Aged care heroes honoured

Professor Susan Kurrle is one of many recipients of an Australia Day honour for significant service to the aged care sector.

Professor Susan Kurrle is one of many recipients of an Australia Day honour for significant service to the aged care sector.

Appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, Professor Kurrle received her award for distinguished service to medicine as a geriatrician, and to research into dementia and cognitive decline.

Professor Kurrle told Australian Ageing Agenda that when she received an email informing her of the award she was stunned. “Just amazed. It’s an incredible honour and I’d love to know what people said about me because it must have been reasonable.”

Professor Kurrle said the work she is most proud of is bringing public attention to elder abuse. “We just kept pushing. It’s taken a long time to get it up there but people are now talking about it. And we’re hearing about it all the time when it comes to aged care.”

While advising the aged care royal commission on the topic, Professor Kurrle saw a lot of submissions detailing cases of elder abuse. “It makes you realise we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” she said.

Currently director of the Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre at the University of Sydney, Professor Kurrle is also a senior research fellow for dementia care specialists HammondCare, where she once held the role of board member.

Professor Kurrle has served as a member of the expert advisory panel of the National Institute for Dementia Research.

She is also an expert advisor on the ABC documentary series Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds and Old People’s Home for Teenagers, which unites young and old to improve the health and wellbeing of older Australians.

“I think it’s opened people’s eyes to what it is like for older people who experience loneliness and social isolation,” Professor Kurrle told AAA. “And how you can actually relatively easily change that or improve that.”

Mary Patetsos

Also included in the 2023 Australia Day honours list, Mary Patetsos has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to multicultural affairs, and to aged care.

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda, Ms Patetsos said the appointment was a great privilege and an honour. “I’m very respectful of these things and respect the people that I work with. So I’m in a good spot, actually.”

Ms Patetsos told AAA she was particularly pleased to be recognised for her work in aged care. “It’s a big thing for me given years of commitment to try hard to make it all a lot better for older Australians.”

Ms Patetsos joined the board of South Australian aged care provider ACH Group in 2008 and became its chair in 2018.

In a statement, ACH Group CEO Frank Wells congratulated Ms Patetsos on her honour. “This award acknowledges Mary’s long-standing commitment to aged care in Australia,” he said.

Ms Patetsos has served the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia for the past eight years, initially as chair of the healthy ageing committee and then as chairperson from 2017-2022. She is currently FECCA’s honourable president as immediate past chair.

In a statement, FECCA chairperson Carlo Carli congratulated Ms Patetsos on the honour. “On behalf of the board, I congratulate Ms Patetsos for this worthy recognition and for her service to the national peak body.” he said.
“Ms Patetsos is a respected leader in the multicultural space as well as in the aged care sector. She has advocated for better and inclusive aged care policies and services for multicultural communities, and her achievements speak for themselves.”

Ms Patetsos also continues to play a role in helping shape aged care reform as a member of the National Aged Care Advisory Council.

Stephen Cornelissen

Aged care leader Stephen Cornelissen has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to community health.

Former long-term executive at Catholic not-for-profit aged and health care provider Mercy Health, Mr Cornelissen spent almost 20 years at the organisation where he held the role of group chief executive officer from 2011 to 2022.

Mr Cornelissen was also on the board of former industry peak Aged & Community Services Australia, first as a director then chair. He also held the role of director at Catholic Health Australia – the peak body representing Catholic providers of health, community and aged care services.

In 2019, Mr Cornelissen appeared as an expert witness before the aged care royal commission.

As well as community health, Mr Cornelissen received the honour for services to basketball, a sport in which he has held various roles including coach and team manager.

Former chief executive officer of Elder Rights Advocacy Mary Lyttle has been appointed an Honourary Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to aged care and community health. The appointment is honourary because Ms Lyttle, a permanent resident, is not an Australian citizen.

Ms Lyttle served as ERA’s CEO from 1991 to 2017. She has served as a volunteer aged care advisor for Australian Multicultural Community Services since 2018. Ms Lyttle is also a former board member of the Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care at La Trobe University.

Ms Lyttle has also held a number of federal government roles including board member of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency, a member of the Code of Conduct for Aged Care Working Group, and a member of the Aged Care Approvals Round Advisory Group.

Dr Sadhana Mahajani

Dr Sadhana Mahajani has also been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to aged care, and to community health.

Dr Mahajani has served as a board member for Council on the Ageing Northern Territory since 2012.

Working for the NT’s Department of Health, Dr Mahajani was a geriatric consultant for the Aged Care Assessment Team and involved in the establishment of the first community health centre in Darwin. She has also served as a board member and medical advisor for Dementia Australia Northern Territory.

Ellen Louie has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to aged care welfare. She has been involved with the Australian Nursing Home Foundation since 2005 where she has served as a legal advisor, board member and chair since 2015. The ANHF is a provider of culturally appropriate residential and community aged care.

Lawyer Rodney Lewis has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his “life-long contribution to human rights and civil liberties.”

Rodney Lewis

A pioneer of elder law and an expert on elder abuse, Mr Lewis is a former chair of the legal response committee for the Council on the Ageing New South Wales. He is also a founding member of Victorian not-for-profit legal organisation Aged Care Justice, where he currently acts as a consultant.

Meanwhile, Joy Leggo has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through a range of organisations including Cultura – formerly Multicultural Aged Care Services – where she is CEO. Ms Leggo has also worked for ACSA Victoria.

Elizabeth Drozd

Elizabeth Drozd has also received the Medal of the Order of Australia. Ms Drozd was recognised for her service to the Polish and multicultural communities of Australia.

Since 2000, Ms Drozd has been CEO of Victorian-based not-for-profit aged care and support provider Australian Multicultural Communities Commission.

Ms Drozd is also a board member of the Victorian Seniors Advisory Group, a board member of the Western Region Aged Care Trust and a non-executive director of not-for-profit home care package provider Care Connect.

Speaking to Australian Ageing Agenda last year, Ms Drozd said the past three decades spent working in aged care have been a joy. “Working with seniors for me, particularly CALD seniors, has been one of the most special, memorable and extremely satisfying parts of everything that I have done in my professional career.”

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them at

Main image: Professor Susan Kurrle at the 2022 International Dementia Conference

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: Dr Sadhana Mahajani, Elizabeth Drozd, Ellen Louie, featured, Joy Leggo, Mary Lyttle, Mary Patetsos, Professor Susan Kurrle, Stephen Cornelissen,

Leave a Reply

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