Movers & shakers 2023: part 3

The year saw a lot of movement in 2023 at the executive level of Australia’s aged care sector.

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


FECCA appointed Mary Ann Baquero Geronimo as its new chief executive officer. Announcing Ms Geronimo’s appointment at an event to formally farewell Mr Al-Khafaji who left in July, FECCA chair Carlo Carli said: “Mary Ann beings a unique approach to FECCA leadership with her significant work in policy advocacy, research, practice, and community development in Australia and internationally in the areas of public health, ageing, aged care, post-conflict development, social development, and women’s financial security.”

Helen Emmerson

Helen Emmerson resigned from her role as chief executive officer of Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT after 10 years with the not-for-profit aged care and retirement living provider. Ms Emmerson – who started her career as a registered nurse – joined the organisation in 2013 as a project officer. Ms Emmerson said it had been an honour and privilege to lead the team at SCC.

“Very early in my career as a registered nurse I realised that aged care was an area I was passionate about and an area where I believed I could make a real difference. My experience at Southern Cross Care over the past decade has emphatically confirmed that belief,” she said.

Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia named technology sector leader and experienced community and health sector organisation director Kylie Walker as chair of its independent board. Ms Walker – chief executive officer of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering – was one of five directors ARIIA welcomed to its new board about six weeks prior to the appointment. “It’s our aim that research-informed high-quality aged care is available to and has enduring benefits for our growing population of older Australians, now and into the future,” she said.


Jason Kara

Former Catholic Health Australia director of aged care Jason Kara was announced as the peak advocacy body’s new chief executive officer. “The board is pleased to appoint Jason to the role of CEO at a critical time for the care sector in Australia,” said CHA director John Watkins. “He will continue to support our members to make a real difference to the lives of all in the community.”

NSW aged care provider Catholic Healthcare appointed Josh McFarlane as its chief executive officer. Mr McFarlane took on the CEO role following a five-month stint as acting CEO. Prior to that, Mr McFarlane was Catholic Healthcare’s chief operating officer for 18 months, during which time he led the faith-based, not-for profit provider’s residential care, home and community care, and independent living services. Upon the announcement of his appointment, Mr McFarlane said it was “an honour and a privilege” to lead Catholic Healthcare and its team of “incredible people”.

October saw a change of the guard at Dementia Australia. After almost 10 years as chair of the peak body, Professor Graeme Samuel announced he was standing down from the role. As well, after seven years as the unified peak’s CEO and head of the state body Alzheimer’s Australia Vic for six years before that, Maree McCabe announced she’d be stepping away from the top role from 1 July 2024. Professor Samuel’s position was filled by Merran Kelsall who joined the DA board earlier in the year.

The Benevolent Society announced the appointment of honoured public sector leader Ken Smith to its board of directors. Mr Smith said he was looking forward to serving on the board of an organisation with such an impressive legacy. “The Benevolent Society has been supporting Australians since 1813 as an independent, non-religious service provider that assists people to achieve independent living. It’s been able to lead in a range of social policy areas and had great influence in shaping the way we deliver a range of human services across the nation.”

Ita Buttrose

Ita Buttrose was appointed chair of the CHeBA advisory committee. Based at UNSW Sydney, the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing is a research body that aims to change the future of age-related brain disorders – specifically Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Describing the organisation as “a pre-eminent centre in brain-ageing research,” Ms Buttrose said she was hopeful advances could be made. “With the last decade indicating substantial developments in neuroscience, there is more hope given to the possibility that we may be in position to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”


Former aged care peak head Sean Rooney was appointed chief executive officer of the Northern Queensland Primary Health Network. Mr Rooney – former CEO of aged care provider peak body Leading Age Services Australia until it merged with ACCPA and national body Australian Medicare Local Alliance previously – said he was looking forward to building on the strong foundations already in place at the organisation, “strengthening stakeholder and partner relationships, and working with the NQPHN team on improving the health outcomes for all north Queenslanders.”

Ian Henschke

Ian Henschke left his role of chief advocate for National Seniors Australia. During his almost seven years at the consumer peak body, Mr Henschke oversaw a number of positive outcomes for older Australians including a successful campaign to reduce home care wait lists by 25 per cent by releasing tens of thousands of home care packages. Mr Henschke and the National Seniors Australia advocacy, policy and research teams also successfully campaigned to reduce the barriers to older workforce participation. In September, the government responded by announcing a permanent increase to the work bonus limit from $7,800 to $11,800.

Catholic aged care provider Mercy Health appointed Andrew Hewett as executive director communications and stakeholder relations. Mr Hewett joined Mercy Health – also a provider of acute and subacute hospital care, and specialist women’s health services – with more than 25 years’ experience in journalism, communications and marketing. In response to his appointment Mr Hewett said he was thrilled to be joining the Mercy Health team. “Supporting organisations who have a deep passion for caring for others has always been a priority of mine, I’m pleased to be continuing this work with Mercy Health where the team dedicate their operations to improving the lives of Australians across the nation.”

Council on the Ageing Victoria and Senior Rights Victoria appointed former aged care peak body Gerard Mansour and former barrister Ray Cummings to their boards of chief directors. COTA Victoria and SRV president Robert Caulfield said he was delighted the organisations were able to attract the insight and expertise of such high-calibre professionals to its board of directors. “We’ll use the knowledge of our new additions to continue our ever-important work with government to further a positive ageing agenda within this state and across Australia.”

Frank Weits

Frank Weits left his CEO role at ACH Group. The South Australian aged care and retirement living provider advised a new strategic direction was behind the departure.“Change is an inherent part of growth, and we believe that this shift in strategic direction will position ACH Group for even greater success in the future,” said Imelda Lynch, who was recently appointed chair of the ACH board. The provider’s chief operating officer Linda Feldt – who has been with the organisation for eight years and became chief operating officer in July this year – was appointed interim CEO.

National Seniors Australia announced the appointment of chief operating officer Chris Grice as its new chief executive officer. Mr Grice was appointed COO in February. Mr Grice said he was deeply honoured to lead a team who believed in the work the organisation does. “Older Australians face a myriad of issues including ageism, housing suitability and affordability as well as concerns about being able to support the next generation. These challenges can be addressed only if parliamentarians, governments, industry, and the broader community work together.”


Tony Crawford

National aged care and retirement living provider Bolton Clarke Group appointed legal professional Tony Crawford as its new chair. His extensive legal career includes three decades at national law firm DLA Phillips Fox where roles included chief executive officer and chair. Bolton Clarke is Australia’s largest independent not-for-profit aged care provider, supporting more than 130,000 people in their homes and at their 88 residential homes and 38 retirement villages nationally. Mr Crawford’s appointment followed the retirement after 12 years of current chair Pat McIntosh, who stepped down from the position as part of a well-planned succession.

Having joined the Benevolent Society’s board of directors in October, Ken Smith was appointed its new chair. Mr Smith replaced Tim Beresford who stood down from the chairmanship after a five-year tenure. Meanwhile, Professor Lorraine Sheppard also joined The Benevolent Society’s board of directors. “I have a strong interest in driving support for vulnerable people and was drawn to The Benevolent Society’s values,” she said. “I’m looking forward to contributing to the important work they do and value the opportunity to contribute my clinical governance experience and understanding.”

Resthaven announced structural changes to its executive team, with several new appointments. The not-for-profit provider’s senior branch had been revised “to better meet the requirements of the ever-changing compliance and reform environment in the aged care sector,” said CEO Darren Birbeck in a statement.

Tina Cooper – former executive manager residential and retirement living – transferred to the new role of executive manager clinical governance and operational excellence. Meanwhile, Resthaven’s retirement living portfolio – which sat within the residential services division – transferred to community services, headed by Mel Ottaway. As a result, Ms Ottaway’s title changed from executive manager community services to executive manager community services and retirement living.

A new senior position – retirement living operations manager – was created to manage Resthaven’s retirement living portfolio. Matthew Cragg was appointed to the role. Another appointment saw Kelly Geister land the role of executive manager residential services.

Reuben Jacob transitioned from interim chief executive officer at Aged Care Research and Industry Innovation Australia to CEO and company secretary, the research translation centre announced. ARIIA chair Kylie Walker said Mr Jacob was chosen after successfully fulfilling the interm CEO and COO roles over the previous one-and-a-half years.

“Reuben is an outstanding choice and brings a wealth of experience in research, business and strategy,” Ms Walker said. “This appointment marks an exciting new chapter for ARIIA and the board is looking forward to working with Reuben and the team to ensure that ARIIA continues to deliver on its remit to make a profound impact on the positive aging and aged care landscape in Australia.”

Andrea Kelly

Experienced leader and public policy developer Andrea Kelly was appointed the Interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner. “The Interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner will help advocate for communities and service providers across Australia to help the reforms we are undertaking in aged care meet the needs of older First Nations people,” said Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells.

Ms Kelly – a Warumungu and Larrakia woman with strong ties to the Northern Territory – said  she was delighted to take up the role of interim commissioner “and for the opportunity to advocate for and work directly with First Nations people regarding their care needs.” Ms Kelly will commence the interim role from 24 January 2024.

Speaking of 2024, the AAA team hopes it’s a happy one for all of our readers. Be sure we’ll be reporting on the latest appointments throughout the year…

Movers & shakers 2023: part 1

Movers & shakers 2023: part 2

Have we missed an appointment or resignation? Send us the details and an image to

Tags: Andrea Kelly, Andrew Hewett, Chris Grice, Darren Birbeck, frank weits, gerard mansour, helen emmerson, ian henschke, ita buttrose, jason kara, ken smith, kylie walker, maree mccabe, Mary Ann Baquero Geronimo, Matthew Cragg, Mel Ottaway, Professor Graeme Samuel, Ray Cummings, reuben jacob, Sean Rooney, tINA cOOPER, Tony Crawford,

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