Movers & shakers 2023: part 2

There was a lot of movement in 2023 at the executive level of Australia’s aged care sector.

Following on from part one of this series, here are many of the movers and shakers of the second part of the year.


Retirement living operator Levande announced Kevin McCoy as permanent chief executive officer after he spent two months in the role on an interim basis. “Levande believes that now is the right time to appoint a new CEO with strong expertise in both property and care to drive the company’s strategic plan for the entirety of its journey,” read a statement.

Speech Pathology Australia appointed allied health sector executive Jodie Long as its new chief executive officer. An executive healthcare leader with more than 25 years in the allied healthcare sector, Ms Long joined Speech Pathology Australia with a mix of both business and clinical experience. In a statement, Speech Pathology Association national president Tim Kittle said: “We are confident that our decision to appoint Jodie will set the association up for a prosperous future.”

Deborah Karasinski

West Australian aged care, disability and mental health service provider Chorus announced the appointment of experienced human services leader Debbie Karasinski as a non-executive director of its board.

Previously, Ms Karasinski worked in the health, disability, aged care and mental health sectors in WA for over 40 years within not-for-profit, corporate and government environments across service delivery, policy development and governance. Chorus has over 1,000 staff and volunteers who provide in-home and community support in communities across Perth and south-west WA.

BlueCross Aged Care executive Penelope Marshall was appointed the Victorian Practitioner representative to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, which works to ensure the nation’s nurses and midwives are suitably trained, qualified and safe to practise. Ms Marshall said she was excited to be able to provide an aged care focus to board discussions. “A lot of my focus at the board will be on speeding up the pathway to work. For aged care, that might look like nursing students working in aged care,” she said.


Paul Sadler

Former aged care provider and peak chief Paul Sadler was appointed chair of the board of meal delivery service Meals on Wheels Australia. Mr Sadler said he was looking forward to supporting and improving the home aged care sector in his new role. “Meals on Wheels services are the backbone of Australia’s home care system. I’m a strong advocate for the quality nutrition and social connection that Meals on Wheels provides.”

It was also announced that Mr Sadler was joining the board of not-for-profit organisation Meaningful Ageing Australia – which promotes evidence-based spiritual care for the ageing population. ”My desire is to give back to the aged care sector through voluntary board membership – and to be part of the Meaningful Ageing Australia board is very worthwhile for me,” said Mr Sadler. “The centrality of spirituality to older people’s lives resonates with me strongly.”

KinCare appointed Bernadette Gotch as its new chief executive officer. Ms Gotch joined the in-home aged care provider having held a number of senior executive management roles – including KinCare’s chief operating officer for three years. Beginning her career as a registered nurse, Ms Gotch said she intended to leverage the frontline experience to inform her leadership approach as KinCare continues to navigate important industry shifts. “I am excited to step into my new role as CEO of KinCare and to take over the leadership of the business at a critical time for the industry and for our company,” she said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed Blair Comley as secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care. Mr Comley joined the department having enjoyed a long-established career across the Commonwealth and New South Wales public sectors. In a statement, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler welcomed Mr Comley’s appointment saying, “Mr Comley has a wealth of experience and a record of proven leadership navigating complex issues.”

Dr Jennie Hewitt

NSW and Queensland regional and rural aged care and retirement living provider Whiddon welcomed award-winning academic and physiotherapist Dr Jennifer Hewitt as its newest research and positive ageing team member.

“Jennie has already worked closely with us on our new Exercise 4 Life program, which is seeing incredible outcomes for our residents and clients in the areas of pain management and reablement,” said Whiddon CEO Chris Mamarelis at the time of the announcement. “We look forward to seeing the continuing difference Jennie will make as part of our team.”

Queensland provider Rockpool Residential Aged Care announced the appointment of technology industry and operations expert Ian Kelleher as its inaugural chief operating officer. Mr Kelleher joined Rockpool with 25 years of experience in leading diverse business functions in the telecommunications sector, human services and tourism industries. In a post on LinkedIn Mr Kelleher said he was soon “moving into a dream role” at Rockpool Residential Aged Care. “The ability to make a positive impact on people’s lives will be a privilege,” he said.


Kay Patterson

After almost seven years, Dr Kay Patterson stood down from the role of Age Discrimination Commissioner. During her tenure, Dr Patterson – a former cabinet minister, senator and academic – increased community awareness about elder abuse and the supports available. She also strongly advocated for older women at risk of homelessness, challenged ageist thinking, and promoted positive intergenerational relationships.

One of Dr Patterson’s latest projects as commissioner – Changing perceptions – examined the effectiveness of education adjusting attitudes toward ageing. The project involved training more than 300 aged care and community workers across Australia.

After five years in the role, Mohammad Al-Khafaji stood down as chief executive officer of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia. Mr Al-Khafaji thanked all those who have supported him over the years “especially the board and my talented and hard-working staff, without whom, FECCA would not be the organisation it is today.” Mr Al-Khafaji left FECCA for a new role at multicultural broadcaster SBS.

Pat Garcia

After four years in the role, Pat Garcia announced he was vacating the role of chief executive of Catholic Health Australia. Reflecting on his years as head of the peak body, Mr Garcia told AAA the biggest challenge over that period was the pandemic.

“Covid, in many ways, added additional pressures to a sector that was already suffering from a range of sustainability issues,” he said. Mr Garcia didn’t intend on leaving the Catholic Health sector, entirely, however. He transitioned to St Vincent’s Health Australia as group general manager public affairs and general counsel.


MiCare – which specialises in offering aged care services to people from culturally diverse backgrounds – appointed Jos van de Ven as its new chairperson. Previously a MiCare board member, Mr van de Ven was actively involved in both the extension and refurbishment of MiCare aged care homes Prins Willem Alexander Lodge in Birkdale Queensland and Avondrust Lodge in Carrum Down Victoria. Mr Van Ven replaces Ignatius Oostermeyer as chairperson who had been in the role for 14 years.

Movers & shakers 2023: part 3

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Tags: Bernadette Gotch, Blair Comley, debbie karasinski, dr jennifer hewitt, dr kay patterson, ian kelleher, jodie long, Jos van de Ven, kevin mccoy, Mohammad Al-Khafaji, Pat Garcia, paul sadler, penolope marshall,

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