The aged care sector needs to speak with a united voice to bring about the change the industry requires, a leading dementia advocate has told a dementia symposium this week.  

Dementia and aged care advocate Ita Buttrose said the aged care sector required an all-of-industry approach to address the challenges and changes it was experiencing.

“The aged care industry is at a point where it is no longer a question to change or not to change. Change is underway and now it is up to many of you to successfully manage change without any loss of staff morale, productivity or expertise,” Ms Buttrose told the Dementia Australia National Symposium Series 2020 on Tuesday.

“I’d like to suggest that you consider an all industry approach to meeting the challenges of aged care,” she said.

An entire industry speaking with a united voice will be a lot more powerful, but it needs to incorporate substandard care providers too, she said.

Ita Buttrose speaking at the Dementia Australia National Symposium Series 2020

The shocking and appalling circumstances highlighted by the aged care royal commission do not happen in every aged care facility, but it goes on in too many, Ms Buttrose said.

“You have to accept that while some of the industry provides the most excellent care, the entire industry is not up to scratch. And I think it’s up to the entire industry to put away their sensitivities and work together for a result of which we all can be proud,” she said.

“The issue is that unless you all speak as an industry, unless you incorporate those who are not up to scratch, those who are letting down older citizens… I don’t think we will be able to fix the system,” Ms Buttrose said.  

She said it is crucial for the industry to present a united voice to enact change in the sector.

“I think as an industry, if you’re collectively together, you’ve got a chance of bringing about the changes that the royal commission will help bring about.”

Empathic leadership required

Elsewhere Ms Buttrose said aged care leaders needed empathy and compassion to provide inspiration to their workforce.

Good leaders who understand aged care and the compassion required have empathy – a trait often seen in female leaders, she said.

“Female leaders instinctively use language that expresses emotions; they understand emotions in others.”

Ms Buttrose provided New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership style during the early stages of the pandemic as an example.

“As the former prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark pointed out, there is a high level of trust and confidence in Jacinda Ardern because of that empathy… she is standing with them.”

“I suspect the empathy of female leaders resonates with people,” Ms Buttrose said.

However, Ms Buttrose said she was not implying male leaders couldn’t have empathy.

“I’ve singled out female leaders because they’re such excellent examples of the effectiveness of empathy,” she said.

She encouraged leaders to be optimistic because leadership was about seeing the future and its opportunities.

“It’s about inspiring people to see where they are and where they have not yet been. Leadership is a privilege, it gives people the opportunity to do great things to truly make a difference.”

Access the Dementia Australia National Symposium Series 2020 recordings here.

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1 Comment

  1. Ita is, of course, right. The idea of the sector not merely banding together, but having a strong, industry-wide representative body is not new.

    It’s been around for many years and almost happened in 2012. Unfortunately, the idea was scuttled then by self-interested egos, and the sector has continued to lack a strong and united voice, allowing successive governments to hamper its progress with inadequate funding, over regulation, micro management, and blame shifting.

    Sadly, it’s taken 8 years, a Royal Commission, a pandemic and a financial crisis for the sector to display a willingness to stand up to the government and hold it accountable for its woeful policy failures. Let’s hope everybody holds their nerve.

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