Welcome to LEADING AGE Services Australia – the new challenger to ACSA and NSW ACSA in particular

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Many were stunned and some were simply saying ‘we told you so’, with the Queensland and Victoria Not For Profit operators defecting from their national their peak body ACSA (Aged & Community Services Australia). QLD and VIC have decided to form a new industry association – LEADING AGE Services Australia, in conjunction with private sector aged care peak body ACAA (Aged Care Association Australia).
They notified ACSA President Rob Hankins by phone on Wednesday night that their membership of ACSA will cease 30 June, exactly 3 months notice.
This leaves ACSA without its national mandate, a challenge as it has just this week employed a new CEO, Professor John Kelly AM, to lead ACSA from a new office they are especially establishing in Canberra (moving from Melbourne) to better perform as a national peak body.
Why did this happen? The need for one peak body has been recognised for years. The problem has been the independence of each of the state ACSA bodies and their different historical levels of development. Queensland formed Aged Care Queensland (ACQ) years ago and built an operation that spanned Not For Profit and Private operators in both care and retirement villages. Victoria established Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) and did the same – but not on the scale of QLD. Other states, especially NSW, stayed the Not For profit aged care line.
Remember, aged care is a Federal legislation jurisdiction, so the disparate state structures did not always make sense. South Australia’s Klaus Zimmerman, as the immediate past ACSA National President engineered a nationalisation strategy of all bodies. He also worked with ACAA to bring them into one national body. Fifteen months ago a shift to Canberra was announced and the search commenced for a new CEO to replace the retiring Greg Mundy. Patrick McClure was employed and a timetable for a merger with ACAA and nationalisation set.
NSW in particular however resisted. This led to QLD and VIC commissioning PriceWaterhouseCoopers to independently research ACSA members and develop an industry position paper. 75% of ACSA members were reported to want a single voice. Rob Hankins (CEO of ECH in SA) and Chris Rigby (CEO of Scalabrini in NSW) were given the task to get all the states behind the moves – to be voted on by members at last November’s ACSA National AGM. Two things happened. Patrick McClure resigned as CEO before the AGM and a minority of members, particularly from NSW, moved against the initiatives. One week before the AGM the member vote was ‘postponed’ and rescheduled for April this year. A month ago the merger and initiatives were given up all together.
At the AGM Zimmerman handed the Presidency over to Rob Hankins. Another Board member was Valerie Lyons (CEO of Villa Maria in Victoria). Rob Hankins set out to complete the move of the national office to Canberra plus recruit a new CEO. Just this week he announced the appointment of Professor John Kelly AM, to commence in a few weeks. Kelly is a high profile appointment. A senior lawyer specialising in health care, he has also been a long standing Director of the Smith Family and UnitingCare NSW. He has also been a government appointed Temporary Aged Care Commissioner.
The irony is that Valerie Lyons is also President of the Victorian ACCV and was intimately involved in the formation of the new LEADING AGE alternative to ACSA. She is on close working terms with Rob Hankins but Hankins did not know of the move until Lyons informed the ACSA Board the night before the public announcement.
On the one hand LEADING AGE state in media releases they invite all sector members and even peak bodies to join it – by implication ACSA as well. On the other hand Rob Hankins thanked ACCV and ACQ for their past support but expressed optimism for the future alone, given the advanced ACSA National Office in Canberra and Professor Kelly’s moving into action within weeks.
LEADING EDGE has not announced its initial CEO or leadership team. Perhaps ACAA CEO Rod Young will head up the group initially, but he has long expressed his intention to retire from ACAA, and finding top level leaders combined with strong advocacy talent has proven very difficult in the past – and Kelly excels here. ACSA appears to be on the front foot.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that ACAA travelled a long way down the merger aisle with the RVA mid last year as well. A lot of people must be scratching their heads – including Government. Watch this space.

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