MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AM)
By CRAIG BUTT
THE founder and joint managing director of the group that bears his name, Zig Inge is the patriarch of one of Australia's wealthiest families.
Mr Inge came to Australia from Latvia in 1949. He worked as a real estate agent in Melbourne's eastern suburbs in the early 1950s before deciding to switch from selling homes to building them. The company he founded with his brother Alex, Inge Bros, soon developed a reputation for quality construction.
He then decided to make another switch and moved his focus to retirement villages, "I built my first village in the '70s and haven't stopped working since then," Mr Inge says.
The retirement villages built by what later became the Zig Inge Group introduced innovations previously unseen in Australia. They were individually titled and resident-funded, and elderly people could live in their own home and benefit from communal facilities. They had regular social activities and had live-in managers. He also pioneered a deferred payment system in which residents only had to pay cost of living once they moved out of the village.
Mr Inge says improving living standards for the elderly became his purpose in life.
"Retirement living is my love. I love it. I love people and I love elderly people and I think they deserve a better lifestyle. One of the aims of our villages is to prolong the independent living of the average person," he says.
Until the sale of the retirement village division of Zig Inge Group in 2007, his company operated 19 retirement villages, 3000 units and six serviced apartment complexes throughout Australia.
He has since bought back one village, Prospect Hill in Camberwell.
Mr Inge also has a passion for philanthropy. His Zig Inge Foundation, founded in 2008, has funded community groups including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience.
"I wanted to give something back for what I've got. I've had a wonderful life here," he says.
But Mr Inge, 86, who has been described as the patriarch of retirement in Australia, has no plans to retire himself.
"I don't think so. Not for the time being. I'm trying to extend my own independent living as well."
He says his Queen's Birthday honour, which acknowledges his services to retirement village industry and philanthropy, was an unexpected surprise.