Older Persons Advocacy Network chief executive officer Craig Gear has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to aged welfare and seniors’ rights.

Mr Gear is among 837 Australians recognised for their service to the community and various sectors in this year’s Australia Day Honours List.

He said he was humbled but also surprised to be one of 549 Australians to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) this Australia day.

“Surprised because I hadn’t seen what I’ve done is that different to what a number of other people have done. But it’s very humbling recognition of the work of the organisations that I’ve been involved with on their boards and then now as CEO of OPAN,” Mr Gear told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Craig Gear

While it has taken a while for the aged care industry to be recognised, being appointed an OAM highlights the importance of the sector, he said.

“It’s been great to see change in the sector and that aged care advocacy is now being recognised as an essential and an absolutely vital service for older people and their families,” Mr Gear said.

He first commenced his career as a nurse in 1993 and later moved into prison health and health justice roles.

Mr Gear’s other previous roles include chairperson, treasurer and board member of Seniors Rights Service NSW and chair of Aid for Africa Down Under, where he currently serves as director and deputy chair and secretary.

He said being able to make change at a system and local level motivates him to work in the aged care sector.

“What’s more fantastic about this role [as CEO of OPAN] than any of my other roles in my career, is that we are in an exciting time to influence change for the longer term good, but also for individuals,” Mr Gear said.

He said he enjoyed seeing the achievement of advocates who are committed to helping others access aged care services.

Mr Gear said he hoped to help people understand more about the aged care system and that services such as OPAN exist.

“I want people to be able to have a good understanding of the aged care system and how to get in it.”

There is still more work to do to improve awareness about seniors’ rights, Mr Gear said.

“There are still not enough people aware and it’s still going to be a long journey to make more people aware of their rights.”

Other Australia Day honour recipients

Sabine Phillips

Aged care lawyer Sabine Phillips is one of 224 people this year to be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Ms Phillips, a partner at Gadens Lawyers, was recognised for significant service to aged welfare and to the legal profession.

Her aged care roles include a current member of the board and clinical governance and committee at Victorian provider Uniting Agewell.

She previously served on the board of fellow Victorian aged care providers Benetas Aged Care and Wintringham Aged Care and Wintringham Housing.

Professor Robert Cumming, an epidemiologist, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his distinguished service to medical education and research, particularly to ageing and age-related diseases.

He is currently the group leader of the Concord Health and Ageing in Men Project at the University of Sydney and a member of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR).

His former roles include as Associate Dean of the School of Population Health and Health Services Research and director of Master of International Health Programs at the University of Sydney.

Professor John Piggott was also appointed an AO for his distinguished service to education, to population ageing research, and to public finance policy development.

He is the director of ARC’s CEPAR at the University of New South Wales and a former ARC Australian Professional Fellow.

Dot Lipmann

Dorothy (Dot) Lipmann was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to the elderly and to the visual arts. Ms Lipmann has been volunteering at Wingtringham Hostel’s McLean Lodge since 1989 and at the Wingtringham Annual Art Show since 2014.

Colleen Mandicos from Wollongong, New South Wales, was awarded an OAM for her service to aged welfare. Her service includes executive manager of aged and disability services at Catholic Care Wollongong and chair of Multicultural Aged Care Illawarra since 2000.

Judith Speedy from Mirboo North, Victoria, was awarded an OAM for her service to the community of Mirboo North including the Mirboo North Community Foundation and Aged Care Facility, which she is a founding member of.

Doreen Gunn from Seymour, Victoria, was awarded an OAM for her service to aged welfare.

Her service includes as an active volunteer member of Karingal Seymour Elderly Citizen’s Hostel and volunteer of Barrabill house of Aged Care Home since 1993.

Lorna Apelt from Dalby, Queensland, was also awarded an OAM for her service to aged welfare. Her services includes a volunteer for Dalby Meals on Wheels.

Other Australia Day honours facts

  • 5 people were appointed Companions of the Order of Australia (AC)
  • 59 people were appointed Officers of the Order of Australia (AO)
  • 348 awards were appointed to women (41.6 per cent)
  • 375 awards were for outstanding service or achievement in the community (45 per cent)

A full list of Australia Day Honour recipients can be viewed here.

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