What does it take to be considered an emerging leader in aged care?

Alison Vella, 2021 Future of Ageing Emerging Leader

The nominations for this new category in the 2021 Future of Ageing Awards generated a robust discussion amongst our judging panel, with several nominees all worthy of the title.

Alison Vella stood out for several reasons. Relatively new to the aged care industry, Alison has focused her energy not only on improving outcomes for clients, but providing leadership and mentorship to the wider team and getting involved in opportunities to help Governments to improve their services.

After teaching travel, tourism and events management for 16 years at TAFE NSW, Alison made a career change back into aged care in 2017, having previously been a home care coordinator and missing the interaction with older people.


Her skills in teaching and training, and ability to encourage others to have a positive mindset were a natural fit for becoming a home support assessor and reablement mentor.

When Alison’s client activity participation increased from 48% to 63%, it was clear that she had a special way of connecting with and motivating clients.

“To be recognised for the projects I have worked on and raising awareness on the benefits of a wellness and reablement focus means a great deal to me,” Alison said after learning she was being awarded the Future of Ageing Emerging Leader of the Year.   

“I really believe in allowing our clients to be connected to be able to thrive and the importance of giving our older Australians every opportunity to keep doing everyday tasks for themselves or with short-term supports with the aim to live a better and purposeful life is what we are working so hard towards every day.”

“I’ve done many things over the years, but I find working in aged care gives me so much satisfaction as I learn from my clients every day. I hope I can make a difference in their lives and feel the industry is one of the most important in the world right now. Lots of challenges, but the rewards definitely outweigh those.”

Alison’s passion for reablement saw her progress from an Assessor to becoming a Mentor responsible for managing the New England and Mid-North Coast regions in the Regional Assessment Reablement Trial in NSW, which was funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Better Ageing – Promoting Independent Living (PIL) initiative.

“Her outcomes speak volumes for her capability, supporting 50% of clients to achieve their goals through the reablement framework,” Aspire4life General Manager, Michael Scurrah said.

“Alison’s impact has facilitated life-changing results such as clients regaining the dignity of dressing themselves, recommencing going out for coffee with friends and the joy of rejoining their peers on the [golfing] green.”

“Federal and State Governments also recognise her leadership qualities, reablement expertise and keen attention to detail… their invitations continue to grow, seeking her input on the My Aged Care assessment portal, More Good Days Communities of Practice and the Victorian Wellness and Reablement Network to name a few,” Michael said.

Identified as a leading subject matter expert by the Federal Department of Health and more recently by the Wellness and Reablement Network Victoria, Alison has been asked to present on her experience, learnings, and outcomes of the Reablement Trial, and by Aged Care Service Providers on their business model and organisational approach to reablement in NSW and QLD, and nationally through the CoP Network.

Alison has become the ‘go to’ person for reablement advice for her colleagues and draws on her experience in Training and Assessment and adult learning to coach her colleagues, and develop individual training plans tailored to their learning styles.

Determined to help people to achieve their goals, Alison has helped to shift the focus from traditional assessment approaches to reablement-focused frameworks. But she won’t be stopping there – Alison wants to see a better understanding of a wellness and reablement approach in every area of aged care from GP’s and hospitals, to care at home, assessment services and in residential care facilities.

“Using strengths-based language, responding to what makes our clients fulfilled and having a focus on what they can do to build on their capabilities – where possible – will have long term benefits to our clients and to the industry. This is new to many in our field and the work has begun on the resources needed and the platforms have been created for this to be recognised and we need to work on continuing to build the momentum of this pathway,” she said.

And her advice to anyone considering a career change into aged care?

“Absolutely embrace the opportunity to work with people who have lived some truly amazing lives and that supporting them is a privilege. Learn to ask questions – of your organisation, your leader, teachers, mentors and most importantly of your clients, to understand what is their motivation, what gives them purpose. If you are someone who cares for people, then we need you in this industry.”

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