It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to former Elder Rights Advocacy President and OPAN chairperson Mary Anne Hunt, who died yesterday after a short illness.
Mary Anne was a passionate advocate for aged care rights and a powerful voice for change.
Having worked as a manager and senior manager in the aged care and disability sectors, Mary Anne was keenly aware of the challenges involved.
She addressed them with a winning combination of compassion and business acumen.
During her 9-year tenure as chairperson at Elder Rights Advocacy, Mary Anne was steadfast in her commitment to transforming the aged care system. She oversaw the organisation’s growth from 6 staff when she joined the Elder Rights Advocacy Board in 2012 to nearly 50 staff now, all out there every day supporting older people to have their voices heard and their rights upheld.
Taking on the role of OPAN chairperson in August 2018, Mary Anne led the network from strength to strength.
Her belief in the potential of a national advocacy organisation was unwavering. As was her determination to hold government and providers to account.
Mary Anne was an experienced leader and a generous mentor. Elder Rights Advocacy and OPAN are stronger, richer and more stable for her contribution.
While Mary Anne liked to describe the success of the two organisations as a ‘collective effort’, her role cannot be underestimated.
She was professional, persistent, and pragmatic. She had a big heart. And she understood the strength of a team.
Mary Anne worked hard to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on older people and to raise awareness around the vital role advocacy plays in the aged care system.
On the back of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report, in 2021, Mary Anne called on the government to implement the full suite of recommendations to ensure older people could enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedoms when accessing aged care services. Having seen the positive impact of deinstitutionalisation in the disability sector, Mary Anne championed OPAN’s push for a similar movement in aged care, asserting the right of older people to live in the way and where they want.
She was particularly proud of the recent success of OPAN’s Home and Aged Care Cost Education Project in ensuring older people had a fair and equitable approach to the fees and charges surrounding their aged care.
In one of OPAN’s early annual reports, Mary Anne quoted Nelson Mandela:
‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.’
Mary Anne walked the talk.
A tireless champion for a society in which older people are heard, informed and respected, there is no doubt that she has left the world a better place.
The network, Elder Rights Advocacy and OPAN deeply loved and respected Mary Anne. Her wisdom, her unselfishness and her gift for pastoral care will be greatly missed – by staff and older people.
In her last post on social media, Mary Anne posted: ‘Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. The best is yet to come.’
She firmly believed this. We do, too.
Craig Gear, CEO, Older Persons Advocacy Network Ara Cresswell, Chairperson, Older Persons Advocacy Network Debra Nicholl, CEO, Elder Rights Advocacy Janis Porter, President, Elder Rights Advocacy