Council of Elders determined to make a difference

The chair of the Council of Elders outlines key priority areas following inaugural meeting.

To be “frank and fearless” – that’s the role of the newly established Council of Elders, chair Ian Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda, following its inaugural meeting on Tuesday, 25 January.

“Ministers Greg Hunt and Richard Colbeck conveyed to the council their strong support for it to be frank and fearless in its advice – whether or not it accorded with Government,” said Mr Yates, also chief executive of Council on The Ageing Australia.

Mr Yates heads a 14-member council, which comprises a diverse mix of talents – academics, advocates, activists, specialists and researchers.

The Council of Elders was formed on the recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to provide a formal platform from which members can advise Government on all aspects of aged care reform.

Ian Yates

“Historically,” said Mr Yates, “Government has listened primarily to providers and professionals, rarely to the voice of older people.” He added: “Organisations like COTA have had a strong voice, but we were always knocking on the door from the outside. Now the older person’s voice is on the inside, having the final say before the ministers make their decisions on policy.”

Number one on the agenda is to create “an equitable, accessible and high-quality aged care system,” said Mr Yates.

Other priority issues flagged by members included supporting senior Australians to age well, “with an emphasis on inclusion of all older people – irrespective of geographical location, cultural heritage and identity, gender, sexuality and all other diversity.”

Tacking elder abuse, adequate housing, homelessness, and supporting functional capability at all stages of life were also identified as important issues for council to discuss.

Refreshingly, 75 per cent of council members are women. They include Margaret Walsh – deputy president of the Association of Independent Retirees. Speaking to AAA, Ms Walsh said the inaugural meeting provided an opportunity for members to get to know one another. “It was an introduction of all the members,” said Ms Walsh. “It took an hour for us to introduce ourselves.”

The meeting also provided an opportunity for the members to connect with Mr Hunt and Mr Colbeck. “It was a very informal interaction with the ministers,” said Ms Walsh. “It was a very positive start.”

Referencing the 148 Royal Commission’s recommendations, Ms Walsh said: “I’m impressed that [the Government is] well and truly working on a huge number of them. There’s a lot of work being done, and there’s a lot more to be done. There definitely will be changes. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a while. Nothing happens overnight.”

When asked by AAA whether council members feel they will be listened to and their advice acted upon, Ms Walsh replied: “The members of the council are all strong people and are determined to make a difference. We certainly hope that that will happen,” she said. “You have to be in there to try, don’t you? If you don’t speak up, you’ve lost your chance.”

The Council of Elders will serve a two-year term and meet six times per year, or more frequently as required.

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Tags: council of elders, magaret walsh, royal commission, tom calma,

3 thoughts on “Council of Elders determined to make a difference

  1. I am concerned that the Council of Elders will reflect on the traditional way in which our Elders are cared for particularly in Residential Care. I note many of the new Boards background – clinical
    There needs to be a shift in focus from the Clinical model of care to a supported level of care where the elders are the master/mistress and the clinician’s are the servants. The same with medication.
    The traditionally model has failed we need to look at other models that support not dictate our elders

  2. The naming of the Council as ‘CoElders’ is highly problematic. Can’t they just be who they are e.g. Older Adults, Older People, Older ?
    I hope there will be some focus on the importance of supporting good mental health. Good physical health cannot be separated from good mental health. They’re intertwined.

  3. Not too many of the Elders will be burdened with the experience of running a residential care facility, but otherwise quite politically correct.

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