A purpose-built community for elderly residents with intellectually disabled children is taking shape at Kanahooka.
The revolutionary development, the first of its kind in the country, is being led by IRT Group and has been made possible with an injection of $2.9 million from the state government's $100 million Restart Illawarra fund.
On Thursday, IRT chief executive Nieves Murray inspected the site, adjacent to IRT William Beach Gardens, which will eventually house a community of 12 homes and a respite centre and cater for about 40 residents.
"The development application has been approved by council so we can now start the final stages of negotiations to get construction under way," she said.
"We are hoping construction will start before Christmas and envisage it will take less than 12 months so that this time next year, people will be moving in."
Ms Murray said Australia was now seeing a generation where many people with an intellectual disability were ageing into their retirement years, and outliving their parents.
In 2008, there were 1449 people with a disability in NSW being looked after by an ageing carer; in 2013 that figure had reached more than 3000.
Ms Murray said IRT had been hoping to combine aged and disability services in a supportive environment for some time.
The organisation has been able to do that thanks to the funds from the lease of Port Kembla port, and a collaboration with Greenacres Disability Services, Community Options Illawarra and Interchange Illawarra.
"I've been in this sector for 30 years and I've heard the concerns that ageing parents have for their children with an intellectual disability many, many times," Ms Murray said.
"What this project does is give the opportunity for families to remain together. It also gives ageing parents peace of mind that when they're not around any more, that their child with an intellectual disability will be looked after and have security of tenure in a familiar environment."
Minister for the Illawarra and Disability Services John Ajaka inspected the site with Kiama MP Gareth Ward and Heathcote MP Lee Evans on Thursday.
Mr Ajaka said the model of care was something that could be rolled out in communities across the state.
"It's exciting to be here, inspecting the site and plans of this innovative project," he said.
"By partnering with organisations like the IRT Group, the government will make the Illawarra a centre of excellence for aged and disability support."
Mr Ward said he was excited to see the port funds materialise into important projects for the community.