Author Archives: Grace Demaio

New Stars of Rock’n’Roll

Staff at the Social Group Centres at Co.As.It. Community Services created a new theme to help client’s revisit great memories. Welcome Rock’n’Roll Week. An initiative created by coordinators who run centres in north and west Brisbane inspired by the recent release of the Elvis Movie.

Each day the social group staff welcome clients who are transported by a minibus picking them up and dropping them off at home. Social groups are funded by the Australian government to assist with social support and connection, mitigating loneliness and isolation. The “groups” as they are affectionately known are a unique offering in Co.As.It’s deck of high quality community care.

Rock’n’Roll Week developed into a colorful musical celebration beyond expectations. You see, not only did it endear the clients to memories of songs, food, fun and dancing – but the effect it had on staff was remarkable. An Elvis costume transformed the unassuming community care worker Edmond Arconado into a hip-shaking ‘Elvis’ delighting all of the clients. In keeping with the theme, delicious sundaes were served at morning tea. All of the staff began singing and dancing and the affect this had on clients was contagious – many of them joined in, rocking-and-rolling or toe tapping along with the music. Frilled skirts and bandanas in bright colours danced around the room.

Dressing up is an option for clients as well. They are advised ahead of time and given the option to add something to their outfit to help them celebrate the theme. Enter Elva Sani. A new client who at the age of 95 years made the trip to live in Brisbane to be with her daughter. Tied around Elva’s neck was a red ribbon. On the one end was a bread-roll and the other end a large rock from her garden. A unique take on the theme. All staff and clients were in hysterics. Another star is born with a fun sense of humour and much loved by all.

Disability no barrier to Ian’s active life

IF there is an exemplar for getting older with attitude, it’s Ian Aitchison, who, despite his disability after becoming a paraplegic in his early 30s, leads such an active life that many a youngster would struggle to keep up.

At 76, Ian lives alone, runs his own business, drives and keeps himself so busy with his hobbies and interests that it seems age just doesn’t matter.

“I’ve always kept busy and active and healthy,” he says. “To be healthy you need a good diet and exercise.”

These days, Co.As.It. Community Services makes his life easier with fortnightly domestic assistance and physiotherapy for neck and back pain, but for the rest he looks after himself.

An action man from a young age, he was rock climbing near Boonah in 1979, when he fell and broke his lower back. After just three months in hospital and rehabilitation, he was on his way with a new course in life.

Ian still lives in the same house he bought in 1968, although the kitchen and bathroom were modified to cater for his disability.

His workshop at Milton, where he repaired BMW motorcycles and sold spares as well as lightweight camping equipment, was also repurposed and remains his business base.

Creating ability from disability

“The wheelchair I was supplied was hopeless. It weighed nearly 20kg and was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the car. After talking to an engineering friend, I made a lightweight wheelchair,” he says.

This soon led to requests for him to make his lightweight model for others with a disability, as there wasn’t such a thing as a lightweight wheelchair in Australia when he began. Business rolled in.

“At first, I thought it was too much trouble but as I wasn’t a motorcyclist anymore, my business had fallen in a hole, so it was another direction. I’m still making them now,” he says.

Although they aren’t coming off his production line as quickly these days, he has plenty of return customers who are prepared to wait.

Ian designs and assembles the wheelchairs, although there are a few things he can’t do himself, such as the upholstery. His daughter comes in each week to help him with some of the physical things he can’t manage.

“Friends also give me a hand,” he says. “In exchange I do their watch and clock repairs.”

That’s one of his hobbies – antique watches in particular – and he can spend hours working on them.

Pushing the boundaries

In 1981, he took up wheelchair sport, and made his own racing chairs. His wheelie marathons took him around the world, but he had to give it up in 1995 as 42km was hard on his wrists.

To get around that, he built himself a hand cycle with a straight push-pull motion.

“If I had chosen to go shorter distances, I may not have worn out my wrists so quickly, but I am in very good health apart from that,” he says.  “I’m not as fit as I used to be but I still hand cycle five or six kilometres every weekend and have an exercise machine at work.”

His car is modified with hand controls, and he has never given up driving. It’s his independence.

And he continues to pursue his love of music. He plays the flute with a jazz outfit formed in 1997 called Musical Chairs and until recently, when his joints forced him to quit, with the Indooroopilly Chamber Orchestra.

He played the highland bagpipes in a pipe band as a teenager, but his disability brought that to a halt as it was a marching instrument.

“When I was 50, I decided to take up music again, so I learnt the Irish pipes, a folk instrument you can play sitting down but my shoulders and wrists are too bad now,” he says. “You need fine control on pressure on the bag and I can’t get that anymore, so I took up the flute.”

Help to stay healthy at home

Ian is modest about his achievements.

“If you’re not doing things there’s not much point in life,” he says.

All he needs to continue his active life is a little more assistance, but so far he hasn’t yet been able to secure a Level 1 Home Care package.

In some ways, he has become his own worst enemy as he is a bit too capable and when asked if he needs help washing himself, he declines and misses out completely.

“I live alone, that’s why I need some help,” he says. “The garden has always been difficult.”

With his strength and mobility declining he is grateful that Co.As.It Community Services is trying to help him get a Level 1 package.

“I have never asked for a wheelchair as I make my own, but I would like a little electric pod for the back of the wheelchair to help me up the driveway as I am a bit slower than I used to be,” Ian says. “I will just have to learn to answer the questions differently.”


Photo: Ian Aitchison runs his own business manufacturing lightweight wheelchairs.


Latin Dancing in Lutwyche

HAVE you always wanted to learn Latin Dance but not sure where to start? Do you prefer smaller groups of people to learn with? Consider joining our community centre Latin Dance Classes at Co.As.It. in Lutwyche. The classes are held by a professional and friendly dance teacher who will have you in a shimmy in no time.

With only $5 a class the lessons will not break the budget, while getting you into a fabulous new routine.  According to the State Health Department the benefits of dancing include:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs.
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness.
  • increased aerobic fitness.
  • improved muscle tone and strength.
  • weight management.
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility

We have a new class starting soon on Thursday from 3pm to 4pm at 473 Lutwyche Road, Lutwyche – with plenty of parking in nearby streets or at the Lutwyche Shopping Centre.  Just call us on 3624 6100 to book your spot!


IWD2022 a Great Success

MORE than 300 guests attended Co.As.It.’s high tea for International Women’s Day (IWD), Saturday 12th March held at the Rose Room at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. The theme, celebrating women, the heart in our community, was reflected in a mini documentary outlining the brilliant volunteering work done by women who volunteer in our Italian community.

Co.As.It. acknowledged the selfless work of three women who were interviewed: Ruth Allison who has been volunteering every Wednesday at Co.As.It.’s Casa Serena Social Centre for more than 15 years, Carmela Bozzi OAM who volunteers for the church and many other organisations in the Italian community, and Paolina Greco who volunteers as part of Co.As.It.’s Community Visitor Scheme, attending residential aged care facilities each week for over 10 years. They talked about the work they do, what motivates them and how their work has helped others.

Speeches by the Hon. Grace Grace acknowledged the leadership by Co.As.It. CEO Cav. Dina Ranieri, and the importance of equal representation of women in public roles and governance, and Lady Mayoress Nina Schrinner talked about dementia affecting women more than men, and encouraged all guests to support the fundraising efforts by the organisation.

Guests were treated to a professional fashion show curated by Laura Churchill from Brisbane Fashion Month featuring local designers Anannasa, Chamani, Red Ridge the Label, Annalisse Designs, Maiocchi, and Jericho Road Clothing. The collections were modelled by Co.As.It. staff and friends and was enthusiastically supported by guests.

Thanks to the wonderful enduring sponsorship from Cav. Fil D’Arro from Italiquore, guests enjoyed complimentary prosecco, as well as a delicious high tea including scones, hot savoury pastries and gourmet sweets. Over 43 raffle prizes were won, with proceeds going towards Co.As.It.’s dementia and wellness program. A fully sold-out event that will stay in the hearts of all who attended.


A message from one of our VIPs Julie Morrow:

I had the pleasure of attending Co.As.It’s International Women’s Day event on Saturday 12 March at Cloudland. It’s been a while since I’ve attended an event of this size and I’d have to say that 300 women in one room makes for a fun, loud and exciting atmosphere.

Journalist Kim Skubris MC’d this colourful event that helps raise funds to support Co.As.It’s dementia support services. We watched a video, celebrating three of Co.As.It’s valued volunteers and the difference they make to individuals and the community and were treated to a unique fashion parade, curated by Laura Churchill. The collection from Australian women designers were beautifully modelled by staff and members of the Co.As.It community.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating women as well as focussing on equality for women. Speakers included Dina Ranieri who highlighted the inequalities that women in our society still experience, the Hon. Grace Grace spoke about the opportunities she has had because of her parents immigrating to Australia as well as the importance of women in public roles and on boards. Finally, Lady Mayoress, Nina Schrinner raised awareness about dementia which disproportionately effects women more than men (2 to 1).

Congratulations to Dina and the Co.As.It team for a wonderful event.

CEO Dina Ranieri and the History of Co.As.It Community Services

EVOLVING from a consular welfare committee in 1978, the Italian Welfare Association became Co.As.It. by 1986 and in the late 1990s, Community Services was added to the name to better reflect its broader multi-cultural and mainstream role. Today Co.As.It. Community Services employs 420 people supporting more than 5000 clients weekly with aged, disability, community support services and social connectivity.

Despite its dramatic growth, the organisation still retains its original “extended family relationship” model says CEO Dina Ranieri.

“Our culture is such that we welcome people in as a family member, and we look after clients like our own family. We create relationships with them and a sense of village is nurtured every time a new client comes on board -and they love it!”

Dina was 12 when she left Italy and arrived in Australia, with no language skills as she first started attending school. This experience helped to shape her core values, that being the importance of community and culture. As Dina says, “people stay if they like the culture and environment.”

When Dina joined the organisation as an Administrative Assistant in 1987, there were only five staff members and five Community Care Workers providing services to 10-15 clients, all of whom were Italian. At the time, Dina still had small children and was only able to work three days per week.

Soon after she was employed, the organisation became the first culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) organisation to attain aged care funding through the Home and Community Care (HACC) program.

This set Co.As.It Community Services on a path to rapid growth.

Dina’s role at that time involved “a bit of everything”- getting to know the ins and outs of every aspect of the organisation. Like many staff members, she has grown up with Co.As.It. Community Services.

“Many colleagues have been with the organisation for decades and staff turnover is low” she happily reports.

As Dina became more familiar and knowledgeable with the functions of the organisation, she was offered the role as Director in recognition of her skills and expertise. In 2018, when Co.As.It. became a company, she was appointed CEO.

The organisation has powered and grown under Dina’s stewardship, expanding both service provision, assets and presence within the industry.

Co.As.It Community Services have received recognition and won awards for high quality services and excellence in care. In 2021, they were presented with a distinguished Order of Merit Award from the Italian Government for services to the community.

“We all believe in the vision of the organisation and because more than 80% of our staff speak another language, we have the cultural and linguistic competency to excel in this area. We have since opened our arms to other new and established CALD communities.”

Co.As.It. Community Services has two divisions that Dina oversees on a daily basis.

The Italian Language Centre (ILC) promotes and teaches the Italian language and culture in primary and secondary schools Queensland-wide. The centre provides professional development opportunities, resources and support for teachers and over 24,000 students learning Italian.

The Community Services division delivers aged, disability and community care services in Southeast Queensland, from Bribie Island to Tweed heads. Based in Lutwyche, there has social activity and respite centres in Stafford, Brackenridge, Acacia Ridge, Cleveland and the Gold Coast.

Three of these facilities were proudly built using Co.As.It.’s reserves and fundraising capital- a massive achievement for an organisation that started with one office and no bathroom facilities.

Today all the centres offer themed-day activities, transport and meals for clients. Every centre operates five days a week with two activities offered each day that are “often the highlight of the week for the clients” says Dina.

There is also an activity group specially designed for people living with cognitive impairment, the Sunshine Group, which is an essential service for carers and those who attend.

“Co.As.It is providing services that are very much needed in the community. We are supporting families in a way you would in a village; extended families, that is our ethos”

Dina Ranieri

The newest facility Amici House at Bracken Ridge was refurbished entirely from its own funds to the cost of $1M and has been operational since mid-2021.

An array of classes and activities is offered through this centre including respite, Latin dance, art, technology, physiotherapy, podiatry, information sessions and social group meetings. This community hub also boasts a café offering tasty meals and snacks at an affordable price for clients and guests.


One of the most enjoyable activities is having children from Tumble Tots Kindergarten and Goodstart Early Learning Centre visit to share their day with clients. The intergenerational exchange between the two generations is extremely precious and rewarding- so much so that it’s not clear who enjoys the day more the children or the elders.

Co.As.It have evolved their services to meet the needs of their clients; to continue to support them on their life journey. “Italians migrated to Australia in large numbers, so they are the first to age in large numbers,” Dina says.

Services like the free ‘Stay Active Exercise Programs’ have been created, to encourage physical activity for older community members. This program is funded entirely by the organisation and started with a pilot study of 15 people. Now the program proudly boasts 6 weekly classes with over 120 participants in three different locations.

The organisation has cared for many clients for generations.

Including children who initially attended playgroups when they were young now attending as parents who have their own offspring and clients who previously attended Co.As.It social outings in the 80s now receiving social activity support, in Italian, as they have moved into aged care homes.

“The demographic has changed but we will always have the history with the Italian community, and Italian will always be part of us,” Dina says.

The sense of continuity and continued strong relationships with their clients are just like a village – the sense of which is loved by all clients regardless of their cultural heritage.

Yoga Classes at Amici House

ARE you wanting to learn yoga without breaking the bank? Why not join our yoga classes on offer at Amici House? All you need to do is register your attendance, bring a yoga mat and wear loose, comfortable clothing. The classes on offer are suitable for all levels and you will learn postures to help improve your mobility, core strength and stability.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The benefits of yoga are well known and some classes charge up to $20 per class, this is a fantastic way to learn this modality for only $5 in a wonderful environment. You can contact  Co.As.It. Community Services on (07) 3624 6100 to book your place. This course is very popular and highly recommended – register today!

Art Classes at Amici House

DO you live in the Bracken Ridge area and keen to learn something new? Have you ever wanted to join an art class but not sure what you might be good at? If you want the option to try sculpture, painting, sketching, collage, working with clay or watercolour, why not join an art class at the wonderful Amici House! Classes are held every Monday from 10am to 12pm at Amici House, 294 Bracken Ridge Road, Bracken Ridge. Access to the centre is via the service road and there is plenty of on site parking.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The art classes at Amici House are suitable for students interested in developing their skills or learning new skills. A perfect class for anyone seeking to explore their creative side. All materials are provided for the very affordable cost of $5 per class. Classes are run by a qualified art teacher who can deliver tips and tricks to help you develop your skills. All you need to do is contact Co.As.It. Community Services on (07) 3624 6100 and register your interest.

Nourishing the Soul at Amici House

COME and experience two hours of pampering, wellbeing and friendship. This is a monthly event open to women from the ages of 16 years and above for a $5 contribution. The event will present the importance of self care and how to take time out – there is also time for connecting.  The presentation will be followed by a delicious morning tea including tea and coffee and something nutritious to eat. The gatherings are held on the first Wednesday of every month from 10am to midday at the wonderful Amici House in Bracken Ridge just near the corner of Bracken Street – entry via the service road.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The “Nourishing the Soul” talks are filling up fast, all you need to do is contact the Co.As.It. Head Office on (07) 3624 6100 to register and book a space for you and a friend, if you wish. It’s a women-only event and there is plenty of on site parking.

International Women’s Day 2022

CO.AS.IT. Community Services is delighted to host the International Women’s Day Celebration on Saturday 12 March, 2022 from 10am to 2pm at The Rose Room,  Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. International Women’s Day is a unique global event that is the highlight of Co.As.It.’s community calendar.

Themed ‘Celebrating Women, the Heart in our Community’, be immersed in a stunning event that will honour the quiet achievers in our community who dedicate time, love and energy to helping others. In collaboration with Brisbane Fashion Month’s Laura Churchill, this year’s event is shaping to be unmissable.

Laura Churchill will curate the Co.As.It. International Women’s Day fashion parade, she is one of Brisbane’s leading stylists and fashion event producers. As director of Brisbane Fashion Month, a month-long series of runway, networking and public events each October, and producer of the Ekka Natural Fibres Fashion Parades since 2017, Laura helms the two largest showcases of Brisbane and Queensland fashion in the state and is a passionate advocate of local fashion designers and makers.

Join Co.As.It. for a wonderful high tea with prosecco upon arrival, generously sponsored by Italiquore, and a chance to win raffle prizes – all in a breathtaking setting at the opulent Rose Room, at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. Returning as emcee is the masterful Kim Skubris, exceptional communicator, ambassador – a true powerhouse of personality.

Enjoy this event with friends, family, and celebrate the work that women do in our community. Co.As.It. is hosting this exclusive event with all funds raised going toward their Mind Wellness Program – a fully funded counselling and support service for carers and for those living with dementia. Brisbane women of all ages are invited to this event to celebrate women’s achievements and to help #BreaktheBias for a more equitable future.

You do NOT want to miss this one! Tickets via Eventbrite or the Lutwyche Office.

Organisers: Grace Demaio and Linda Moffat