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A decade of outstanding service

A decade of outstanding service

Inclusive, fair-minded, collaborative, considered and visionary - these are just some of the words used to describe RAAFA’s CEO of 10 years, John Murray, who will be greatly missed when he retires in June.

“John has a unique ability to work with people at all levels, he’s a creative thinker and, under John’s leadership, people always come first,” says Tonia Zeeman, RAAFA’s Chief Operating Officer.

“He lives our core values of Respect, Care and Honesty and is always there to support people when the going gets tough. 

“What’s more, John’s calm and pragmatic people-focussed approach has set the tone for leadership within RAAFA, with his broad knowledge and initial background in nursing adding to his business and financial acumen.”

Indeed, John’s background as a Registered Nurse - which saw him start his career at Graylands Hospital, where he specialised in mental health – is a far cry from the military backgrounds which so many within the RAAFA community have experienced.

“For someone who doesn’t have a military background, John has embraced all of the attributes and the incredible commitment of the ex-service people, staff and volunteers who have built our organisation over the years, and that’s a great credit to him,” says RAAFA’s President, Clive Robartson, who is one of three Presidents under whom John has served.

“John immediately picked up our culture, and he did a lot of work on exploring and expanding it, thereby enabling people to better understand RAAFA and what we really stand for.”

RAAFA’s Past State President, Graeme Bland, concurs.

“John quickly picked up our constitutional commitment to serving and former serving veterans and our first responder community, including those who have served in the police, ambulance and fire brigade, as well as our retirement village residents,” says Graeme.

“From the very beginning, John’s manner gained both respect from management and members alike. He sought and researched the background of the veteran community and RAAFA members more broadly, and instituted an induction for all new employees that explained the background of our organisation and where it is today. 

“Ironically, this has meant that our staff are possibly more aware of RAAFA's history and heritage than many of our residents.”

During his time at RAAFA, John has displayed a laser-like focus on managing risk within the organisation, and establishing the corporate systems and capability required to successfully operate a business of RAAFA’s size and complexity – and to equip it for the future.

Indeed, the projects undertaken by John - and his achievements - are extensive by any measure. They include the completion of RAAFA’s Orion Terraces and Cirrus Apartments, as well as the new RAAFA Club at AFME, the state-of-the-art Alice Ross-King Care Centre and the extensive Gordon Lodge refurbishment.

There was also the opening of Jasmine House (Karri and Tuart Lodge dementia-specific wings) at RAAFA Merriwa, the purchasing of RAAFA’s Challenger Court village in Rockingham and the creation of Clear Skies - a significant initiative that has succeeded in invigorating RAAFA’s charitable purpose.

Further achievements include the launch of the Andrew Russell Veteran Living (ARVL) program - enabled as a result of land purchased in Cannington, moving the organisation’s head office to Applecross and then to South Perth (while purchasing additional land for future development), implementing systems and infrastructure to take RAAFA into the future - including payroll, IT systems, CRM, finance, disaster recovery program, optical fibre, information and record management systems, and being instrumental in RAAFA’s 90th anniversary celebrations.

Over his decade-long tenure, he has also had a strong focus on increasing RAAFA’s overall corporate governance.

“During my terms of RAAFA State President and Chairman of our Governing Body (the Division Council), I found John to be especially cooperative, informative and a leader that held nothing back,” adds Graeme. 

“I believe we have a first rate and successful Governing Body due to the resolution of Constitutional and environment issues that John has guided us through.”

At the same time as dedicating his expertise to overhauling RAAFA’s organisational structure to place it in a better position to embrace future growth, John was also a significant contributor to the aged care sector more generally, where he held various director positions on the Aged Care industry associations, including as Chair of the Retirement Living Committee and Chair of ACSWA in WA, and Chair of ACSA Finance and Audit committee.  

He was also the inaugural Chair of the national Human Services Skills Organisation (HSSO), whose vision it is for Australia’s human services sector to be equipped with a skilled, diverse and adaptable workforce to meet current and future needs.

And all this while effortlessly developing a reputation as an incredibly approachable, personable and fair leader who also has a sense of humour.

Indeed, who could forget him dressing up each year as the Easter bunny and distributing Cadbury’s Favourites to staff in our retirement living estates and aged care homes?  Or getting into the festive spirit and donning the annual Father Christmas outfit?

It is perhaps partly for these reasons, as well as his commitment and dedication to his role as a leader, that John developed a reputation amongst his team as the most approachable CEO most had ever worked with.

Though concurrently, during his decade-long tenure, John was also essentially doubling the organisation’s income and assets.

“When you look back to the 2013-14 year, RAAFA’s income was $42M and assets were in excess of $600M,” adds Clive.

“And in the last financial year, income was $80M and RAAFA’s assets were approaching $1B, so under John’s leadership the value of our organisation and assets has pretty much doubled.

“So, without doubt, under John's guidance, RAAFA has become one of the few successful aged care, home care and retirement living providers which is recognised for excellence Australia-wide.” 

No wonder he will be sorely missed by everyone at RAAFA, as well as the wider aged care sector both in WA and nationally. Leaders of John’s calibre are surely hard to find. 

Key milestones under John’s leadership


  • There was an overhaul of the organisational structure, aimed to better place RAAFA in a position to embrace future growth within the aged care sector.
  • Review of the organisations business undertaken to understand the perspective of the services provided (and to be provided).
  • $27M state-of-the-art 102-bed care facility - Alice Ross-King Care Centre - commenced development on the AFME at Bull Creek.


  • Four strategic themes developed:
    • Operational excellence
    • Embracing the wider community
    • People, culture and knowledge
    • Development and sustainability
  • Member surveys carried out in January 2015 in an effort to understand what RAAFA consumer expectations were and how to respond to them.
  • Orion Terraces apartments completed and residents moved in. 
  • Orion Terraces awarded “Best Seniors/Aged Persons Multi-Unit Development by Master Builder WA.


  • Governor of Western Australia, Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson AC, officially opened Alice Ross-King Care Centre at AFME, Bull Creek.
  • Major upgrades to the aged care facilities at Vivian Bullwinkel Lodge, Karri Lodge and Gordon Lodge.
  • Master planning for the redevelopment of the AFA Club at Bull Creek commenced.
  • CEO initiates major transformation to the Information and Communications Technology across the Association sites – clinical care systems and Wi-Fi to clubs and residential care centres.
  • Division Council creates Charitable Purpose Committee aimed to “reflect, respect and support veterans through the delivery of care, community support, the fellowship of our clubs and representation through the museum.”


  • January 2017 sees new strategic plan with the redefining of elements of realising ‘One RAAFA’
    • Clear Skies created to provide Charitable Purpose and Advocacy.
    • Seniors Living - Retirement Living, RAAFA Connect and Residential Care.
    • Membership – Aviation Heritage Museum, RAAFA Clubs, Volunteers, AFA Cadets.
  • Head Office relocated to Applecross.
  • Approved Provider Status approved by Department of Veterans Affairs, to enable the expansion of RAAFA Connect.


  • Acquisition of the six-hectare site at Two Rocks for possible future development.
  • Acquisition of 4000sqm site in Bowman Street, South Perth.
  • Central Support Office established at 18 Bowman Street, South Perth.
  • Early consideration of the replacement of old residential units at AFME, Bull Creek.
  • CEO actively involved in the development of strategic objectives for RAAFA. 


  • Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety impacts the sector.
  • Legislation around quality compliance (Care Standards) demand a new focus.
  • Five years of decreasing Government subsidy payments start to bite.
  • Revised Purpose – Honour the Past, Be in the Present and Embrace the Future.
  • Revised Vision – To go above and beyond, engaging and supporting our community.


  • John Murray appointed as a member of the AFA National Board, Joint Board Steering Group (JBSG), which was established to redefine and harmonise governance and membership structures across all state Divisions.
  • A multifaceted program was activated to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Master Plan for the development of AFME progressed with a vision to create an inclusive, safe and connected community that enables people to live healthy, purposeful lives.
  • Cirrus Apartments opened by His Excellency, Hon Kim Beazley AC, Governor of WA in October.
  • Partnership with All Saints College in Battle for Australia Ceremony.
  • Governor re-opens Aviation Heritage Museum after COVID-19 shutdown.
  • Renewed Values – Respect, Care and Honesty.
  • Introduced The RAAFA Way, making a meaningful difference in a way that reflects our original purpose, heritage and values and shows in everything we do.


  • RAAFA Club at AFME Bull Creek and 57 Cirrus Apartments commissioned.
  • Planning underway for development of the Veterans’ homelessness program based on the successful program developed in South Australia by RSL Care.
  • Land purchased in Cannington for this development.
  • A focus on the outcome and impact of the changes demanded following the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
  • Stirling development project under way at AFME, replacing older housing with contemporary new apartments.
  • Renewed Purpose – Pursuing Excellence in Care and Heritage.
  • Renewed Approach – Creating RAAFA communities open to all.


  • Andrew Russell Veteran’s Living (ARVL) program launched, with the aim to provide emergency housing for veterans at risk of homelessness and to connect them with professional support.
  • RAAFA acquires Challenger Court, a 50-unit retirement village in Rockingham from the City of Rockingham. 
  • Rules are revised to be compliant with the ACNC and ACQSC for consideration at the 2022 AGM.
  • RAF donates GR4 Tornado to the Aviation Heritage Museum.
  • Consideration of options for the development of a new Aviation Heritage Museum.


  • Official handover of the GR4 Tornado from the RAF Chief of Air Staff, Sir Michael Wigston KCB, CBE, ADC.
  • Demolition of AFME’s Sivyer, Harris, Ingram and Fraser units to make way for new 63 apartment Stirling development.
  • RAAFA becomes more environmentally friendly and sustainable with the installation of solar panels on our residential care centres.
  • RAAF donates the FA18 Hornet to the Aviation Heritage Museum.

tags:  News

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