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Budget Process: Professionalism + Partnership = Success

Retirement village residents on fixed incomes can be particularly sensitive to changes in the cost of living. The recent announcement of a 7.8% increase in the consumer price index to the December quarter nationally is a timely reminder for Village and Community Managers to prepare for the 2023-24 Budget cycle. This year, negotiating with residents and committees will require professionalism, respect, and care to successfully navigate their concerns with the increased costs of living. 

To guide managers through the budget process, here are some tips to consider: 

Transparency is key. It’s important to be open and clear about the costs involved in running the retirement village, including maintenance, insurance, rates, utilities, and staffing. Be prepared to answer questions about line items and explain any increases or decreases in costs from the previous year. Involve residents in the process through formal meetings and feedback sessions to create a sense of partnership and collaboration. 

Be prepared for budget requirements that continue to increase each year due to legislative changes and reforms. Have Quantity Surveyor Reports, Asset Management Plans, and quotes on hand to justify maintenance of capital items before consulting and negotiating with residents. 

Set clear goals and priorities for the year ahead, allocating funds accordingly. Be realistic about what the retirement village can afford and ensure that the budget reflects the needs and priorities of the residents. Consider how cost allocations are managed between operating and capital funds, and be open to compromise to find a balance between the needs and priorities of residents and the financial constraints of the retirement village. 

Summarise key points throughout the discussions with residents and committees, and follow up with a written document that outlines the agreed way forward. This will help ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of the outcome of the negotiation. 

Allow time for consultation and negotiation with residents and communicate the final budget clearly as per the requirements in your state or territory of operations. 

In conclusion, handling the budget process with care and professionalism, while taking into account the unique needs and concerns of residents, is critical. Success will come to managers who are well-prepared, effectively communicate, collaborate and negotiate with residents.  

The DCM Institute offers resources in its Knowledge Centre to help Village and Community Managers prepare for this year’s Budget cycle. 

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And finally, a top of the morning to you

St. Patrick’s Day is a time to celebrate all things Irish, but did you know that it can also be a time to celebrate life in a retirement village?

One of the great things about retirement villages is the sense of community on offer. On St. Patrick’s Day, residents come together to celebrate this special holiday with friends and neighbours, creating a warm and festive atmosphere. This can be especially important for seniors who may have lost loved ones or who live far away from their families.

From traditional Irish music and dance performances to green-themed parties and afternoon teas, many retirement communities find a way to celebrate this special day with a variety of events and activities.

For those who love to cook, St. Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to show off their culinary skills. Many retirement villages host potluck dinners, where residents can bring their favourite Irish-themed dishes to share with others. From hearty stews and potatoes to sweet soda bread, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

In addition to these activities, many retirement villages also offer educational opportunities on St. Patrick’s Day.

St Patrick’s Day falls on Friday 17 March. Be sure to have it included in your community’s event calendar for next month to enjoy a day of liveliness, delicious food, and a strong sense of community.

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When Zoe Prime went for an interview at a retirement village she felt at “home”

Zoe Prime, who had worked in administration for two fishing companies in Port Lincoln, SA, was looking for a career change when she decided to go back to work after having two children.

“After returning to the workforce I became a Disability Support Worker. I worked for Home Care Plus and also worked privately. I looked after a pair of beautiful twin girls who are toddlers with a rare condition, with only 600 people diagnosed with this disease. I got immense joy out of looking after these girls,” said Zoe.

“I then saw a village manager job advertised for Lincoln Grove and I thought wow this opportunity would be amazing. I can use my administrative skills learned at the fishing companies but also get to be a part of a community and still be social with the residents.”

RetireAustralia thought Zoe could be a good fit for the role and asked her to attend an interview

“As soon as I walked into the village on for my interview I knew it felt like home. It’s absolutely beautiful here,” Zoe said.

“I have met such wonderful residents who inspire me to become the best person I can be. I have found my motivation and passion again for work. There are 125 residents in our village. 24 serviced apartments in the community centre and 89 independent units!”

RetireAustralia is very keen on mentoring new recruits.

“I started on 8 August on 20 hours a week in reception, then moved into higher duties on 17 October. Then I became the relieving manager then I was appointed to the permanent position on 16 January,” she said.

“I have had such wonderful mentors in my journey.  Harish Bastain, Leonie Karlsson and Debra Green, my managers, have been amazing. There has been no hesitation from them when I need support.

“I have had wonderful support from fellow Village Managers Lee Ann Alejeo, when she came to Port Lincoln for a week to offer me support, and also Kathy Brazher-De Laine who stayed for 3 weeks!”

It’s the variety of life as a village manager that excites Zoe.

“Every day is different. I am kept on my toes with all the residents’ different personalities. I feel good in my heart knowing that I am here to put their needs first and I am their advocate.

“My advice is always work and stay in your personal values and the values of RetireAustralia (this way you know you are doing the best you can for yourself and residents). Never feel alone and always reach out when you need advice and support Enjoy what you do and also have fun with the residents.”

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49 Aveo communities go pink annually and have raised over $1.2M for breast cancer research

Aveo, one of the nation’s largest retirement village operators, has a great workforce.

Every October, an increasing number of staff and residents go pink, to raise money for breast cancer research.

49 of its communities took part last year and 46 funding raising events took place, raising $94,487.32.

You name it the Aveo teams have done it: pink breakfasts, morning and high teas, BBQs/sausage sizzles; pink champagne dinners, themed events with live entertainment, trivia nights, cakes decorating competitions and sampling, bra pink pong, plastic duck fishing, chopstick hunting, and many more.

The PA Research Foundation CEO Damian Topp has even attended some of the fund raising events.

In total the workers and residents at Aveo have collected more than $1.2 million for Project Pink since starting fundraising in 2016 to support The University of Queensland Frazer Institute (formerly UQ Diamantina Institute) Group Leader Associate Professor Fiona Simpson and her team to progress their breast cancer research.

The Frazer Institute has commenced their phase two safety trial for HER2-positive breast cancer patients.

Pictured are the Pink team at Aveo Bayview Gardens on Sydney’s Northern Beaches: Alison Bennett, Melinda Akehurst, Adam Vesey, Glenn Hayes, Kirsty Cooke, Haydar Mohsin and Omar Al-Safadi.

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Village Manager Jo-Anne Quinn and Sales Manager Joanna Watkins named leaders in NSW

Jo-Anne Quinn has been named the Retirement Living Council’s NSW/ACT Village Manager of the Year and Joanna Watkins the Salesperson of the Year at a council event in Sydney last Thursday.

Jo-Anne is the Village Manager of Aveo’s The Manors of Mosman Retirement Village, 8km northeast of Sydney’s CBD. She has been working for Aveo since January 2015.

She said the award was for “all the hard work, doing all the little things right, building a team culture, having a really good staff, good care, really just acknowledgement of looking after our residents as they age.”

“I’m very excited, elated, enthusiastic and ready for the next 10 years,” she told the audience at the NSW Retirement Living Council Outlook event in Sydney.

Joanne is the Sales Manager at Australian Unity’s Willandra Village in Cromer, 20km northeast of Sydney’s CBD.

“I’m really honoured. It’s a very special moment,” she said on receiving her award from James Wiltshire, DCM Institute’s Executive Commercial Director (pictured).

“COVID was really challenging for everyone and it was the refurbishment, the legal team, the operation, everyone pulling together to create a really special feel or record-breaking sales,” she said

Jo-Anne and Joanne go forward to the National titles which will be announced on 22 June at the 2023 Property Council’s National Retirement Living Summit on the Gold Coast.

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Two more Village Managers Recognised by the DCM Institute

Last week, the DCM Institute acknowledged two more Village Manager participants in their Professional Development program for reaching 1,000 PD Points. These two individuals, Anna Wilson and Robyn Parry-Lyons, have been dedicated Village Managers for over 15 years and have shown a strong commitment to their professional growth and development.

Anna Wilson has been the Village Manager of Strathfield Gardens, a retirement village located in Sydney’s Inner West, for over a decade and a half. During a tour of the village with Anna, the DCM Institute team was amazed by the rich history of the retirement village, which is situated within a 1870’s homestead.

Anna was full of enthusiasm as she shared the history of the village and how it has maintained much of its original gardens for the residents’ peaceful enjoyment. Anna was humbled by the award and as an advocate for the networking opportunities offered by the DCM Institute, hopes to attend the Professional Development Days to be held during the year.

Robyn Parry-Lyons (L) Village Manager of Fernbank Retirement Village, with Tiffany Folbigg (R), Operations Manager for DCM Institute

Similarly, Robyn Parry-Lyons has been the Village Manager of Fernbank Retirement Village, located in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs, for over 15 years. Fernbank is part of the Aveo portfolio and has more than 140 strata-titled independent living units co-located alongside 40 leasehold serviced apartments.

During a tour with Robyn, she shared complexities of managing a strata titled village and how she finds the DCM Institute’s Professional Development Program helps her stay updated with the latest trends in the sector and further develop her knowledge.

The recognition of Anna Wilson and Robyn Parry-Lyons is a testament to the hard work and dedication they have put into their careers as Village Managers. Well done.

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Shrove Tuesday: The Sweetest Day of the Year

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, is a day of feasting and festivities that takes place the day before Ash Wednesday – the start of the Lent.

The origins of Shrove Tuesday date back to medieval times, when it was customary to use up all the rich ingredients in your pantry before the start of Lent. Pancakes were a popular choice because they were quick and easy to make, and used up ingredients such as eggs, butter, and sugar. These days, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated all over the world, and many people enjoy cooking up a storm in the kitchen, whipping up as many pancakes as they can eat.

To this day, a good number of retirement villages across the country incorporate Pancake Day into their activities calendar.  It is a day village Chef’s tend to dread with the pressure of making a large numbers of yummy pancakes in a very short period of time.

Anyways, we’ve been lucky enough to get a family recipe from a retirement village in south western Sydney for you to try out on Tuesday 21 February.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Non-stick cooking spray or additional melted butter for greasing the pan


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (the batter will be lumpy). Don’t overmix, as this will result in tough pancakes.
  4. Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat. Grease the pan with cooking spray or melted butter.
  5. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake onto the hot pan. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes more.
  7. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more cooking spray or butter as needed.
  8. Serve the pancakes hot with your favourite toppings, such as butter, syrup, fruit, or whipped cream.

Enjoy your delicious pancakes! If you’re feeling creative, why add all sorts of toppings, from syrup and fruit to chocolate chips and bacon.

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Reflections on ‘Renovate or Detonate’

“The conversation has to start very early.”

That is according to David Cowdery, General Manager of Property at BaptistCare NSW & ACT. Speaking at the ‘Renovate or Detonate’ webinar hosted by The WEEKLY SOURCE and facilitated by Christopher Baynes, CEO of DCM Group, David noted the key to a successful redevelopment project is to start communicating with residents early.

David emphasized that building trust with residents can take a year of consultation, and transparency is crucial in showing that the operator has their best interests in mind.

Callum Ross, Head of Developments at Levande shared his own experience, stressing the importance of being transparent and upfront about the project from start to finish, and putting strategies in place to minimize any disruptions, such as providing areas of respite, organizing bus trips, and communicating construction schedules.

Jeff Ross from Total Construction added to this by sharing how they put viewing platforms in place to allow residents to inspect the construction process and feel engaged with the project.

Callum noted that renewing communities is a big opportunity for the industry, and as professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure its success. Whether it be a renovation, renewal, or full community redevelopment, engaging residents and bringing them along for the journey is crucial.

To achieve this, the following tips can be considered:

  1. Be proactive: Start communicating with the residents as early as possible to ensure that everyone has ample time to ask questions and provide input.
  2. Use clear, simple language: Avoid technical jargon and use clear, simple language to communicate the details of the project, including scale, scope and timeframes.
  3. Utilise multiple channels: To reach as many people as possible, consider using multiple communication channels, such as email, newsletters, social media, and public meetings.
  4. Be transparent: Be transparent about the goals and process of the project, being honest about any challenges or limitations you may face.
  5. Address concerns: Address any concerns that residents may have about the project, providing clear and concise answers.
  6. Highlight the benefits: Highlight the benefits of the project, such enhancement to resident experiences through improved amenities, and desirability of the community for future residents.
  7. Encourage participation: Encourage residents to participate in the process and provide feedback. This can be done through resident meetings, online surveys, or other engagement methods.

The WEEKLY SOURCE’s ‘Renovate or Detonate’ webinar looked at the tough choice between renovating and extending the life of a building asset, or demolishing and building a repositioned village. Lead by DCM Group CEO, Chris Baynes, panel discusses what to consider, the potential challenges, and the outcomes you can hope to achieve through an architecture and design, construction, project management and operator lens.


  • Mahi Lau | Principal, Stanton Dahl Architects
  • David Cowdery | General Manager Property, BaptistCare NSW & ACT
  • Jeff Jones | CEO, Total Construction
  • Calum Ross | Head of Development, Levande 
  • Anthony Felice | Sector Lead, Aged Care and Retirement Living NSW, TSA
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Ingenia’s award-winning land lease employee mentoring new community manager

After spending 10 years at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, Deb Howard (pictured left with Ann Blair) just felt ready for a change in career.

“However, I was unsure what that looked like.  I realised that there were so many transferable skills from hotel management to an over 55’s community and decided quickly that this was the right career path for me,” said Deb, who has been appointed Community Manager of lngenia Lifestyle’s  Natura Port Stephens at Bobs Farm in the NSW Hunter region.    

“The change has been extremely positive, and the onboarding program at Ingenia is incredible.  I have been lucky enough to have visited many communities in the past two months to learn what I can from each Community Manager.”

Natura Port Stephens is expected to welcome its first residents in late May with the first stage of 20 homes due for settlement.

Deb has bonded with Ann Blair, Community Manager at Plantations at Woolgoolga on the NSW Mid-North Coast. Ann was named Land Lease Employee of the Year at the Caravanning and Camping Industry Association NSW Awards for Excellence 2022.   

“Ann has been a great mentor for me since day one. I was lucky enough to spend a week with Ann at Plantations where I witnessed a very well-managed community with engaged residents and staff.  Ann, along with many other Community Managers, has passed on their wisdom and knowledge to allow me the skills and know how to effectively manage Natura Port Stephens,” said Deb.

From the first time Ann spoke with Deb there was a sense of collaboration.

“It been a joy to work with her and assist her to define how she would like her community to develop.

“Managing a community with all the variety of demands can be quite challenging and although everyone has a slightly different approach, consistency and integrity underpin the building of good relationships and communities.”

“Natura will be a boutique community of only 111 homes so Debra will be in a position to know her residents well.  I am confident Deb’s background in hotels and her natural demeanour will set her up very well to have a wonderful experience and give her the opportunity to share her unique skills with her community”.

Ann said If she were to give specific advice to a fellow community manager would be to ‘be yourself – let yourself shine’ as this will build good rapport with others.

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DCMI recognises Avondale village manager for 1,000 professional development points

Another village manager has achieved the milestone of 1,000 DCM Institute professional development points, with Leanne McPherson of Avondale Lifestyle Community congratulated for her hard work.

Tiffany Folbigg, Operations Manager of DCM Institute, recently visited Avondale Lifestyle Community, run by Adventist Senior Living, in Cooranbong at NSW’s Lake Macquarie. Avondale has over 230 villas and offers seniors loan license and rental options, along with access to various retirement living amenities.

During the tour, Tiffany presented Village Manager Leanne with an award for reaching 1,000 professional development points as part of DCM Institute’s Village Manager Professional Development Program.

“It is clear Leanne is very passionate about her village, and her residents,” Tiffany said. “During our tour we stopped several times to discuss particular resident situations, and it was clear Leanne really cares about what she does, and who she does it for.”

Leanne thanked DCM Institute for the support provided through the program, and said she is looking forward to the planned Professional Development days in 2023.