An official opening has been held for the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) to help boost its profile, following more than $26.5 million in funding announced for the network this year.

The network, made up of nine state and territory based service delivery organisations, delivers free advocacy, information and education services to older people and their representatives.

Earlier this year the Government announced OPAN would receive $25.7 million over the next three years to deliver the new National Aged Care Advocacy Program, with a focus on helping people to understand their rights.

The network will also receive additional $1 million from the Commonwealth Government to increase elder abuse prevention and support activities.

At the official launch last week, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt AM said the Older Persons Advocacy Network provides a nationally consistent model of advocacy.

“A key element of our ageing and aged care reform agenda is empowering older Australians ensuring they have voices to speak up for them when they need it most,” said Minister Wyatt.

“Through OPAN’s network of nine service delivery organisations – one in each state and the ACT and two in the Northern Territory, in Darwin and Alice Springs – we are now providing a nationally consistent model of independent advocacy.

“This supports all elder Australians including those with varied needs who might be living with a disability or dementia, are care leavers, or are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”

Following the announcement of the National Aged Care Advocacy Program in July this year, OPAN established itself as a formal entity with a Board of Directors. The inaugural CEO, Lewis Kaplan, was appointed in October.

Chairman, Craig Gear, is also the chair of the management board for Senior Rights Service NSW, and is a principal director of CGA Consulting.

Other Directors include representatives of each of the Older Persons Advocacy Network Members:

  • Fiona May – Chief Executive Officer of the ACT Disability Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS)
  • Mary Anne Hunt – Chair of the Board of directors for Elder Rights Advocacy (ERA) in Victoria
  • Carolanne Barkla – Chief Executive Officer of Aged Rights Advocacy Service Inc (ARAS) in South Australia
  • Diedre Timms – CEO of Advocare Inc in Western Australia
  • Judy Davis – General Manager of Programs at Catholic Care Northern Territory (NT)
  • Leanne Groombridge – Chief Executive Officer of Advocacy Tasmania Inc
  • Lorraine Gibbs –  Senior Advocate/Team Leader for the Aged and Disability Advocacy Service at Darwin Community Legal Service
  • Richard Olley – Chair of the board for ADA Australia in Queensland

In 2017-18, the Board of Directors will establish a consumer co-design reference group to ensure NACAP service improvements reflect consumer priorities.

At the official opening Minister Wyatt said OPAN would play a role in preventing and addressing elder abuse, which is a priority for the Turnbull Government.

“In addition to our $15 million elder abuse election commitment, I have provided OPAN with an additional $1 million towards its work on continuing elder abuse prevention and support activities,” said Minister Wyatt.

Older people, their families or carers in need of advocacy should go to the OPAN website or call 1800 700 600.