House, last Friday.

Nearly 100 people attended the opening, which Mr Church’s closest friends said was a testimony to the generosity of one of the town’s most beloved sons.

Long-time friend Madeline Suann made the 260km trip to Kojonup from Perth for the opening ceremony, saying Mr Church was a “marvellous man”.

“He related to everybody, he was very encompassing and was a man of principle,” she said.

A publicly elected community group, the George Church Community Medical Centre Incorporated, led a six-year grassroots push to get the facility built.

The Federal Government allocated $750,000 to the project in 2019, to bolster donations from the local community and $140,000 from the Shire of Kojonup.

George Church Community Medical Centre chairman Robert Sexton said Mr Church’s family was the“model of public service”, with his mother Emily at the forefront of the push to create the Kojonup District Hospital.

Mr Church himself spent many years on the hospital board as a member and chairman, while Patricia had worked as a nurse.

George Church Community Medical Centre treasurer Kevin Broome praised the committee for making the dream come true.

“George had one focus and one focus only, to provide the people of Kojonup with a world-class facility,” Mr Broome said.

Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the centre would encourage doctors to work in Kojonup, with eight clinical rooms to meet the needs of surrounding areas.

Mr Sexton said planning for the medical centre started in 2012 and had to be “community driven and community owned”. “We managed this project from start to finish using the offered free expertise and help from the people of Kojonup,” he said.

“This medical facility belongs to the people of Kojonup.”

St Luke’s Family Practice will provide medical services but the centre will remain under the ownership of the George Church Community Medical Centre Incorporated.

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