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Sign of the times: ACT Government to be first to appoint Retirement Village Ombudsman

In a precursor for retirement village operators and residents in each state, the ACT Government is investigating setting up the first independent Ombudsman to help resolve disputes between residents and operators. 

The new Labor Party-controlled NSW Government, when in Opposition, also promised to create a Retirement Village Ombudsman.

The Labor Party-led ACT Government said it is advocating for a national retirement village and aged care ombudsman, after the Legislative Assembly unanimously voted to support Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson’s motion.

Michael told the Legislative Assembly the current arrangements, which rely on internal retirement village disputes committee and the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, did not always offer the pathway to justice seniors deserve.

“Despite being the first port of call for when a dispute arises, the internal village disputes committee often fails to generate tangible outcomes for residents since the decision is not binding,” he said in a statement.

“If a resident subsequently chooses to escalate the matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the ACT Supreme Court for enforcement, they often find themselves bogged down in a costly, arduous, administrative nightmare.

“As a result, very few seniors pursue the justice they deserve and give up altogether.”

He added seniors deserved access to a binding and enforceable mechanism to resolve disputes with the operators of retirement villages.

Facility Manager Key things to help you everyday Village Operator

LEADERS SUMMIT SATURDAY special issue: The increasing area of risk for retirement village and aged care operators

With new laws being enacted across every State and Territory aimed at tackling psychosocial safety in the workplace, operators need to prepare now to ensure they are not caught out, the LEADERS SUMMIT has heard.

MinterEllison Partners Deanna McMaster, Penelope Eden and Tammy Berghofer appeared in a panel session to discuss the legal challenges around retirement living and aged care, particularly in relation to workforce and approaches to risk mitigation.

Deanna (pictured above) told the room that MinterEllison expects that there will be more activity in the seniors living space over the next 12 months because of a range of new workplace health and safety laws coming into play.

“Once upon a time, safety laws and the work I do was all about heavy industry mining and construction and physical accidents. But that time has gone. Seniors living environment are of real interest to safety regulators because of the psychological.”

Full story in the LEADERS SUMMIT special issue of SATURDAY – subscribe here.

Latest industry developments

MP Rebekha Sharkie calls on Federal Government to regulate retirement villages

Rebekha Sharkie, the South Australian MP, moved a motion in Federal Parliament yesterday (Monday) asking the Government to consider regulating retirement villages nationally to improve the legal protection of residents.

She said Australians living in retirement villages needed greater financial protection and called on the government to take the lead in ensuring consistency in state and territory legislations.

She wants retirement villages, which are currently regulated by States and Territories, to be under the auspice of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)

The Member for Mayo said while many residents enjoyed retirement village living, many others were “appalled at the excessive fees” applied to retirement village living.

She added had “no insight or control into how some retirement villages calculate the exit costs”.

“Many residents don’t have any control over how the unit is marketed or when it is put to market, as this is often done ‘in-house’ by the retirement village owners, often at rates higher than a licensed real estate agent, leaving exiting residents feeling powerless and out-of-pocket,” she said.

“And once fees are deducted, remaining funds leave some residents ill-equipped to pay for higher level care they may need when they age … this is an area which clearly warrants federal government intervention to help ensure fairness and transparency when you enter and leave a retirement village.”

The Federal MP’s call for retirement villages to be nationally regulated was supported by National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke, who said nationally-consistent retirement village legislation would reduce the costs of compliance, benefiting both consumers and operators.

“Older people are confused and frustrated by the complexity of the contracts and lack of protections when they consider entering a retirement village and dismayed by the delays and egregious charges when they exit one,” he said.

“Residents want choice and flexibility, which is why the retirement industry offers a range of contract options to best suit their needs,” Daniel Gannon, Executive Director of the Retirement Living Council told The Weekly SOURCE.

“Importantly, the sector works closely and openly with governments, regulators, residents and their families to ensure that Australians have the information they need to make a decision that’s right for them during this important stage of life.

“We know that contract transparency is vital from the outset, which underpins the reform work we are currently undertaking with governments.

“Age-friendly communities across the country contribute more than $3.3 billion in savings to governments through reduced interaction with GPs and hospitals, and most importantly through delayed entry into aged care.”

Latest industry developments

Residents Knit 14,000 Teddy Bears for Ukrainian Children 

Ryman Healthcare residents in Australia and New Zealand have come together to spread love and support to displaced Ukrainian children with approximately 14,000 bears being knitted in just six months.

The Yuri-bear initiative was started by Debra Richardson, Ryman’s Victorian Sales Manager. Debra fostered an 11-year-old boy named Yuri from Ukraine following the Chernobyl disaster. Three decades later after having reconnected with him, Debra came up with a bear in his honour to send to displaced Ukrainian children as a gesture of love and support.

“I have been completely overwhelmed by the response of Ryman residents, many of whom are avid knitters. For months now they’ve come together to hand knit these special bears in the hope of bringing some joy to a very dark situation,” Debra says.

Transporting tens of thousands of bears across the globe is no easy feat, and Debra was overwhelmed by the response of Ryman residents who were eager to help. “Thankfully, freight forwarding company, Mondiale VGL, generously donated one and will manage the transportation for us,” she said.

The bears will be packed and sent this week via sea, to be distributed on the ground by aid organisation Kiwi K.A.R.E. Ray Meade, Group CEO for Mondiale VGL, said, “We are pleased to be able to provide the means of transport for the Yuri Bears to Ukraine and work with Ryman Healthcare on this fantastic initiative.”

The Yuri-bear initiative has touched the heart of the man who inspired it, now a member of Ukraine’s security forces. “So many miles between us, but I feel the love and support of my Australian mommy Debra, because we are close in minds!” he said.

The initiative is a testament to the power of love and kindness, even in difficult times. It shows that small acts of kindness can have a big impact on the lives of others. Let’s continue to spread positivity and kindness wherever we can, just like the residents of Ryman Healthcare.

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Importance of Advanced Care Planning for Seniors: A Must-Read for Village Managers

As a Retirement Village or Community Manager in Australia, it is important to be aware of the benefits of Advanced Care Planning, especially during Advanced Care Planning Week, which runs from March 20th to March 26th. This week serves as a reminder for everyone to have brave conversations with their family members, healthcare professionals, and loved ones about their future health preferences, including end-of-life care preferences.

Advance care planning involves taking control of your future health care by making decisions about the medical treatment you would or would not like to receive if you were to become seriously ill and unable to communicate your preferences or make treatment decisions. It is an opportunity to ensure that your wishes are known and documented, providing peace of mind for seniors and their families.

According to Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA), only 15% of Australians have documented their preferences in an Advance Care Directive, despite the fact that over 50% of us will be too unwell to make our own end-of-life decisions. ACPA’s preference is for everyone to have a documented plan and a substitute decision-maker to ensure their preferences are respected. It is essential to understand the difference between an Advance Care Directive and an Advance Care Plan.

An Advance Care Directive (ACD) is a legally binding document that outlines an individual’s specific medical treatment preferences, including any life-sustaining treatments they do or do not wish to receive. An ACD can also appoint a substitute decision-maker (SDM) to make medical treatment decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapable of making decisions for themselves.

On the other hand, an Advance Care Plan (ACP) is a broader document that outlines an individual’s general wishes and values regarding their end-of-life care. It can include information about an individual’s preferred living arrangements, spiritual or cultural beliefs, and other preferences that may affect their care. An ACP does not have the legal status of an ACD, and it does not appoint a substitute decision-maker.

As a Retirement Village or Community Manager, it is important to support residents in having these conversations with their families or support persons. It is not the role of the Village or Community Manager to force these conversations, but rather to recognise the importance of residents having their plans in order to avoid conflicts between family members regarding end-of-life care decisions.

When an individual’s preferences are known and documented, it can help to avoid disputes and disagreements among family members about what should be done and can also help to ensure that healthcare professionals provide appropriate and meaningful care to residents in their final stages of life.

As a Retirement Village or Community Manager, it is essential to understand the benefits of Advanced Care Planning and support residents in having these brave conversations about their future health preferences.

About Advance Care Planning Australia

Funded by the Australian Government and administered by Austin Health, Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA) is the national authority on advance care planning. ACPA supports individuals and health and care providers to enable people’s values and treatment decisions to be known and respected.

For more information, visit

Latest industry developments

Retirement by Lendlease’s Karri Ashford and Glenys Watters named best in State

Workers at the For Profit business, which has 10 retirement villages in WA, won the Village Manager of the Year and Salesperson of the Year awards at a Property Council WA event in Perth.

Property Council of WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer congratulated Karri Ashford, Village Manager at Woodstock West in Bunbury, and Glenys Watters, Parkland Villas Mandurah in Halls Creek and Woodstock West, Bunbury, for their ongoing commitment and dedication to providing excellent service to the retirement living community and industry.

“Retirement villages provide safe, affordable, and comfortable housing for seniors and those that work in the sector have an important role to play in managing all aspects of village life with compassion and professionalism,” Sandra said.

“These awards also recognise the hard work that goes into promoting the many benefits that come from being a part of this community and the support provided to residents as they make the move into retirement communities.”

Daniel Gannon, Retirement Living Council’s Executive Director, told the event Australia was a global leader in the design of age-friendly communities and it was extraordinary people who could build strong and productive relationships with residents that made retirement living even more enjoyable.

No alternative text description for this image
Daniel Gannon with (from left) Sandra Brewer, Glenys Watters, Retirement by Lendlease’s WA Head of Communities and Development, Anthony Rowbottam, and WA Parliamentary Secretary Jags Krishnan.

A 10-year longitudinal study of retirement village residents by DCM Group, owner of the DCM Institute, found 83 per cent of residents felt safer in the age-friendly community than in their previous home, with 94 per cent of residents confirming they were “glad to be living in a retirement community during these uncertain COVID-19 times”.

Karri joins NSW/ACT winner Jo-Anne Quinn, QLD winner Justine Regan, SA/NT winner Lee Ann Alejo and VIC/TAS winner Sherman Brown in the final, with the Village Manager of the Year national winner declared at the Retirement Living Council summit on 22 June.    

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Liberal and Labor make pitch to NSW RVRA before State Election – more regulations and an Ombudsman

The NSW Retirement Villages Residents Assn asked Liberal and Labor what to expect if they win this Saturday. Both talked up more regulations.

The Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello (Liberal Party), and the Shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Courtney Houssos (Labor Party) responded to the request.

Victor, who retires from politics after 15 years when NSW voters go to the polls, told the NSW RVRA:

“The NSW Government supported the findings (of the Greiner Report) and committed to making reforms to give effect to them.

The final phase of implementing the Greiner report’s recommendations is developing and consulting on a public register. The purpose of the register is to address the problematic prevalence of information asymmetry between operators and residents (prospective and current) and the financial burden on residents if something goes wrong. Targeted consultation on the register, including on the fields and usability aspects, is due to commence in the coming months.

The reforms are scheduled to be evaluated this year and this evaluation will inform the remake of the Retirement Villages Regulation 2017. The Regulation remake will be deferred until 2024 so that there is sufficient scope and time for any amendments to incorporate the findings of the evaluation.”

Courtney, who is jointing leading the Labor Party’s Upper House ticket, told the NSW RVRA:

“NSW Labor supports the grant awarded to the Retirement Village Residents Association in November 2022, which has been used to improve advice and education capabilities. If NSW Labor forms Government in March, we will extend the $125,000 grant awarded to the RVRA.  We want to see the RVRA continue to prosper and grow.

NSW Labor acknowledges that the Greiner inquiry into the retirement village sector called for a dedicated ombudsman service, which would assist residents with dispute resolution, including mediation.  If we are elected, we will investigate how this can be brought into effect.

If elected, a NSW Labor Government has committed to establishing a Strata Commissioner who will be charged with overseeing strata governance and policy across government, including legislative and regulatory reform in the Retirement Village sector. This will include implementing any recommendations made to improve the sector.”

Latest industry developments Village Operator

Lifestyle Communities awarded Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation

Victorian land lease owner/operator Lifestyle Communities has been named as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation (EOCGE) by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in its first year of application.

Lifestyle Communities employs 161 people, with 109 being female, which is 67.7%.

“To see that what we stand for and the purpose of our business is recognised is a proud moment. Working towards the rigorous assessment for this citation has been a big body of work but so rewarding at the same time. It was an opportunity to highlight our culture and passion for people by drawing attention to the frameworks we have in place to create an inclusive, supportive, and equitable workplace,” Maribel Robotis, Lifestyle Communities’ People Experience Manager, said on LinkedIn.

Managing Director James Kelly said he wanted the business to continue its programs to deliver “key gender equality practices that have a positive impact.”

Lifestyle Communities has a 50/50 gender split on its Board with 40/40/20 targets across its team.

“Our design and construction team is over 60% female which is a great achievement within a male dominated industry,” James added.

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Skill-building for Success

Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to Ginni Rometty being interviewed on a Harvard Business Review podcast. Rometty, former CEO of IBM, emphasized that continuous learning and skill-building are critical to staying relevant in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world.

As Robert Greene said, “The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.”

Rometty believes that investing in oneself is crucial to success. She emphasizes the importance of developing new skills, taking risks, and embracing change. By continuously learning and developing new skills, individuals can stay relevant and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the modern world.

So, what are the skills that are most important for success in today’s world? Rometty highlights several key skills, including the ability to learn and analyze data, collaborate effectively, communicate well, and demonstrate leadership.

One of the critical skills that Rometty emphasizes is data analysis. In the digital age, data is ubiquitous, and being able to make sense of it is crucial for success. Rometty encourages individuals to embrace data analytics and to develop skills in this area, as it can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and business operations.

Another skill that Rometty emphasizes is teamwork and collaboration. In today’s interconnected world, teamwork is essential for success, and individuals who can work effectively in teams are more likely to achieve their goals. Rometty believes that individuals who can collaborate well are better equipped to solve complex problems and develop innovative solutions.

Rometty also highlights the importance of communication and leadership skills. Being able to communicate effectively is crucial for building relationships and achieving goals. Rometty believes that individuals who can communicate well and inspire others are more likely to succeed. She also stresses the importance of developing leadership skills, as leaders who can inspire and motivate their teams are more likely to achieve success.

The insights of other experts in this field align with Rometty’s perspective.

According to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, individuals who believe that they can improve their skills through hard work and dedication are more likely to achieve success.

Additionally, Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, emphasizes the importance of having a passion for what you do and being willing to put in the hard work necessary to achieve success.

Skill-building is a crucial component of success, and the insights of Ginni Rometty and other experts can provide valuable guidance. By continuously learning and developing new skills, individuals can stay relevant and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the modern world. So, let’s continue to invest in ourselves in 2023 and beyond, and use our newly developed skills wisely to achieve our goals.

As Ginni Rometty puts it, “Skills are the new currency; learn as much as you can, and use it wisely.”

Latest industry developments Village Operator

Resthaven Executive Manager Community Services retires after 18 years in role

Sue McKechnie said it was her family role models who actively sought out leadership roles in their local communities that led her to a career at South Australian Not for Profit operator Resthaven.

“My background in health, paired with my interest in helping people be the best they can be, set me on the path to a leadership role with Resthaven,” said Sue, who has retired .

“I started at Resthaven in 2004 with an interest in people and community. I wanted to take the opportunity to assist Resthaven to develop its community services and further realise its commitment to quality in service.”

“Since then, Resthaven Community Services has grown from a small metropolitan-based operation to be the largest home care service provider for older people in South Australia, delivering a broad range of services across the entire continuum, employing more than 1,000 staff.”

Sue said she had been encouraged by the lives of Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Florence Nightingale as she pursued her leadership skills.

Sue chatting with a Western Community Services client, December 2022

“Encouraged by their stories, I realised that by taking up policy roles and championing new initiatives, I could influence better outcomes for more people.,” she said.

She recognises that being a woman in a leadership role is a vital role model.

“Every female leader brings their own style, models and pathways to teach younger women. The ability to support others has made my role hugely rewarding,” Sue added.

“Resthaven’s purpose, and values of ‘Trust Dignity Choice,’ closely align with my personal philosophy.”