Part of the family
In the 75 years since a courageous group of Cabrini Sisters arrived in Melbourne to set up a hospital in Malvern, many people made significant contributions towards their legacy.
In the case of the Viera family – the connection to Cabrini runs deep.
Between Antonio, Norma, and their sons Sandro and Robert, they’ve provided over 100 years of service to the hospital.
Antonio and Norma have since passed away, but Sandro remembers the days of Cabrini’s infancy fondly.
“Dad looked after the gardens in the early days of the hospital, and he actually taught a few of the original Sisters to drive,” Sandro said.
“I remember the car well – it was an old blue Ford sedan, by no means a great car, but it got them around. Dad often found himself taking the Sisters to appointments in the city and acting as their chauffer, and that just eventually extended to him giving them driving lessons.”
The Sisters also imparted some wisdom on a young Sandro.
“We lived in Noble Park when I was young and I remember the Sisters coming over on weekends for a coffee – during those weekends they taught me how to play Chinese Chequers, which I wasn’t a fan of because they always beat me.”
“One sister I remember warmly is Sister Mercedes. I helped her set up the nativity scene at the front of the hospital one night a week for a long time… she’d often rearrange what I did because I was just a kid and didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was something I enjoyed.”
Antonio would go on to tend to the gardens at Cabrini for over 40 years, while Norma also had a long association with the hospital – working as a cleaner for over 25 years, which eventually led to Sandro’s employment.
“Mum would clean suites at night, and I’d come in and keep her company… and offer a hand,” he said.
“Luckily, a position came up in 1983 and I officially joined the team – this is my 40th year at Cabrini, which is an achievement I’m enormously proud of.”
“After a few years my younger brother Robert joined me here in the logistics team replenishing ward stock – he’s since moved to another area of the hospital, but he’s also now been here for over 30 years.”
While proud to have reached 40 years of employment at Cabrini, Sandro’s connection to the hospital extends much deeper.
“I actually met my wife here – she worked in the café… I eventually got around to asking her out and together we’ve had two beautiful children.
“Mum and Dad also both have plaques dedicated in their honour in the memorial garden, which is a nice tribute.”