A place to call home

The Kanyana story began when Echuca man Tim Burke fell down the cellar stairs of the Taras Hall Hotel on Pakenham Street, Echuca, and sustained a serious acquired brain injury (ABI).


Following the accident, Tim’s mother, Afton Burke, was told that her son’s injuries were so severe that he would need 24-hour care; care which could only be provided in the Lumeah nursing home, attached to Echuca hospital. Afton didn’t want her son to live his relatively young life in an aged care facility. She wasn’t alone – at this time there were two other young local men with an ABI who needed suitable facilities for their care. These two men were Douglas Thomson and Robin Freeman. Douglas acquired his ABI through an allergic reaction to a general anaesthetic, while Robin was left with an ABI from a motor vehicle accident.

Afton Burke enlisted the support of local doctor Andrew Ahern and together they became the driving force behind the formation of the Echuca Physically Disabled Persons Association Incorporated in 1982. Fundraising, by a group of passionate people, began immediately.

A block of land on the corner of Francis Street was purchased from the Echuca Hospital, and after four solid years of fundraising, plus Government grants, a building was constructed for the dedicated provision of day services.

The Echuca Physically Disabled Persons Association changed its name to Kanyana in 1986. The name ‘Kanyana’ was Dr Ahern’s idea and is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting place of people with common interests’. The fundraising auxiliary also took on the name of Kanyana.

Another site on Haverfield Street, Echuca, was purchased to offer accommodation to six residents. This building was more convenient for the clients, making it easier for them to attend day services at the organisation’s Francis Street site.

In honour of Afton Burke, the home was named ‘Burke House’, and officially opened in 1992.

Dr Ahern was the first President of the Echuca Physically Disabled Persons Association Incorporated, during which time he brought on board David Evans as committee member. Dr Ahern could see that David would have a unique insight into the needs of young people with disabilities having sustained a disability in a car accident at just 18 months of age. “I was seconded to the Board of Management, to bring my disability thoughts and understandings to it,” says David. “Andy was a great leader and the organisation got into your blood.”

In 1996 Kanyana merged with Tehan Enterprises and took on the new name of Murray Human Services. The Kanyana Auxiliary continued as part of Murray Human Services until 2016.


This story is an excerpt from Our Vivid History, a collection of stories celebrating over 50 years of our organisation. If you would like to pre-order a copy of the book, please click below.

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