Aged care leader named WA Australian of the Year

She now hopes to challenge ageing stereotypes and promote mutually-supporting communities.

Dr Penny Flett has been named the WA Australian of the Year for 2009.

The CEO of Western Australian provider, Brightwater Group, was recognised for her work in enhancing the lives of older people and her passion to change community attitudes about them.

Now she hopes to use the opportunity to share her vision for mutually-supporting communities where older people are active participants.

“I know this sounds a bit aspirational but aged care in the future can’t simply be an extrapolation of what it is today,” Dr Flett said.

“What we really must do is design the future for older people so that we think of community first, with care being one part of that. We can’t just look at a person, determine what type of care they need and then tell them, ‘Therefore you need to go here, there or wherever to access it’.”

Dr Flett said that while the quality and accessibility of care is very important, older people’s lives can’t be defined by it.

“Today we still ask people to leave their community to receive care or stay at home in desperate isolation, which is almost as bad,” she said.

The Chair of the WA Aged Care Advisory Council also hopes to challenge the widespread stereotypes about ageing.

“We need to stop this ‘us and them’ way of thinking because we are all going to be one of the ‘thems’ – we are all going to be older,” Dr Flett said.

“My dream is that everyone is treated as a person no matter who they are or how old they are; no matter what their level of ability or disability is what their talents or their challenges are.”

The announcement comes less than two months after Dr Penny Flett was awarded the Aged and Community Services Australia Individual Award for Excellence and ten years after she was announced the Telstra National Business Woman of the Year.

As in the past, she shared her recognition with her colleagues and employees.

“Nobody does what they do on their own, especially not in this industry,” Dr Flett said.

“Everybody is crucial and that starts with the frontline workers. They are the ones who are invisible and who don’t have a voice but they do so much hard work.”

Dr Flett is now in the running to receive the Australian of the Year Award which will be announced in January.

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