We’re fast approaching the end of the year and it’s almost time to take a step back, take a deep breath, and have a measured look back at what has been an incredibly busy, and positive time of change at COTA Victoria (COTA Vic) and Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV)!
We thanked the outgoing Minister for Ageing, the Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn MP, and welcomed the incoming Minister for Ageing, Mental Health, and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Ingrid Stitt MP. We look forward to providing the minister with further insights on issues facing the 2.3 million Victorians aged over 50, including health, infrastructure, housing, ageism, social isolation, elder abuse, and more. We’re particularly excited to see the importance of ageing reflected within its own portfolio under Minister Stitt — this couldn’t come at a better time, alongside a reinvigorated emphasis on housing, which is one of the biggest issues facing older Victorians today.
In October, fourteen deserving older Victorians that were bestowed with the COTA Victoria Senior Achiever Awards as part of the 2023 Victorian Senior of the Year Awards program. I was so pleased to continue our work with the Victorian Government as part of the Victorian Senior of the Year Awards, this year honouring the work of fourteen praiseworthy recipients. The COTA Victoria Senior Achiever Awards exemplify hard work, dedication, and selflessness – and, I might add, are usually capped at just ten recipients. Awarding fourteen individuals with this honour in 2023 illustrates the tremendous impact these older Victorians have had on their local communities and throughout the state.
We welcomed two new Board members to the COTA Vic Board of Directors, Gerard Mansour, former Commissioner for Senior Victorians, and Ray Cummings, a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and with formal qualifications in law, accounting, and economics.
Some of Gerard’s countless achievements whilst in the role include the launch of the “Ageing Well in a Changing World” report in 2020 alongside service as the Deputy Chair of the Elder Abuse and Safeguarding Advisory Group, as Chair for the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Seniors Victorians, and as Ambassador for Elder Abuse Prevention. In his career, Ray has held positions including Tax Partner at Pitcher Partners and Founding Principal of Greenoak Advisory. He has proficiency in a wide range of commercial and legal issues including regulatory and reporting requirements, corporate governance, and legislative interpretation and policy.
We’re honoured and thrilled at having such accomplished professionals join our inclusive and collaborative Board.
We continued on our focussed path of writing numerous, informed, evidence-based submissions in October, submitting two formal submissions; Response to Issues Paper: A stronger, more diverse and independent community sector, and, Response to the consultation on the draft Transport Accessibility Strategy.
We advised the Department of Social Services on the way in which the Commonwealth Government supports the community sector through grant-based funding. This is an important and timely discussion given the mounting pressures experienced by Community Service Organisations (CSOs) and the significant changes to funding models associated with national reform in areas such as disability and aged care. We are keen to see improvements in the operation of Commonwealth grants to enable CSOs to avoid unreasonable uncertainty, sustain core activities and to operate with adequate flexibility to respond to community need.
We advised the Department of Transport and Planning that older people, including older people with a disability, are a key cohort that will be supported by the draft Strategy. This is essential, with Victoria getting older, and older Victorians accounting for a significant proportion of the population that have a disability. It’s essential that the future Strategy ensures older Victorians are supported and safe on their journeys, whether they are by private or public transport. For instance, we are currently concerned by the increasing number of people, particularly older people, being killed on the road post-pandemic, and longer-term trends around pedestrian deaths involving older people.
We wrote to the Minister for Disability, the Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn MP regarding the urgent action needed on older Victorians with a disability. We advised the Minister that there was significant inequity and lack of clarity that has emerged in the access that older people have to disability support services. Reforms in the disability system have brought huge improvements for many, yet neither the aged care system nor other services are currently providing an adequate response to the disability related needs of older people ineligible for the NDIS. This inequity exists not only for personal support, but also in relation to healthcare, provision of aids and equipment, and community participation programs.
We released our 2022-2023 Annual Report; please take the time to read the report, highlighting the wonderful achievements of the team at COTA Vic!
We look forward to our AGM on 22 November; if you haven’t had the chance to register your attendance yet, please do so at the first opportunity. We also look forward to our Special General Meeting on 14 December. The main order of business will be:
- Our current COTA Victoria constitution and the proposed new COTA Victoria constitution,
- a summary of proposed changes to the constitution, and
- an explanation of proposed changes to the constitution.
SRV’s new professional education model, Recognising and Responding to Elder Abuse, has commenced with significant interest; SRV has received several bookings for this, and for next year. This new service offering has been designed to improve the capacity of professionals to identify and respond to elder abuse and includes a mix of case study discussion, well-researched content, and time to apply learnings.
Lastly, we have begun to look ahead to the 2024/25 Victorian state budget. We have submitted a funding submission to Minister Ingrid Stitt to support an urgent increase in service delivery for SRV following our reduction in funding earlier this year, coupled with the increasing demand for our services.
In our ‘Investing in an Ageing Victoria’ submission to the Victorian State Budget 2024/25, we engaged the sector and community to help inform and guide our broader budget asks, with the outcome yielding five very focussed priority budget asks for 2024-2025:
- An informed plan for older Victorians
- Expanding our integrated response to elder abuse
- Improving the health and wellbeing of Older Victorians
- Addressing housing and cost of living issues for older Victorians
- Increasing opportunities for economic participation
As you can see, there’s a lot to be proud of and celebrate! We work tirelessly to fulfill our obligation as the peak body and leading not-for-profit organisation representing the interests and rights of people aged 50+ in Victoria. Thank you for your continued support for the work we do.
Chris Potaris, CEO
COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria