Above: (L to R) ABC Radio National journalist, Peter Mares, hosts the debate featuring (seated) Prof Andrew Markus, Sue Macri and Gerard Mansour.

By Keryn Curtis

Jewish Care Victoria’s annual general meeting last week drew an audience of over 100 people.  There was the prospect of a compelling overview of the organisation’s milestones and achievements over the previous financial year plus a healthy supplement of future plans and strategic directions.  And then there was the panel discussion being facilitated by Radio National’s Peter Mares and recorded for his program, The National Interest.

Entitled, Ageing and Caring for Older Australians, the panel included Professor Andrew Markus of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University (principal author of the recent report on Older Jewish Australians), Sue Macri, Associate Commissioner on the Productivity Commission’s  Caring for Older Australians inquiry; and Gerard Mansour, CEO of Aged & Community Care Victoria (ACCV).

Jewish Care CEO, Bill Appleby said the panel was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate synergies between the research and strategic direction being undertaken in the Jewish community and the wider aged care sector.

“It was a great panel discussion but importantly it was affirming in many respects.

We’ve invested heavily in the Jewry 2030 research, which underpins and creates an evidence base for our strategic direction for the next five to ten years.

“So it was validating for our community to have the opportunity to hear two leaders from the wider aged care community, together with Andrew Markus, confirming our strategy and directions,” Mr Appleby said.

Mr Appleby said that an open and well-attended AGM with discussion and debate was important to the Jewish community members.

“As a community based organisation, there is a strong expectation of transparency. It is a very informed and educated group, very passionate about their organisations.

“Peter Mares did a very professional job.  There was a real buzz in the air.  Our members left feeling quite buoyed, having these esteemed experts attend and being part of the discussion that confirmed a lot about the directions we are taking as an organisation.

“It’s important to have a strong evidence base,” said Mr Appleby.  “We have all these different programs and plans but we need to make sure that what we do has an evidence base.”

Jewish Care has partnered with the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University to develop a series of reports outlining the various issues facing the Jewish community in Australia.

Entitled the GEN08 project and led by Professor Markus, it represents a first time collation of census data and survey findings, to provide detail and direction for planning services for older Jewish Australians over the next twenty years.

Mr Appleby said the Jewish community was ageing faster than the general population.

“According to the 2006 census, 13.5 per cent of the population is aged over 65 but in the Jewish community, that figure is18 per cent.  Average age of entry into aged care in the general community is 84 whereas in the Jewish community it is 89.” 

He said the research shows a clear need for Jewish organisations to work in partnership with one another and with government to create a system that continues to be responsive to the distinctive and diverse needs of the community.

“We have invested time and resources to see what we need to be doing now to be ready. The research is looking at areas including communal planning, anti-Semitism, welfare, education, access to housing and perceptions about health and well-being.  There’s a huge database of information.”

The panel discussion is expected to be aired on ABC Radio National on 1 January 2012 at midday, although this date is yet to be confirmed.

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