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Supporting your right to quality care

Welcome to our 2020–2021 Annual Report

The 2020–2021 Financial Year marked the 30th Anniversary of Elder Rights Advocacy, which was originally established as Residential Care Rights in July 1990. This report celebrates the work of the past 30 years and highlights our activities during the 2020–2021 financial year.

Once again, the COVID-19 pandemic was the backdrop to a challenging year which highlighted the issues in residential aged care and the effects of isolation and loneliness on many older people. The year also saw the release of the final report for the Royal Commission into aged care which included 148 wide-ranging recommendations for the fundamental reform of the aged care system. These events from the past year make us more determined than ever to do what we do best: empower and support older Victorians to stay in control, stay connected, make informed decisions, plan ahead and – most importantly – uphold their rights. Our knowledge, skills, services and staff continue to grow, and we are excited about our future direction and impact.

Elder Rights Advocacy staff and volunteer team, 2020–2021

Leadership Team

Philippa Campbell, CEO
Debra Nicholl, Advocacy Manager (Bendigo-based) David White, Operations Manager

Business Administration

Nanette Austin, Accreditation Project Officer
(until November 2020)
Freda Ousalkopoulos, Reception/Administration Assistant
Tanya Wasylewski, Marketing and Communications

Information and Education

Joanna Parlapiano, Community Information and Education Coordinator
(from March 2021)

Aged Care Navigator

Cassie Browne, Advocate – Aged Care Navigator

Community Visitors Scheme

Megan Collisson, Coordinator Community Visitors Scheme (Bendigo-based)
Mairead McGowan, Community Visitors Scheme Project Officer
(until November 2020)

Advocacy Team

Kaylene Cahill, Advocate
Kate Dalton, Advocate
Teresa Donegan, Advocate: COVID-19 response
(August – December 2020)
Christine Hopwood, Regional Advocate
Anthea Katsaros, Regional Advocate
(Geelong-based) (until October 2020)
Donna McEachran, Regional Advocate
(Geelong-based) (from 11 January 2020)
Pauline Meaney, Advocate
Michaela Peake, Intake Advocate (from March 2021)
Sue Petrini, Regional Advocate
Arati Vidyasagar, Advocate – Diversity & Inclusion
(from April 2021)


I felt listened to and understood..

My Advocate showed real empathy with my situation. She provided prompt action to the issues raised and clear advice on how to address them.

I discovered a path ahead that I was unaware existed.

Meet the Board

Mary Anne Hunt | President

Joining the ERA Board in 2012, Mary Anne became Chair in 2014. With significant experience of leadership in a range of communities and organisations, including health, family, disability, aged services and vocational education, she has a passion for the rights of older people to the highest quality of care. Since 2018, she has also served as Chair of OPAN.

Elisabeth Grove | Secretary

A Board member since 2013, Lis has worked as a teacher, researcher, editor, and language consultant to community organisations. Direct experience of the aged care system through family members has shaped her concern for the human rights of older people, in particular, the need for better information, advocacy and support.

Naresh Raja | Treasurer

A qualified accountant, Naresh has served as ERA’s Treasurer for several years. With a focus on implementing sound financial management and reporting systems both in Australia and abroad, he is currently Chief Financial Officer for six companies. He is also Treasurer of the Springvale-based charitable organisation, Friends of Refugees.

Georgie Landau | Director

The Board’s longest-serving member and President until 2014, Georgie has worked as a lawyer and urban planner. Experienced in advocating for the elderly and marginalised, her recent work for moveU has included helping older people decide on suitable housing and life transitions. She is also a member of the Association of Age Service Professionals.

Jim Brown | Director

Jim joined the ERA Board in 2015, motivated by the challenges facing older Australians, especially the transition to aged care. He brings to the Board valuable expertise in strategic management consulting, transforming organisations to make them more customer sensitive. Prior to his consulting work, he was a senior executive in IBM.

Caroline Carroll OAM | Director

Caroline is Community Education Coordinator at Open Place, the Victorian service for Forgotten Australians, and Chair of the national peak body, the Alliance for Forgotten Australians. A regular conference speaker and participant in national reference groups, including the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, Caroline joined the Board in 2019 with a particular concern for Forgotten People in aged care.

Melissa Griffiths | Director

Melissa is a consultant, speaker and transgender authority, who also has professional experience in audit. Her media appearances and public advocacy for the LGBTIQA+ community over several years have been recognised by an Australia Day Achievement Award. She joined the ERA Board in 2019, motivated by a desire to improve the situation of older LGBTIQA+ people in aged care.

Hacy Tobias | Director

Hacy Tobias joined the Board in April 2021, wanting to make a difference in the Aged Care Hacy brings a wealth of experience in governance, risk management, human resources, transformation and organisational change, having reported to boards as a general manager for over 20 years in these areas.

Janis Porter | Director

Jan joined the ERA Board in April 2021, with a background in the Federal and Northern Territory Public Service, the mining industry, merchant banking, consultancy and tourism. Most recently, she has been an advocate for refugees and a Consumer Representative on a major project for Breast Screen Victoria. Jan is a strong believer in human rights and equity, particularly for those whose voice is not always heard.


I felt included in the process.

I appreciated my advocate’s understanding of my issue, her direct and honest approach, and her prompt response in addressing my concerns with my provider.

Ultimately, I was very happy with the resolution of my issues.

President’s Report

Mary Anne Hunt, President

As we celebrate Elder Rights Advocacy’s 30-year history, we must take a moment to remember ‘the giants whose shoulders we stand on’: Margaret O’Callaghan, Molly Hadfield, Edith Morgan, our long-term CEO Mary Lyttle, and many others whose courage, foresight, and commitment to social justice and community activism created the independent advocacy services that have supported so many older Victorians over the past three decades.

Throughout this reporting period, under the shadow of COVID-19, Elder Rights Advocacy has continued to help older people gain access to quality aged care, have their human rights upheld, and exercise greater choice and control of the care they need. However, there is much to be done – many older Victorians are still in urgent need of ERA’s services.

The late Merle Mitchell (social policy advisor, community activist and aged care consumer advocate), in her brave and wide-ranging Statement to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, documented her own experience of residential aged care, echoing the trauma endured by so many others, while calling for wholesale reform of the aged care system.

2020-2021 by the numbers

Calls direct to ERA

10000 +

calls in 2019/2020

Total cases

10000 +

Chief Executive Officer's Report

Philippa Campbell, CEO

An organisation never knows how strong it is until it is put to the test. The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest challenge that Elder Rights Advocacy has faced in its history – and this year, we turn 30!

Like every other organisation, we were caught by surprise when the pandemic hit, and we had to create new solutions to continue providing services to older people while working from home, within an online environment. This has not been easy. Whilst much of our work concerns the here-and-now of the pandemic for older people and volunteers, all staff are doing this while also in hard lockdown and under restrictions, with some also schooling children at home or caring for older family members. We have shown throughout this time that we have huge human power, an ability to give it our best and to pull together in a crisis.

One positive from the pandemic is that it has forced us to look at different ways of communicating by embracing technology and online communication; however, we hope that in some capacity we will soon start working face-to-face again, both as a staff group and directly with older people. There is a richness in engaging personally with people.

Thirty years ago it would have been hard to imagine the dramatic recent expansion of Elder Rights Advocacy, and the future challenges that face the organisation in the aftermath of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Royal Commission.

Established in 1990, Residential Care Rights (later adopting the trading name of Elder Rights Advocacy), auspiced by the Older Persons’ Action Centre in Ross House, and with a staff of three, set up an advocacy service for Victorian residents of Commonwealth-funded nursing homes and hostels. Under the leadership of long-term CEO Mary Lyttle, but constrained by limited and uncertain year-to-year funding, ERA’s services grew in strength and expertise. During this time, however, as attested by the Royal Commission, the national aged care system became increasingly dysfunctional, making ERA’s mission – the provision of free, independent and confidential advocacy, information and education to older Victorians – all the more necessary.

Our Aged Care Advocacy Work

Our ability to stand beside older Victorians and ensure that their voice is heard has been tested this year more than at any time during ERA’s 30-year history. The pandemic and continued lockdowns have meant that older Victorians have experienced unprecedented isolation and disconnection from loved ones and community.

Older Victorians tell us that they prefer face-to-face contact and, whenever possible, this is what we have done, although for the past year we have been wearing a facemask. The psychological impact of not being able to see a person’s face when they are caring for you or having a chat has added to the overall impact of the lockdown on older Victorians.

Advocates have attended residential aged care education sessions, family meetings, sanctions, and closure meetings via zoom. Case meetings, networking and community information sessions have also been held via zoom. Although this method of contact has been invaluable, again it is the face-to-face contact that helps build trust and confidence allowing for more effective advocacy to occur.

We have worked with the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement to help their counselors gain access to residents in need, and with Phoenix Australia, the Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, who have developed training resources for aged care staff on trauma-informed care.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (RCACQS) identified in their final report the importance of NACAP advocacy and the need for an increase in services across Australia. The federal government accepted the Commission’s recommendation that aged care consumers need more information to help them exercise choice and understand their rights. The resulting increase in funding will enable ERA to grow and reach out to more older Victorians than ever before. We will also be able to increase our education service to residential and community aged care providers on the rights of older people to quality care that is person-centred in consideration of the individual, their circumstances, their experiences, and their preferences.

Debra Nicholl, Advocacy Manager


I felt truly heard and listened to.

My advocate was a joy to speak with.

It was a pleasure to come across someone who upholds such extraordinary values and truly lives them.

Top Issues of Advocacy








Assessment/Care Planning


Access to Specialised Services


Choice/Decision Making

Our Participation in Advisory Groups

Food, Nutrition and Dining in Residential Care

In recognition of the need to improve the quality and nutrition of food for residents in residential aged care, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) created the…

National Food Congress for Aged Care

I attended the first National Food Congress for Aged Care in Sydney in February 2021 as part of the ACQSC Expert Advisory Group on the Nutrition and Dining Experience.

Palliative Care Advisory Group

ERA was invited to participate in a newly formed aged care advisory group for the North and West Metropolitan Region Palliative Care Consortium. The group is inclusive of community palliative care services…

Abuse of Older Australians (Elder Abuse)

Many older Victorians have been suffering increased Elder Abuse during the pandemic, including the erosion of their rights to independence, social participation and self-fulfilment. Unfortunately, both the National Aged Care Visitation Code for Residential Aged Care and the Department of Health and Human Services Care Facilities Directions have been disregarded by some aged care providers. Such providers have placed their discretion to allow visitors above the human rights of residents, who are suffering physical, emotional and psychological distress as a result.

ERA advocates have also witnessed an increase in home care providers denying services to older Victorians that would meet their assessed needs, maintain their independence and ensure a safe environment, because those services are now considered excluded items under the Home Care Package Guidelines. Interpreting the Guidelines in such a limited way gives no consideration to person-centred care and the older person’s right to stay connected, active, healthy and in control of their lives.

Concerns have been raised by family members whose access to the older person has been restricted by an attorney or guardian. Where possible, we ask the older person what they would like to happen or remind providers of the resident’s right to unrestricted access and to maintaining relationships that are important to them. The most common issue raised with ERA has been suspected financial abuse by family members or friends of the older person.

We aim to prevent Elder abuse prevention by highlighting the systemic and individual issues that affect older Victorians. Our education and information provision in the community and in residential care focuses on raising awareness of ageism, improving knowledge, and encouraging reporting of mistreatment and disrespect.

Debra Nicholl, Advocacy Manager

Financial Elder Abuse Trial – Latrobe Valley and Western Division

A collaboration led by Victoria Police has brought together key organisations from the banking, legal, health and aged care sectors to combat financial elder abuse in the community. The Financial Elder Abuse trial currently supports seniors in the Western district (Echuca, Bendigo, Macedon, Wedderburn and Heathcote), Latrobe Valley, and Frankston. Regional Advocates Sue Petrini and Christine Hopwood represent ERA in the Western and Latrobe Valley divisions, respectively.

During the current pandemic, older people have become more vulnerable to abuse, as their children may be in situations that require reliance on older family members for financial support. Together, the Financial Elder Abuse groups discuss current cases and how we can work together to identify and respond to the financial exploitation of older people in our local areas.

The trial has resulted in the development of several useful resources providing service organisation information. Strong networks have formed, assisting all network members to make appropriate referrals to other organisations.

In one case, referrals were made by the working party members to VicPol, who were able to respond and support the referrer appropriately due to a combination of this trial, prior work (including by our CEO, Philippa Campbell) and police member training. The advocate in this area trial was able to connect with one of the banks when a caller to ERA advised that his bank branch had denied him access to his bank statements, as there was a power of attorney in place. This issue was resolved successfully for the ERA client.

The trial will continue until July 2022, with hopes of expanding into other areas of Victoria.

Sue Petrini and Christine Hopwood, Regional Advocates

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Social Media Campaign

Our Education Services

Ongoing lockdowns and restrictions in Victoria, especially in Metropolitan Melbourne, have created a greater need for connection, information, and education and for new ways of reaching our audience when face-to-face delivery is not an option.

Having commenced in the newly-created role of Community Information and Education Coordinator in March 2021, I have had the opportunity between lockdowns to see our highly-skilled Advocates deliver face-to-face Education sessions in residential aged care. I have heard firsthand from both residents and families how important our work is in empowering older people to access information and gain invaluable knowledge to support their right to quality care that is person-centred and meets their diverse needs.

We have delivered some of the staff and community sessions online and I look forward to continuing to develop new ways of delivering information such as webinars, Facebook lives and podcasts, as well as broadening our reach into the Home Care setting to reach as many older people and their representatives/families as we can.

Our plans for the next 12 months are to refresh and modernise our content and delivery options, increase our profile and reach through working closely with developed and new networks and launch our Peer Education Pilot Project. This project will initially work with two communities – Forgotten Australians/Care Leavers and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community – to understand their barriers to accessing our services and co-create material that is meaningful and talks about ERA and our services.

Joanna Parlapiano, Community Information and Education Coordinator


My advocate encouraged me every step of the way.

I was unhappy with my provider and my advocate could see that I had had a rough deal.

She wanted me to have a win and empowered me to stand up for myself during proceedings.

Our Diversity and Inclusion Work

In an important step in ERA’s remarkable growth, we launched two initiatives which embed diversity, inclusion and intersectional practice into our work:

  • Recruited to the new position of Advocate,
    Diversity and Inclusion in April 2021
  • Commenced the Community
    Representatives Program in 2020-21

Advocate, Diversity and Inclusion

Starting in a new role during the time of COVID lockdowns has been a big challenge. Pre-COVID milestones can no longer be applied and accordingly, ERA’s Diversity and Inclusion work has been divided into two phases:

Phase 1, while in lockdown, has an inward focus and includes a review and updating of the following:

  • Composition of staff and Board – including strategic recruitment
  • Community Participation – recruitment to the Community Representative Program (previously known as the Ambassador Program)
  • Policies – a diversity and inclusion plan is under development

Reaching Out: ERA’s Community Representatives Program

In 2019, ERA engaged Dr Catherine Barrett of Celebrate Ageing to consult on how ERA could best engage with our target communities – i.e., those defined as having ‘special needs’ by the Aged Care Act. Catherine created the Reaching Out project and started a long period of intensive community engagement. Her question to target communities was how ERA can best make our services accessible and safe for them.

Aged Care Navigator

The 2020–21 year has been a challenging one for the Navigator program and the older people we support, with lockdowns and gathering restrictions making it more difficult to find and connect with older people who are not yet linked in with services. We have experimented with online technologies such as video webinars, with positive feedback from attendees, but continue to hear a strong preference for face-to-face support.

One of the highlights of the second year of the trial has been seeing the progress of those we have supported earlier in the program – with many re-contacting us as their needs change, long-awaited Home Care Packages are allocated, or advocacy issues arise.

Another positive has been our close working relationship with the National Seniors CALD Community Liaison program, which has allowed us to reach many members of the Chin, Filipino and South American communities who have been unaware of their aged care options up to now.

The end of the year saw the extension of the Navigator trial until December 2022 and we were delighted to receive additional funding for another Navigator worker. Under the new trial format, ERA’s Navigators will concentrate on the Western Metropolitan and Barwon South West Aged Care Planning Regions, which should allow us to build even closer community relationships. Following feedback from the trial sites – including ERA – the revamped trial has an increased focus on outreach work, the use of intermediaries and assertive outreach, and more intensive support that follows people through to the implementation of services.

Cassie Browne, Advocate – Aged Care Navigator

Navigator Advocacy

10000 +

Navigator cases

10000 +

Navigator information sessions

The Community Visitors Scheme (CVS)

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social connections and the impact loneliness has on wellbeing and quality of life. The experiences that the wider population has faced during lockdowns are unfortunately often an everyday reality for many older people, and why programs like the Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) are very important. It is encouraging that despite all the challenges of the past 12 months we have experienced growth and demand for the CVS program throughout regional Victoria.

CVS has experienced a positive uptake of the program from aged care facilities and Home Care Package providers who acknowledge the importance and benefits CVS has for older people. We have built strong positive working partnerships with the broader community sector and seen our public profile increase with the tireless work ERA and our OPAN colleagues have undertaken to promote the benefits of CVS.

The concept of the CVS program is simple – it’s connecting people with people. The benefits of CVS are two-fold and many of our volunteers often express gratitude for being part of a wonderful program and for the opportunity to connect with someone. Our older community members have a lifetime of knowledge and experiences and we are all grateful to have the opportunity to connect, share and learn from them.

The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions to daily life have certainly impacted how we do things and have required us to be agile in service delivery and flexible in our approach in an ever-changing landscape. This has often required our volunteers to pivot and change how they are connecting with older people with very little notice due to lockdowns and restrictions.

We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful team of volunteers who are connecting every day with isolated older people and building strong friendships. Their commitment and adaptability in what has been a period of constant change has driven the success of the CVS program with ERA and we look forward to continuing to grow the program throughout regional Victoria.

Megan Collisson, CVS Coordinator

Community Visitors Scheme (CVS)

10000 +

Face to Face Visits

10000 +

Phone Contacts

10000 +

Digital Contacts

10000 +



I felt included in the process.

I appreciated my advocate’s understanding of my issue, her direct and honest approach, and her prompt response in addressing my concerns with my provider.

Ultimately, I was very happy with the resolution of my issues.

Operations/Accreditation Report

In 2020 ERA undertook an external review by QIP, Australia’s most comprehensive not-for-profit accreditation, certification and verification agency, to achieve accreditation through the Australian Service Excellence Standards (ASES).
The ASES standards focus on:

  • Planning
  • Governance
  • Financial Management and Contracting
  • People and HR systems
  • Partnerships
  • Communication
  • Service outcomes
  • Client Involvement.

This was the first time that ERA has undergone accreditation and it included a thorough review of ERA’s policies, procedures, and governance structures; as well as interviews with our clients, volunteers, staff, board, our funding body, our partners, and aged care services.

Overall Summary

ERA passed the accreditation with flying colours! We met all accreditation standards with no compliance actions. Both the QIP assessor and QIP case manager indicated that we had done extremely well, and normally first-time organizations require multiple compliance actions to meet the ASES standards.

“While the accreditation could have been postponed due to [the] pandemic, the now confirmed CEO decided to push forward with a significant amount of new work required to ensure the organisation’s systems and processes were reviewed and updated to meet current requirements. This has been a significant effort and ERA is to be congratulated on the work done over the last 12 months in preparation for accreditation”.

QIP Assessor – Final Report

The final accreditation report acknowledged the following achievements:

1. ERA continues to achieve good outcomes for clients
2. ERA was agile in its response to COVID-19 pandemic. It transitioned quickly and effectively in responding to and advocating for the needs of older people and their families.
3. ERA was proactive in ensuring that clients, staff and volunteers were supported during this time.
4. ERA follows contemporary governance and management practices
5. ERA had completed a significant and thorough review and update of its policies, procedures, frameworks and guiding documents.

6. ERA has ongoing and strong relationships with its partners and aged care services who identified the importance of ERA and the role it plays.
7. A strongly committed Board and staff group to the needs of older Australian’s requiring advocacy and support.

ERA would like to thank all staff, clients, volunteers and board members for their engagement through this process. Special thanks go to David White and Nanette Austin for their work in ensuring ERA achieved accreditation.

ERA’s accreditation is valid for 3 years and will expire on 22 October 2023.

David White, Operations Manager

Our Mission

We support older people’s right to quality care.

Our Vision

A diverse, vibrant, multicultural community, where older people are respected, heard and well-informed, and can exercise their rights and responsibilities with confidence.

Our Values


We listen, treat people with fairness and seek to understand others’ perspectives, experiences and contributions.


We act in a professional and ethical manner at all times.


We support our colleagues and the people we work with whilst working cooperatively to achieve positive outcomes for all. manner at all times.


We seek people’s input and involvement to achieve a better outcome.


We provide the people who seek information and support from us with accurate information, which supports them to understand their rights, responsibilities and options.


We are approachable and take pride in what we do.

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