A new $34 million research centre will ‘strengthen the future of aged care delivery in Australia’, according to the Federal Government.
The Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research to open next year at Flinders University in Adelaide will, the Government says, help ensure vital research leads to tangible outcomes for the aged care sector.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, said the centre was an important investment in improving the quality of aged care services.
“This is a big step forward when it comes to ensuring the needs of older Australians in care are not just met, but exceeded,” Colbeck said.
Flinders University and consultancy firm Wells Advisory will jointly establish the centre, which Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says will help develop the capability of Australia’s aged care workforce and translate research and innovation into best practice.
“Dementia, restorative care and rehabilitation, mental wellbeing, and social isolation have all been identified as priority areas for the Centre in its first year,” Stirling said.
“Capitalising on Flinders University’s strong national aged care sector partnerships and research strengths, the centre is supported by 73 collaborative partners including consumer advocacy and representative groups, aged care service providers, research organisations, translation and commercial partners, social enterprise organisations, peak bodies, workforce development organisations and the South Australian Government.
“It’s carefully considered, it’s comprehensive, and crucially, it will ensure the voices and needs of older people and their families are central, and are heard,” Stirling said.
In addition to employing 30 staff and delivering 600 internships for aged care workers, the centre will fund around 60 translational research grants to improve aged care.
Professor of Health Ageing Sue Gordon, who will lead research activities, said the new centre was a “once in a generation opportunity” to transform the way Australia supported its ageing society.
“The most important outcome will be to drive growth in the provision of aged care that is aligned with innovation and based on increased workforce capacity and capability, enabling change that is safe, delivers high-quality outcomes and increases the opportunity for all Australians to enjoy healthy, well-supported ageing,” she said.
The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council said it is delighted by the announcement.
Council CEO, Louise O’Neill, said the Council and a working group of its board of directors, led by Professor John McCallum, have over the last couple of years worked closely with the Department of Health to inform and enhance the design of the centre.
“This is significant achievement in response to the aged care workforce strategy ‘A Matter of Care’,” O’Neill said.
“The translational research centre has a key role in driving improvement in aged care service delivery and workforce capability.
“It is great to see that Flinders University will host the Translational Research Centre and we look forward to working with them to support the development of evidence based practical tools and resources translated from targeted aged care research,” she said
Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the national centre will enable collaboration between university researchers, industry partners and the aged care workforce to effectively address real and meaningful systemic changes for ageing Australians.
“The Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research will bring together aged care staff and our researchers to carry out projects in collaboration with our industry partners, directly facilitating improvements in the sector,” Stirling said.
“We’ll apply the research through education and training programs to introduce innovations and improve caring practices – because we can’t afford to leave behind Australians who got us to where we are today.”
COTA Australia chief executive, Ian Yates, said the new centre is an exciting development.
“Bringing older Australians, the aged care industry and the country’s brightest researchers together to look at ways to improve service delivery for older Australians is incredibly exciting and long overdue,” he said.
Yates explained that his advocacy organisation had actively supported the Flinders University proposal for the Centre and has committed to partnering with the research centre to deliver its important work.
“COTA Australia is looking forward to working closely with the new research centre to help facilitate engagement with the centre by both consumer and provider organisations, and potentially facilitate partnerships in projects and research.
“Having the voice of older people and their families at the heart of research and development into these areas is crucial.
“Tapping into the valuable and under-utilised resource of older people who have lived experience of the aged care system as direct consumers, or as informal or family carers, will help shape an aged care system that truly delivers for older Australians.”
The first step in establishing the centre will be developing a new knowledge and implementation hub.
“This web-based hub will give the aged care sector access to information and products that set out practically how aged care can be delivered in the best possible way, based on comprehensive, evidence-based research,” Colbeck said.
First round of applications at the centre open in February 2022. This will include support for aged care workers to trial new ways of delivering care.
“Workers in aged care will have the opportunity to share their learnings with other services through communities of practice and open forums on the knowledge hub,” Colbeck said.
The focus of the research will be on how care and clinical activities are organised, delivered by different workers, and deployed in different care settings.
The centre will also support sector-wide improvements in care quality by increasing and expanding the capacity of the aged care workforce to access, understand and use research outcomes in their day-to-day work.