Above: CEO of ACAA, Rod Young

By Yasmin Noone

Whoever said that 2011 would mark a sharp turning point in all things aged care was right.

The Productivity Commission has completed its Caring for Older Australians inquiry, aged care reform is on the government’s agenda and, last week, Australia’s two peak aged care bodies announced plans to merge.

Many aged care providers and leaders around the country – for-profit and not-for-profit alike- are now celebrating the news as ACSA and ACAA’s plans to merge swing into motion.

This point in time has taken around 10 years to get to but, aged care commentators have openly welcomed its arrival.

Discussions between Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO of Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) have officially begun and the peaks’ joint objective is to get a concrete decision to merger by the end of the year.

ACAA has resolved to seek formal endorsement of the decision at its annual general meeting in September and ACSA members will vote on the merger in November.

CEO of ACAA, Rod Young, confirmed that a Merger Steering Committee, featuring some of the peak organisation’s board of directors, has just been created to facilitate further conversation between the two bodies.

The committee will develop plans around governance, constitution and the future business model of a single peak body for aged care.

“We can only see positives [resulting from a merger] in the context of greater resources being used to support industry development, policy, research and government relationship activities,” said Mr Young.

“ACAA believes that a single voice – that would be a consequence of the merge – will provide greater capacity for the sector to influence the government and to support policy positions for industry benefit in the future.”

Making change happen

CEO of Aged and Community Care Victoria, Gerard Mansour, has also been campaigning for the national merger for some time now.

“This is exciting and good news for our industry,” Mr Mansour said.

“The ACSA and ACAA national boards should be congratulated on their leadership for initiating the move to a single national industry association.

“2011 is the turning point for aged care, with the first baby boomers reaching 65 and the industry is embarking on an era of unprecedented change.

“The move to single national association could not have come at a better time. It will enable our industry to develop and then present united and decisive views to policy makers and key decision makers. A united national voice will place the aged care industry where it needs to be – at the forefront in driving the future of the aged care.”

ACCV was created in 2006 after the two state peak bodies merged. Drawing on his experience as the leader of an allready merged peak body,  Mr Mansour stressed how essential good communication will become in the lead up to the proposed merger.

“Both peak bodies must set in place strong and effective communication and member engagement strategies to ensure it is the voice for the entire membership base.”

He also explained what a merger will actually mean for ACAA and ACSA members throughout the country – greater efficiency in the use of peak body resources and the creation of a single voice for all.

“A single national organisation will remove the duplication from the existing structures – one database, one media monitoring service, one set of communication materials, one set of national committees, one national office and most importantly a pooling of the available resources.

“There are substantial benefits to be gained over time by reducing duplication, allocating resources strategically and making the best use of our members’ funds. This will support the outcome of a national office which is properly resourced for the challenges ahead.

“Secondly, and equally importantly, is the creation of stronger and more effective national voice for all members. A well resourced and streamlined national structure will inevitably be more effective in representing our members’ interests and be a voice for all.

“It will strongly represent all sectors, be that for profit, not for profit or public sector, it will promote care services for older Australians in all settings – be that residential care or community care – and actively represent all our key special interest issues such as rural and remote, CALD, the homeless and Indigenous.

“This is very positive indeed – one national industry association to bring together our collective voices into a strong national voice.”

Celebration amidst concern

Despite the sector’s widespread support for the national merger, some not-for-profits have raised one main concern – how will a national body with combined interests adequately represent those working in the charitable space?

However, most are generally happy with the news and await further developments and details.

In an effort to gauge the sector’s reaction to the proposed merger, AAA went straight to the source. We gathered opinions from key aged care players and stakeholders. To read more about what they said, click here.

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