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Supporting your right to quality care

This report highlights our activities for the 2022–2023 financial year.

Elder Rights Advocacy has a long history of promoting the rights of older Victorians.

We are delighted to have increased our services and our ability to reach more older people.

The keywords to sum up our year are growth and expansion.

As our workforce grew, so did our impact.

We continued to do what we do best: empower and support older Victorians to stay in control, stay connected, make informed decisions, and – most importantly – uphold their human rights.

We are excited about our future direction and impact.

Our purpose

Elder Rights Advocacy promotes the human rights of all older people, and works with, and for, older people and their representatives, educating the community, advocating for and empowering older people to achieve the support they want.

Our values

Meet the Board

Janis Porter, President

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Janis Porter, President

Jan joined the Elder Rights Advocacy 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 a refugee advocate and a Consumer Representative on a significant project for Breast Screen Victoria. Jan strongly believes in human rights and equity, particularly for those whose voices are not always heard.

Elisabeth Grove, Secretary

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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, particularly the need for better information, advocacy and support.


Naresh Raja, Treasurer

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Naresh Raja, Treasurer

A qualified accountant, Naresh has served as Elder Rights Advocacy’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.

Caroline Carroll OAM, Director

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Caroline Carroll OAM, Director

Caroline is the 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.

Sonia Di Mezza, Director

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Sonia Di Mezza, Director

Sonia is the CEO of Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services, solicitor, and human rights lawyer. She has worked as the Deputy CEO of the ACT Disability, Aged and Carers Advocacy Service (ADACAS), leading the Older Persons’ Advocacy team for over eight years in Canberra. Sonia specialises in advocating for the rights of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Alison Anthony, Director

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Alison Anthony, Director

Alison joined Elder Rights Advocacy in April 2023 and is a retired lawyer and financial services professional. Her experience is across risk management, compliance, audit, legal and governance, having worked in these areas for the superannuation and funds management industry for over 37 years. Alison was motivated to join the board of Elder Rights Advocacy to support the challenges facing older Australians (including financial (in)adequacy), and to give back to the community.

My advocate was amazing, responsive, helpful and understanding.


Senior Leadership Team

Debra Nicholl, Chief Executive Officer

Gerard Pereira, Chief Financial Officer

Sue Petrini, Programs Manager

Bec Housden, Human Resources Manager

Bettina Brougham, Executive Assistant

Our workforce

We have experienced exponential growth over the last year.

Staff numbers have increased by 80%

Our specialised services were what attracted the most qualified candidates to join Elder Rights Advocacy. Many of the candidates had personal experience dealing with the aged care challenges faced by family members, giving them a deep understanding of the issues raised by others.

With staff living and working in their communities we now have a strong presence across Victoria. Our local staff are well-tuned to the issues faced by the people they serve.

Message from the President and the Chief Executive Officer

Another year of growth and change for Elder Rights Advocacy, a year of exciting opportunity and one of deep sadness.

We bid farewell to two of our senior leaders, Mary Anne Hunt, our Board Chair and Philippa Cambell, our CEO. Both passed away within weeks of each other in early 2023. They dedicated their professional life to promoting and supporting the human rights of older Victorians. They were also strong advocates for de-institutionalized care, raising community awareness of ageism and eliminating the abuse of older people. We are stronger and better for having worked with them both and are determined to continue the good fight. They are remembered and very much missed.

The at home visit was really helpful and extremely encouraging.

I had a lot of aged care information to go through and the advocate was very helpful.


In memoria

It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to two of our team members this year.

Mary Anne Hunt and Philippa Campbell were passionate and dedicated advocates for the rights of older people. Sadly, both died within weeks of each other.

Mary Anne worked as a manager and senior manager in the aged care and disability sectors before joining the Elder Rights Advocacy Board in 2012, becoming Chair in 2014. She also served as Chair of OPAN from 2018.

Philippa had a more-than-thirty-year career in the Not-For-Profit residential and community aged care sectors. She joined Elder Rights Advocacy in February 2019 as Specialist Advocate Elder Abuse Prevention and Response Advocate and Manager of the Melbourne Advocacy Team before stepping into the role as CEO at the beginning of 2020.

Though they may no longer be with us, their impact lives on as a testament to the positive change that compassion and advocacy can bring to the world.

Advocacy and information

Our Advocacy team has grown in number, experience and skills. Team members live and work in communities across the state from their home-based offices.  This means we understand and can address local issues faced by older people, their representatives and aged care providers.


  • Over the 2022–2023-year, we responded to 17,088 calls/ 9000 enquiries through our intake telephone line or face to face when advocates are out in the community.
  • There has been a 6.7% increase in ‘real-time’ calls answered compared to the previous year.
  • Our ‘no wrong door’ approach ensures that older people with issues outside our scope are offered warm referrals to specialist community organisations, such as housing, community and mental health and legal services.

Top issues of advocacy

Quality of care
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Improved care and wellbeing

A resident was experiencing frequent falls due to decreased mobility issues however their care plan was not reviewed and updated.

An advocate requested and attended a care planning meeting with the resident’s representative. The plan was updated which resulted in changes to the provision of personal care and assistance with mobility. The older person’s health improved, and with increased staff support they were able to interact more with the others and have their care needs met.

Care Access/navigating
My Aged Care
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Successful transition to new CHSP provider

An older person requested help because their CHSP provider was stopping services in their area. The advocate supported the older person to find a new local provider and to contact My Aged Care for a support plan review.

Abuse of Older Person
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Supporting autonomy and protecting against financial abuse

Following a fall at home, a prolonged hospital stay and rehabilitation the older person was recovered and wanting to return home. His daughter and son-in-law, the appointed Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPOA) ‘would not let him’ and he was instead admitted to residential aged care. This is when he rang Elder Rights Advocacy for assistance.

His daughter and son-in-law were on holiday in Bali, the expenses of which were being covered by the older person’s financial assets.

With the advocate’s help the older person was able to regain control of his life and finances and return to living in his own home.

Enduring Power Of Attorney/Guardian issues
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Visitor choice: Advocating for access in aged care.

An older person living in a Residential Aged Care Home (RACH), was being denied access to a visitor of their choice at the direction of the Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA).

Staff supported the direction believing that the older person had no capacity to decide who they wanted to visit and spend time with.

The advocate worked with staff to help them understand the importance of supported decision making and to ensure that the right of the individual to maintain relationships of their choice was upheld.

Aged Care fees and charges
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Advocate settles billing issues

A financial Power of Attorney (POA) received notification from Services Australia that the resident’s lifetime aged care fee cap had been reached. However, the Residential Aged Care Home (RACH) continued to charge a means tested care fee. The RACH had a history of accounting errors which had not been addressed when raised by the POA. The POA decided to stop paying the fees in protest.

The advocate provided information and offered support to find a solution.

With permission they contacted the RACH and were able to resolve the issue as well as receive a credit. The RACH acknowledged the need for better communication and processes to manage changes to fees and charges.


Client’s home care service spend resolved

An older person contacted us, concerned that her home care services would be cut because of a $2,400 overspend of package funds. The caller believed that she needed another assessment to upgrade her package level and remove the debt. This was not the case.

With the advocates help the Home Care Package provider agreed to cover their overspend and to manage the budget in consultation with the older person going forward.

The older person was very relieved and said, ‘If I hadn’t contacted Elder Rights Advocacy, problem wouldn’t have been solved.’



Consumer rights
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Debt settled: Seamless switch to a new home care provider

An older person called us to enquire about changing their home care provider. They had been told by the current provider that they would need to pay the package overspend of $4000 before they could make this change.

With permission the advocate contacted the provider and explained that it was their responsibility to manage the package budget over which the older person had no control. The provider agreed to cover the debt and the older person changed providers with the Advocate’s ongoing support.

It was good to have support after trying so hard on my own to resolve my situation, I felt listened to.


Network participation

Throughout the year, Elder Rights Advocacy has had the opportunity to attend consultations and network meetings, raising issues presented during our advocacy work.

Our community-facing staff members have been instrumental in expanding networking opportunities. We have significantly uplifted statewide connectivity for older people seeking support from Elder Rights Advocacy, thereby enhancing their understanding of the aged care sector and improving access to advocacy services. In line with our commitment to inclusivity, we are dedicated to ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also have access to the advocacy and information needed for their aged care journeys.

Of note was our participation in the West Metro Health Service Partnership (WMHSP) Health Needs Assessment (HNA) consultation. This consultation addressed crucial issues such as the affordability and accessibility of healthcare services in rural areas, navigating the healthcare system for individuals with low health literacy, and the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

We also maintain a consistent presence at the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research at Latrobe University as part of their reference group.

Team members have contributed to the following networks, providing an anti-ageist and rights-based perspective:

  • North Western Palliative Care (primarily medical clinicians)
  • Police Managers Qualifying Program (police members wishing to advance their careers)
  • Dementia support networks
  • Peninsula Dementia Network
  • Western District elder abuse network
  • South Coast Service Providers
  • Melton Service Providers Group
  • ACQSC Expert Advisory Group on the Nutrition and Dining Experience

Community connection

Community outreach work was in full swing in 2022–2023 and we were able to reach a wide range of older people. We are working with the following groups to elevate their experiences of aged care with Elder Rights Advocacy’s services.

  • Alliance for Forgotten Australians supports survivors of childhood institutional care in Australia. Elder Rights Advocacy has a close relationship with members of this community and continue to support their right to inclusive, trauma aware aged care at every level.
  • Post Polio Victoria advocate for people with polio so they have access to the information and services they need to live actively and independently. There is a current memorandum of understanding between Post Polio Victoria and Elder Rights Advocacy, and our CEO has been actively involved in enhancing our understanding of Post-Polio survivors’ aged care needs. In the near future, we hope to have a resource completed for our advocacy staff which will increase our capacity to provide specialised support to this particular group.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing older people at the John Pierce Centre (JPC). JPC supports Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and their families. Pastoral Care Workers describe their clients’ isolation in residential care because no one there can speak their language. Workers who speak Auslan are not available to facilitate the day-to-day interactions that are crucial to wellbeing and connection.
  • Older lesbians represented by Matrix Guild. The Guild works to ensure appropriate health and aged care for older lesbians. High on the list of concerns are that providers do not understand that the needs of this group are different to those of older heterosexual women; and the likelihood of homophobia in aged care settings.
  • Association of Former Inmates of Nazi Concentration Camps and Ghettos. The Association supports Russian seniors who were forced to flee during World War II and the Holocaust. Our session with this group ran an hour overtime because of the extent of their interest in our services.
  • Neighbourhood Houses Victoria invited us to present on aged care advocacy for their webinar series Ask an Expert. The audience comprised workers across Victoria, all of whom support older people in their communities.

Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion principles permeate every facet of our work and is centred on meeting the needs of marginalized older people. Elder Rights Advocacy has been able to reach many diverse communities through our generalist advocacy work and with the support of our Diversity and Inclusion Advocate.

Diversity and inclusion issues are explored internally at every opportunity. Our staff continue with self-learning and with education provided by relevant groups ensure appropriate care provision to diverse communities.

We are developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) with guidance from Reconciliation Australia and our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. The RAP will enable us to scope reconciliation actions within our sphere of influence.

Artist Deborah Wood with her artwork ‘Older Women Dancing’ in Hosier Lane, Melbourne. Image by Chris Franklin, Franklin Image.

Older Women Count

We were proud to partner with Celebrate Ageing for the Older Women Count campaign, which focuses on women’s achievements and gender inequalities. This initiative not only highlights the invaluable contributions of older women to our society but brings awareness to the gender inequalities and ageism they experience.

The Older Women Count campaign aligns perfectly with our mission to champion the rights and well-being of older people, and we are honoured to support and celebrate the strength and wisdom of older women.

Education, events and conferences

Education sessions, events and conferences continue to be key for us which, again, provides connectivity and empowerment through information provision to older people, their carers and representatives, aged care providers and community organisations.

It was empowering to have accurate and truthful information so I could advocate strongly for my mother.


Our reach

In 2022–23, we made significant investments to expand our marketing initiatives.

These efforts were not merely about promoting our services; they were a strategic approach to foster a stronger, more connected community of individuals and stakeholders who share our values and aspirations.

We aimed to create content which provided value and insight to our audience, and establish us as a trusted source of information and expertise. We also actively engaged with our community through social media, ensuring that our audience had opportunities to interact with us and with each other.

This commitment to community-building underpinned all of our marketing endeavours in the 2022–23 financial year, and the results we achieved are reflected in the following statistics.

The informal support and guidance, the provider did not engage, but it was a welcome and different support from the provider and the ACQSC. I wasn’t judged and it was helpful.


Community Visitors Scheme

Our hardworking team of Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) staff and volunteers have shown unwavering dedication in supporting social connections for older people. We are making a positive difference in reducing social isolation and lowering the risk of elder abuse.

This service is funded by the Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing.

During National Volunteer Week, we shared the thoughts and experiences of some of our volunteers on social media. They spoke about how being part of CVS enhanced their personal wellbeing and gave them valuable opportunities to connect with older people, where they can share and learn together.

Our volunteers truly deserve special recognition and our heartfelt thanks for their unwavering commitment to building connections, providing friendship, and offering support to older members of our community. Without their dedication and help, our mission of reducing social isolation would be much harder to achieve.

Volunteer profile

Meet Amity (pictured with her horse Iggy) and learn more about being a volunteer.

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Your family

I live with my partner Geoff and our menagerie of animals (dogs, horses, sheep).

What is/was your career?

I am a Communications Specialist in the healthcare sector, as well as running my own freelance proofreading and editing business.

Have you been a volunteer before?

Yes. I love volunteering when I can fit it in. I have previously volunteered as a community radio announcer, as the editor of my town’s newsletter and at my local parkrun.

Why did you decide that Elder Rights Advocacy was the right fit for you?

I don’t have grandparents who are alive anymore and I miss the unique and rewarding relationships that come from connecting with older people. I also wanted to contribute towards helping older people feel less isolated, even if it is one person at a time!

How long have you been an Elder Rights Advocacy volunteer?

Since July 2020.

Tell me about your Elder Rights Advocacy volunteering journey

Due to COVID, my first match Robert and I only communicated over the phone but it quickly became the highlight of my week, until he died in December that year. That was a sad time and it took me a while to feel ready to meet my next match (I also took time off from volunteering while our dog was having chemo treatment). My current match Nancy and I have been spending time together since February 2022.

What do you get out of your volunteer role?

It brings a feeling of purpose to my life and has provided an invaluable opportunity to learn, particularly about growing up and life during a different time. I thoroughly enjoy every minute that I spend in this role, particularly with Nancy. She has gone through many challenges in life, but still manages to find things to smile and laugh about. Hearing her laugh is one of the most joyous experiences!

Why do you think volunteering is so important?

It is very rewarding and can bring so much positivity to your life for such a small commitment. We all have some spare time and it would be great to see more people volunteering, particularly in the CVS. There are so many older people who are experiencing loneliness and don’t have a social network. Even one visit a fortnight can bring someone happiness and give them something to look forward to, as well as someone to share their worries with. All you have to do is listen.

For those who are thinking about volunteering, what are three things they need to think about?

How much of a commitment can you make; there are many volunteering opportunities available, so pick one that makes you excited and that you’ll look forward to; and how will this role fit in with your other commitments in your lifestyle?

Volunteer profile

Meet Fran and Maggie

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What’s the funniest moment you’ve shared together?

Fran: There have been many funny moments. Margaret and I mainly laugh about the silly things we do. We often tease each other, which makes both of us laugh.

Maggie: We have so many laughs, I can’t remember one in particular.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Fran: When you talk, you are only repeating what you know, but when you listen you may learn.

Maggie: Advice to the elderly – ‘Ask God to keep his arm around your shoulder and his hand over your mouth’.

Why are the visits/calls important to you?

Fran: The visits are important to me because I enjoy the easy chats we have. It is nice to make another person smile.

Maggie: Fran is such a lovely lady and it’s a pleasure spending time with her.

What will you remember most about the visits?

Fran: I think I will remember the things we have in common, but it is also good to hear another point of view if there are any different views we have.

Maggie: We always ‘fix’ the troubles of the world. The conversation and friendship I treasure.

The information was very interesting and I was treated with dignity and respect.


Our future

We’re excited to announce that we successfully secured an expanded contract to provide the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme (ACVVS) for the next three years. This achievement will complement our existing work with older Victorians and help us reach even greater heights.

Similar to the NACAP program, we will now be able to cover all nine regions in Victoria and have hired staff who live in these areas. We plan to provide services to 810 clients with the help of around 700 volunteers.

Strategic Goals

  • To further develop collaborative processes that engage older people in co-designing appropriate, accessible services.
  • To provide information and develop tools which support understanding, options, informed decision-making and self-determination.
Read more >

We’re excited to announce that we successfully secured an expanded contract to provide the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme (ACVVS) for the next three years. This achievement will complement our existing work with older Victorians and help us reach even greater heights.

Similar to the NACAP program, we will now be able to cover all nine regions in Victoria and have hired staff who live in these areas. We plan to provide services to 810 clients with the help of around 700 volunteers.

Strategic Goals

  • To further develop collaborative processes that engage older people in co-designing appropriate, accessible services.
  • To provide information and develop tools which support understanding, options, informed decision-making and self-determination.
  • To implement an endorsed end-to-end Service Model which enables access, support and advocacy at all points within an older person’s aged care journey.
  • To further develop strong and influential relationships with government, aged care services and other stakeholders to co-design access and services specific to the needs of diverse groups.
  • To offer expanded education services which engage partners and older people in better understanding the needs and rights of all older people.
  • To partner with other services to develop and provide advocacy and services to regional, rural and diverse communities.
  • To build community understanding and respect for older people, break down ageist attitudes and promote improved aged care by developing and implementing highly credible and prominent information, education and advocacy initiatives.
  • To ensure inclusive systems and processes that enable quality data management to influence, justify and motivate systemic change.
  • To develop Elder Rights Advocacy’s visible presence, public profile and brand to strengthen awareness of, and respect for, the rights of older people.
  • To recruit, develop and retain skilled and committed leaders to strengthen sound governance and guide strategic objectives.
  • To develop management and staff leadership capability in the values-based workforce.
  • To ensure systems and processes which support workforce skills development, knowledge, commitment and accountability, enabling compliance and success.
  • To continue to build a culture of shared and lived values and collaboration at all levels.
  • To build a thriving culture of continuous improvement, enhanced quality and risk management.
  • To rigorously plan organisational change processes to enable sustainability and organisational development.
  • To consistently implement systems, clear processes and robust IT and data systems to achieve measurable outcomes and sustainable organisational growth.

When I call Elder Rights Advocacy I feel I have been heard. Talking to you helps me understand my rights.’


Financial report


We would like to thank our community partner organisations, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and the Department of Health and Ageing for their support and encouragement over the past year.

A big thank you to our volunteers, including our board members who give of their time for the benefit of others. Thank you also to all Elder Rights Advocacy team members who step up each day to fight the good fight on behalf of older Victorians by listening, hearing and making a positive difference.

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