Pat Sparrow returns to COTA as new chief

Peak body for older Australians COTA Australia has announced Patricia Sparrow as its next chief executive. 

Peak body for older Australians COTA Australia has announced former aged care peak head Patricia Sparrow as its incoming chief executive. She told Australia Ageing Agenda she was hoping for a positive working relationship with aged care providers.

Ms Sparrow spent two-and-a-half years at COTA as director of aged care reform and engagement from 2011-2014 in between stints at provider peak body Aged and Community Services Australia. She left the now defunct ACSA last September after five years as CEO to take up her current role as CEO of the peak body for the eye health and vision care sector Vision 2020.

Ms Sparrow worked at ACSA for over 10 years before her first spell at COTA and as an aged care advisor to federal government ministers after it. Her extensive experience in human services also includes roles in local and state governments and the non-government sector. 

‘I’m really excited’

“It’s an amazing role” and “I’m really excited about it,” Ms Sparrow told AAA. “If you look at all my experience, and the things that I’m passionate about, it was just a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to contributing to COTA’s advocacy for older Australians – and there’s so much to do,” Ms Sparrow said, explaining why she wanted the role.

Ms Sparrow said she was hoping for a “really good relationship” between new provider peak body Aged & Community Care Providers Association and COTA Australia under her leadership. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Tom Symondson – their new CEO. I’m hoping that we’ll have a good relationship and can work together to make sure that older Australians are getting the services that they need, and the quality’s there.”

Ms Sparrow will succeed Ian Yates, who announced his intention to leave in May, after 20 years at the helm of COTA Australia among 33 years in key roles at the organisation. 

‘An ideal successor’

Ian Yates

“Pat’s a good successor,” Mr Yates told AAA. “She’s worked with us before in a really important role in terms of aged care reform, and will offer a great deal of continuity as well as her own style.”

Being a former CEO of an aged care provider peak body will aid her in her new role, he said.

“Pat has always been known in the provider sector as having a strong consumer focus. And when she worked with COTA for three years during a critical stage of the … reform process, she developed a very strong consumer value base. I think understanding the diversity and the thinking of the provider sector will be a help for her,” Mr Yates said.

COTA Australia chair Professor Jane Halton said the appointment of Ms Sparrow would ensure great continuity in the organisation’s vital role as the peak policy and advocacy body representing older Australians. 

Professor Jane Halton

“Patricia Sparrow has a wealth of experience and brings with her a great passion for the rights and wellbeing of older Australians,” Professor Halton said in a statement.

“She has already been instrumental in achieving important changes for older Australians in her previous roles and will bring a level of knowledge, enthusiasm and experience to COTA Australia that makes her an ideal successor to Ian Yates.”

Ms Sparrow, who begins in her new role in December, already has several priorities in her sights. “There’s no doubt that cost of living is a huge issue for older Australians, age discrimination, particularly employment in the workplace, housing and importantly for older women, which we know is one of the fastest growing groups. And obviously aged care –, we’ve not yet got it right. And it’s something that we still need to ensure that we get right.”

Handing over after 30 years of advocacy

Professor Halton also paid tribute to the contributions of the outgoing chief executive. “Ian Yates has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights of older Australians for over three decades and in that time has been instrumental in pushing for and achieving crucial reforms such as the increase to the aged pension, superannuation reform and especially major aged care reforms, as well as countless other measures which have helped improve the lives of older Australians.”

Mr Yates will continue in other existing roles such as chair of the Council of Elders and work with Ms Sparrow to ensure a smooth transition at COTA Australia. “I have lots of tips for her that I will certainly convey to her in what will be a significant period of overlap,” Mr Yates told AAA. He expects a three-or-four week handover period. “But we have already started the process and we’ll have conversations over the next couple of months while she’s still at Vision 2020.”

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on LinkedInX (Twitter) and Facebook, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to our premium content or AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: cota australia, featured, ian yates, jane-halton, pat sparrow,

2 thoughts on “Pat Sparrow returns to COTA as new chief

  1. This is fantastic news and Pat will perform at her very best in this role. Her overall experience, knowledge and ability to nail issues and act on them, as well as delegate and her ability to speak passionately with a deep understanding of all matters that encompass COTA will make a real difference to COTA and the aged sector and all Government. She is well known, and her comments, ideas and recommendations are highly respected by all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *