Starting a new job is often a daunting experience. But for Shannon Wright, joining the Seniors Rights Service NSW as its new chief executive was a baptism of fire, coming only days before the release of the final report of the Aged Care Royal Commission.
Ms Wright, who comes to the position from a senior director role at the YWCA, and prior to that with community health not-for-profit ACON, recognises this is a critical time for the sector and the role of the Seniors Rights Service is more-than-ever essential in empowering and supporting older people.
The service is a legal, education and advocacy support organisation which provides free and confidential telephone advice, aged care advocacy and support, legal advice and rights-based education forums to seniors across the state.
Advocates help people who receive Commonwealth-funded aged care services at home or in residential care, as well as their carers or family members; and a legal team provides advice to people, including retirement village residents, on human rights (discrimination and all forms of abuse), planning for the future (wills, power of attorney, guardianship), consumer rights (debt management, unfair contracts), accommodation matters (granny flats, strata) and other issues.
The organisation is active in helping prevent the scourge of elder abuse and in educating the community on how to recognise the various types of abuse.
It also operates a "navigator" program which helps older people and their families navigate the process of accessing residential or home-based aged care.
Ms Wright believes one of her challenges will be raising the profile of the organisation, especially in regional and remote areas, as well as with culturally and linguistically diverse and gender diverse people so they know there is someone they can contact for help.
She said she was attracted to the role because of the "opportunity to make a difference".
Ms Wright said the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety did a good job in laying on the table the issues facing older people, particularly in aged care, and highlighted the need for significant sector reform that prioritised and upheld the rights of older people.
"People need to face up to where we are as a country as far as how we treat our older people," she said.
"This report and the submissions which led to it really put front and centre in people's minds just what is happening to older people.
"If it happened to young people we would be appalled."
The Seniors Rights Service website has free resources including fact sheets, brochures, videos and webinars.
- 1800-424-079, seniorsrightsservice.org.au