Bowra & O'Dea: A commitment to care and compassion

Local team: Part of an organisation that has offered five generations of commitment to the families of WA.
Local team: Part of an organisation that has offered five generations of commitment to the families of WA.


Bowra and O'Dea began in 1888 and has been owned and run by the O'Dea family for more than 130 years.

It has operated in Mandurah since 1980. The new Pinjarra Road premises had its first service on July 1, 2019.

A new, purpose-built facility, it has been designed to meet the needs of the Mandurah and greater Peel region for many years to come.

Manager Garry Russell, who has worked for Bowra and O'Dea for 14 years in various roles, moved to Mandurah in May.

He said many of the local staff had been with the company for many years and came from backgrounds as diverse as policing, education and mining.

"Dawn Walter, our senior funeral consultant, started with Bowra and O'Dea, Mandurah in 1999. In fact, she conducted the last service at our Leslie Street branch 20 years to the day after starting with the company, at that branch," he said.

"We have a wonderful permanent staff of 10 and, when required, have access to staff who work on a casual basis.

"We are also fortunate to be able to have staff from our sister branches when required.

"Staff can perform all tasks required, from administration, consultants discussing funeral wishes and funeral attendants who assist on the day, to trained mortuary staff who prepare the deceased with care and dignity.

"All our staff are actively involved in the community and they have told me they intend to continue to live, work and eventually retire in the area.

"Mandurah places you under its spell very quickly and even after a short while here I can see why - it's a wonderful place to live and work."

The new chapel has seating for more than 160 and a capacity of up to 400. It is designed to feel comfortable for 20 close family and friends to have an intimate service for their loved one or 350 members of the community to say goodbye to a local identity.

"We also have a separate viewing chapel to allow individuals or families to spend some time and say their goodbyes in a quiet, informal setting, where there is no rush and they have privacy to express their feelings in a way that is comfortable for them," Garry said.

"A well-appointed crèche is available for children attending the service, and we actively encourage the whole family to attend.

"By the way, we mean the whole family, including beloved pets, all are very welcome.

"A state-of-the-art mortuary is located on-site. If the funeral is happening locally then the dressing and other preparations will also happen locally.

"If families want to assist with the dressing, Sally, our mortuary manager, will be there to guide them."

Building a chapel from scratch meant the organisation could include the very latest in design and equipment, in a seamless way, including easy access and facilities for those with disabilities or equipment to record and live stream a service to anywhere in the world, in real time, at no cost to the family.

The company is also building a separate function centre on-site for wakes, other life celebrations, conferences and for community groups to use, which is set to open early next year.

Care, compassion, enthusiasm and experience were among things that set Bowra & O'Dea apart, Garry said.

"We do what we do because we believe in the importance of helping you to say goodbye, in your own unique way, to your loved one. This permeates the company and the staff from the executive chairman, Joe O'Dea, through to our admin staff, arrangers, drivers and mortuary staff," he said.

These days, there was no such thing as a 'standard service', Garry said, with services planned in co-operation with families so they are as unique as the person that has passed away.

"Whether it is at our chapel, a church, at home or at a community venue, it will be tailor made," he said.

"Technology can be a large part of a service. Music, photo presentations, recording the service or live streaming, to those the family invites to watch, are integrated into the service as required. But as the saying goes - the more things change the more they stay the same.

"Bowra and O'Dea will always offer the same respectful goodbyes we have done for 130 years. We have generations of experience in arranging funerals for all religious denominations and ethnic groups."

With an occasion as significant as a funeral, it is important to seek trusted, professional advice.

"On so many occasions I have taken a phone call about funerals, dying, cemeteries and the like that has started by the caller saying: 'No one has died but I have a question about... and I knew Bowra & O'Dea would know the answer,'" Garry said.

"There is not much that we have not come across over the years and if I don't know the answer one of my colleagues is sure to.

"We are happy to help whether we are arranging a funeral for you or not - we are professional enthusiasts when it comes to our industry."

Garry said staff are involved in local community service, sport and church groups, and being part of the community was important to understanding local needs and styles and providing an appropriate service.

Bowra & O'Dea is also proudly committed to the environment, having partnered with Trillion Trees (formerly Men of the Trees) for more than 20 years and planting more than 85,000 trees as a tribute that acknowledges families they care for and offers them a place to remember a loved one.