Transformative Leadership: 2023 Future of Ageing Awards winner – Rachel Askew

Rachel Askew, Future of Ageing Awards, Emerging Leader for 2023

Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT (SCC) nominated Rachel Askew, Diversional Therapy Advisor, for the 2023 Future of Ageing Awards in the Emerging Leader category. Rachel assumed her role in June 2021, overseeing the Leisure, Lifestyle, and Engagement teams across 13 sites in three NSW regions.

Professional Journey:

Rachel’s journey began as a student with the Australian Recreational Therapy Association in 2013, leading to her current position as a board member since 2019. In 2018, she founded the association’s Sydney Aged Care Interest Network Group, demonstrating early leadership in the field.

Contributions at SCC:

  1. Policy and Procedure Development: Rachel played a pivotal role in crafting a new policy and procedure framework for SCC’s Leisure and Lifestyle team. This framework ensures staff success in implementing individualized person-centred care, aligning with SCC’s Model of Care and Engagement.
  2. One-to-One Planner: Rachel’s innovative one-to-one planner addresses resident engagement, particularly for those showing signs of depression or disengagement. The program, based on an algorithm, resulted in a 26% increase in engagement opportunities, totalling 37,452 in May 2023.
  3. Staff Training and Mentorship: Rachel’s commitment to professional development is evident in her mentorship and upskilling of the Leisure and Lifestyle team. Her focus on face-to-face mentorship and profession-specific orientation programs has elevated staff skills.
  4. Automation Initiative: Rachel’s participation in the ARIIA Innovator Training Program led to a grant application to automate assessments and resident interests. Although the grant was unsuccessful, Rachel collaborates with SCC’s IT team for an internal trial, showcasing her commitment to improving systems.
  5. Accreditation Success: Rachel played a vital role in achieving accreditation for all 13 Residential Aged Care homes under her purview. This accomplishment involved implementing new systems and training the Leisure and Lifestyle staff to meet best practice standards.
  6. Improving Residential Environments: Rachel’s initiatives include creating inviting environments, establishing engagement stations, implementing sensory garden beds and worm farms, and setting up arts and craft spaces across multiple Residential Aged Care homes.


A key part of the judging criteria for the Emerging Leader award is based on two x testimonials, both from someone internal and external to the organisation. Weight is given to the external reference and the seniority of the person providing it.

From Manager: Jacqueline Quirke, Engagement and Purposeful Living Manager, Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT

This is a summary of the testimonial provided:

Rachel Askew is an exceptional leader in Recreational Therapy, demonstrating profound knowledge and initiative. As a key figure at Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT, she focuses on positive resident outcomes, excelling in mentoring and upskilling the Leisure and Lifestyle team. Under her leadership, the organisation has enhanced its Model of Care and Engagement. Rachel’s contributions include designing policy frameworks, orientation programs, and implementing one-to-one programs for residents. Committed to continuous improvement, she seeks to automate systems for increased efficiency. Rachel’s leadership extends to industry associations, emphasising her passion for transforming Recreational Therapy into a holistic, individualised engagement approach. Her dedication makes her a valuable asset to Southern Cross Care.

External Testimonial – Charlise Bennett: Executive Officer and former President of the Australian Recreational Therapy Association Learning & Teaching Coordinator, Health Sciences Western Sydney University, The College

This is a summary of the testimonial provided:

Rachel Askew, a dedicated member and board representative of the Australian Recreational Therapy Association (ARTA) since 2012, stands out for her impactful leadership in the field, particularly in aged care. Holding the Care and Support Services Portfolio, Rachel actively promotes the association through workshops and participation in National Aged Care Alliance meetings. She spearheaded the transformation of ARTA’s name and constitution, recognising the need for enhanced recognition. Rachel’s efforts have elevated recreational therapy’s profile, positioning it as integral to care services. Her problem-solving skills, commitment, and adaptability make her invaluable, driving positive change and advocating for quality aged care practices within ARTA and the aged care sector.

Why the award was presented:

Rachel Askew’s transformative leadership at Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT has not only enhanced staff capabilities but has also significantly improved resident outcomes. Her dedication to advancing recreational therapy is evident in her contributions to SCC and the broader industry. Rachel’s innovative approach, commitment to excellence, and leadership qualities make her a deserving nominee and eventual winner of the Emerging Leader category for 2023.


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