Long-serving Council on the Ageing Australia chief executive Ian Yates will step aside from the role later this year after a suitable replacement has been found and a “significant” transition period, the seniors advocacy peak body has announced.

It is understood this is expected to take five-to-six months including a transition period of up to three months once the new CE joins COTA Australia. Mr Yates will continue in other sector-related roles including chair of the Federal Government’s ageing and aged care Council of Elders and member of the National Aged Care Advisory Council.

Mr Yates has been at the helm of COTA Australia for 20 years and headed up its state counterpart COTA South Australia for 13 years before that. The peak aged consumer has thousands of organisational members representing over 500,000 seniors plus 30,000 individual members. The decision to leave is about planning a controlled transition of the organisation’s leadership, Mr Yate said.

Ian Yates

“It is my decision.” Mr Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda. “It is something that the board and I have been discussing for some time, and in the context of the fact that no one goes on forever. I have been there for a long time. Twenty years is a long time. For an organisation that has someone in that role for that period, transitions are always more of a challenge than a regular rotation because there’s a very strong identification of COTA with me and me with COTA.”

Working out the right time to step aside has involved discussions with COTA Australia chair Jane Halton for over six months and a range of factors including contracts and elections, he said. “One of the reasons that we’re announcing this before the election is because we did not want anyone to suggest it and had anything to do with the outcome of the election.”

Mr Yates’s other aged care sector roles include member of the quality regulator’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Advisory Council. He was a foundation member of the Aged Care Financing Authority on which he served continuously until its role ended on 30 June 2021 as part of the reform process. He is a long-serving board member of the Aged Rights Advocacy Service in SA and an Honorary Life Member of the SA Council of Social Service and COTA SA.

In 2005 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “outstanding service to the welfare of the aged in South Australia and to a range of community, health and education organisations”.

Ian Yates’ contribution to the COTA peak bodies and welfare of older Australians is “immense”, COTA Australia chair Jane Halton said. “It would be great if Ian could go on forever, but the real world is not like that, and Ian and the board have agreed that this year is the right time for the transition to a new chief executive.

Cota Australia has engaged experienced executive search consultant Ian Hansen to assist in the recruitment process for a new chief executive.

“Once appointed we anticipate the succession will involve a significant transition period, to which Ian Yates has agreed. We do not have specific dates set – we are looking for the right person – but we expect the transition to be complete within 2022,” Ms Halton said.

Aged care aside, My Yates is a member of the Consumer Advisory Panel to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, a director of Livable Housing Australia, and a member of the Advisory Board of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research. He also been chair of the management committee of the Australasian Journal on Ageing for many years.

His list of past roles – which is far too long to add in full – includes Deputy Chancellor of Flinders University. It’s the same institution he earned a Bachelor of Arts from some 50 years ago, and that made him an Honorary Doctor and Emeritus Deputy Chancellor in 2014.

In addition to his ongoing roles, Mr Yates is also open new ventures.

“Over the years I’ve been asked if I would take on roles like adjunct roles with universities and whether I would write, whether I would go on other boards. None of those things, given my workload were possible. So all of those things will become possibilities.”

This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.

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