Movers & shakers 2023: part 1

As ever, there was a lot of movement in 2023 at the executive level of Australia’s aged care sector.

Here are many of the movers and shakers of the first part of the year.


It was a new year and a new board member for Brightwater. The Western Australian provider appointed Kellie Benda as a non-executive director of the Brightwater Care Group Board. Commencing her role on 4 January, Ms Benda brought with her strong skills in digital transformation, strategic growth, property investment and aged care to the not-for-profit provider.

Kellie Benda

Among Ms Benda’s achievements, she is named in the federal government’s Australia’s Top 100 Emerging Leaders list, considered one of the Australian Institute of Management’s 25 most Influential Emerging Business Women in Australia and the recipient of the Corporate Leader Telstra Business Women’s Award.

Elder Rights Advocacy appointed Debra Nicholl as its CEO and Janis Porter its new president. A long-time team-member at ERA – which provides information and support to older people, their families and representatives in Victoria – for Ms Nicholl has worked as an advocate, senior educator, advocacy manager, programs manager and deputy CEO. Upon her appointment, Ms Nicholl made her mission clear. “ERA is committed to continuing our important work of supporting the human rights of older Victorians and advocating for quality aged care services that are delivered by a professional workforce,” she said.

New ERA president Ms Porter has more than 40 years’ public service and advocacy experience across a suite of sectors including government, the mining industry, merchant banking, and tourism. She has also worked for a number of not-for-profit and charitable entities. Ms Porter joined ERA in 2021 as a member of its board. As president, she said she looked forward to “supporting older people’s voices to be heard and acted upon” so as to “influence the transformation of the aged care system through the direct involvement of older people and the new aged care legislation.”

Merlin Kong

After five years heading innovAGEING – the national innovation network for the aged care services industry – Merlin Kong moved on to take up a new role. Posting on LinkedIn, Mr Kong said: “It’s a sublime bittersweet moment … my time here and working with many of you across the sector has been incredible… it’s been a dream job.”

Upon leaving innovAGEING, Mr Kong joined Kiah – an Australian consultancy firm servicing government and industry. “It’s a great opportunity to continue my work supporting the aged care sector,” said Mr Kong.


The month began with the news that National Seniors Australia chief executive officer Professor John McCallum was leaving the advocacy organisation after more than four years as CEO. Professor McCallum joined National Seniors as its research director in 2016 before being appointed as CEO in 2018. During his time with National Seniors, Professor McCallum led the not-for-profit body through an internal organisational change, the aged care royal commission and a global pandemic.

Elsewhere former National Seniors general manager Chris Grice became the peak’s chief operating officer. “One of the great pleasures of working with the team at National Seniors … is being able to promote the positive contribution that older Australians make towards the broader community,” said Mr Grice.

Alicia Goddard

Not-for-profit aged care, in-home and community services provider Benetas appointed Alicia Goddard as its general manager for people, culture and diversity. Ms Goddard joined Benetas with more than 20 years’ experience in health, government and education sectors – across profit and not-for-profit. During that time, Ms Goddard worked across strategy, governance and risk management bringing together partnerships with public health services to deliver transformational change in workforce practices and clinical operating models.

Chair of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council Libby Lyons resigned and leadership of the organisation was assumed by ACWIC deputy chair Graeme Prior. A statement provided to Australian Ageing Agenda read: “As deputy chair, Mr Prior will work closely with ACWIC’s board and interim CEO Sarah McLelland as the organisation continues delivery of its priorities in 2023 and engages with the Commonwealth on critical aged care issues.”

Community Vision Australia chief operating officer Yvonne Timson became the West Australian aged care provider’s new chief executive officer. Ms Timson, who joined the not-for-profit organisation as COO in July 2017, formally replaced Michelle Jenkins in the CEO role on 1 March. Upon the announcement of her appointment, Ms Timson said: “My main goal for Community Vision is to continue to work towards a more inclusive community where people can live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.”

Tony Randello

Chief executive officer of Aveo Group Tony Randello was elected president of the Retirement Living Council. Mr Randello joined the retirement village sector’s peak body with more than 20 years’ experience in senior roles in the property sector including finance, operations, and asset management. “I am passionate about creating environments in which residents can become part of a close-knit community where friendships are formed, active living is embraced and support is provided to help them remain independent for as long as possible,”  said Mr Randello upon his appointment.


March was a month of change for advocacy body Council on the Ageing Victoria as it announced three new directors to its board – Hayley Hunter, Tanya O’Connor and Mark Stokes. “We’re thrilled to welcome such high-calibre and experienced professionals to our board of directors,” said COTA Victoria president Robert Caulfield. “We’re excited about what lies ahead for COTA Victoria with a full contingent of board members, a new strategic plan, and reinvigorated vision.”

Sue McKechnie

After almost 20 years in the role, Resthaven executive manager community services Sue McKechnie announced her retirement. Ms McKechnie joined the South Australian aged care and retirement village operator in November 2004. Reflecting on her 18-year career at Resthaven, Ms McKechnie said she has enjoyed both the opportunities and challenges of executive leadership. “I acknowledge the work of all Resthaven leaders and staff in community services who have provided such committed care and support to older people and their carers throughout my time with Resthaven.”

Resthaven recruited Melanie Ottaway to replace Ms McKechine as its new executive manager of community services. Ms Ottaway was executive manager of services for older people at Uniting Communities where she worked across the residential, home care and retirement living portfolios. “We believe Mel will be a valuable addition to the Resthaven executive team and we welcome her to Resthaven,” said CEO Darren Birbeck.

Former aged care CEO Dr Stephen Judd was appointed deputy chair, aged care pricing on the board of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority. A leading figure in the sector, Dr Judd was CEO of HammondCare for 25 years before stepping down in 2020. The pricing authority consists of a chair, a deputy chair of hospital pricing, deputy chair of aged care pricing and up to six other members who have substantial expertise and knowledge in the provision of healthcare as well as significant standing in the industry.


South Australian retirement living and home care provider ECH appointed Alan Johncock as its new head of property and retirement living. Mr Johncock joined ECH – which stands for Enabling Confidence at Home – after four years as executive general manager with aged care and independent living provider Blue Cross. Mr Johncock was appointed to steer ECH through its five-year strategic plan which centres on building and developing homes and living hubs.

Dr Kaushik Sridhar

Seniors living provider Levande made good on its promise to focus on areas related to environmental, social and governance with the appointment of experienced professional and educator Kaushik Sridhar as head of sustainability. Mr Sridhar joined Levande with over 16 years of experience developing and implementing environmental, social and governance programs, strategies, and initiatives to improve a business’ financial bottom line and reduce its environmental impacts.

Experienced board leader and social justice advocate Anne Burgess joined the Council of Elders as its new chair for a period of two years. Ms Burgess joined the advisory body with than 40 years’ experience leading initiatives and organisations focused on social justice, with previous roles including director of the Office for Women and Acting Commissioner at the Equal Opportunity Commission in South Australia.

In announcing the appointment, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said Ms Burgess’ role was part of the government’s ongoing agenda to ensure older peoples’ needs were front and centre as it reformed aged care. “The Council of Elders plays a critical role in ensuring the diverse views and perspectives of older people are heard by the government throughout the reform process. I look forward to working closely with Anne Burgess and the Aged Care Council of Elders as we continue to reform aged care,” she said.

Movers & shakers 2023: part 2 coming soon

Tags: alan johncock, Alicia Goddard, Anne Burgess, Debra Nicholl, dr-stephen-judd, Graeme Prior, hayley hunter, janis porter, kaushik sridhar, Kellie Benda, mark stokes, melanie ottaway, Merline Kong, Professor John McCallum, sue-mckechnie, tanya o'connor, tony randello, yvonne-timson,

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