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Aged care: Interview with new Aged and Community Services Australia CEO John Kelly

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Aged care: Interview with new Aged and Community Services Australia CEO John Kelly

The appointment of a new CEO looks likely herald a significant period for Aged & Community Services Australia, with changes likely. Nina Hendy speaks to Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM about the main issues facing aged care nurses and how he intends to advocate for change.

Professor John Kelly hadn’t even officially started in his new role with Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) when he agreed to be interviewed about his appointment to the role of chief executive officer.
This should be taken as a sure sign that nothing can rattle this man, who has spent 35 years working in a range of senior roles in the health and aged care sector. 
Aged and Community Services Australia national president Rob Hankins described Professor Kelly as a dynamic person to lead Australia’s peak
body of over 1,100 faith-based charitable and community-based providers. 
“His strong leadership skills, extensive clinical, management and consulting background is the health and aged care sectors, government experience at a national level, advocacy and stakeholder representation in national professional associations, faith-based and secular not-for-profit entities as well as for profit community and aged care service providers makes this an exceptional appointment at a vital time in the aged care sector.
Professor Kelly brings strong credentials to the role. He has had continuous experience as a director of not-for-profit, remunerated health and aged care related boards as well as government boards and statutory committees since 1994. 
He also operates the law program in the Masters of Health Administration at the University of Technology, Sydney, managed a specialist boutique national health and aged care legal and consulting practice, has been a partner in national law firms specialising in the health and aged care sector, was the recipient of the University of Technology Sydney’s prestigious 2010 Alumni Award for Excellence. And in 2009, he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia. 
In 2010 Professor Kelly held the position of Commonwealth Aged Care Commissioner, appointed by the Federal Government and was previously director and chairman of UnitingCare Ageing (NSW/ACT)
Professor Kelly says he is extremely excited to be taking on the CEO role. He lives in Canberra and says the new position will primarily be an advocacy and policy development role that will require regular discussions with government, which is certainly a key strength. 
At the top of his list of key priorities will be continuing to carry the flag for aged care reform, which is a mammoth task that he predicts will take up the rest of the year.
“Aged care reform is a very slow burning wick. Governments on both sides have had a lot of reports but so far there’s only been tinkering in terms of reforms. However, this needs to be addressed right away ahead of the May budget. Everyone is interested in this issue.”
Professor Kelly also named the set of changes to be bought about by the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission and the current Treasury discussions on non-profit reforms as being key issues at the top of his agenda. He describes himself as a proactive person who takes a strategic approach.
“I don’t underestimate the work ahead of me. Nurses and carers in the community aged care sector are facing a number of issues.”
Aside from these issues, the ageing population of health care workers, the shortage of health care workers and the ongoing pay disparities facing the sector are a further three key issues concerning the nursing workforce. 
“The current average age of the nursing workforce is staff aged in their late 40s, which proves we can’t just keep not investing in our workforce. I’m already involved in this process as part of the National Aged Care Alliance, and a key agenda item is the health care workforce itself.”
Professor Kelly is excited to be taking on the role. “I’m chuffed to be involved and am extremely passionate about this sector and am pleased to be working with really good people to implement new platforms. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard work.”
Professor Kelly began in his role on Monday 10 April. He will be stepping down from his current positions with his law firm and with UnitingCare Ageing NSW/ACT, and one of his first tasks will be moving the ACSA national office to Canberra from its current Melbourne location.
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