Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2012 Contents Passionate about
Ljubica Petrov, has
devoted more than
17 years of her life
to the promotion of
aged care services.
takes a look at her
career, from her days
as a high school
teacher to now.
Manager of the Centre for
Cultural Diversity in Ageing
Fourteen years ago the world was a relatively different place.
Back in 1998, Australia held its first ever National Sorry
Day in recognition of the Indigenous 'Stolen Generation'.
The right-wing, nationalist political party, One Nation led
by Pauline Hanson, was at its peak and the sector used
the term 'Non-English Speaking' (NES) to describe someone of a
culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background.
"That was a time when some facilities were just starting to
explore a multicultural model of care," Ljubica Petrov says as she
reflects on when she started in her current position, as manager
of the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC), Victoria.
"My current role started when the Partners in Culturally
Appropriate Care (PICAC) funding, under the Department of
Health and Ageing (DoHA) first began [in 1998]. What that means
is that I have been supporting the delivery of cultural inclusive
care to facilities across the state of Victoria for 14 years."
The PICAC initiative, which falls under the federal
government's Ethnic Aged Care Framework, aims to equip aged
care providers to deliver culturally appropriate care to older
people from CALD communities. In 2004, with the introduction
of a website and online resources, the name 'Centre for Cultural
Diversity in Ageing' was adopted. In addition to the work
carried out under the PICAC funding, the centre also provides
consultancy, translation management and fee-for-service training.
Three years prior to taking up this managerial role, Petrov
joined Benetas as a community multicultural liaison officer at its
St George facility, Altona Meadows, Victoria.
"When I first started with Benetas, my role was to link the
service to local communities, provide staff straining and ensure
that the needs of residents from culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds were met. I was responsible for implementing
a multicultural model of care in new facilities. I was also involved in
staff recruitment and in ensuring the staff had the language skills
required, and that they approached their role with an open mind
and an ability to work in a culturally diverse setting."
This grass-roots position, Petrov recalls, was her first ever
position in the aged care sector. Previous to working for the
Anglican Aged Care Services Group (founder of Benetas), she
worked as a consultant for the Victorian education department
for six years in the area of curricular development and multi and
bilingual education. And, prior to that, she was a high school
"Even though I had no experience in aged care [when I first
took the position at Benetas], I felt that I could translate the
experience I had gained in supporting and developing multicultural
initiatives in one setting, education, to another setting.
"...I was very excited as my introduction to aged care was
in a facility that was one of the very few facilities in Australia
that was endeavouring to address the diversity in its local
Almost two decades have passed since Petrov first moved into
aged care. And, she explains, things are changing, as many aged care
providers are currently expanding their offerings to include culturally
diverse services. "Aged care providers are realising that cultural
diversity is about more than just lifestyle issues or celebrating
diversity. More and more service providers are now engaging our
support to help them explore cultural diversity strategically.
"There are also some exciting new DoHA-funded initiatives
being rolled out now that provide facilities and service-providers
with access to language services. So hopefully that will greatly
improve CALD services available."
However, there are still day-to-day challenges and much work
to be done by the sector, government and communities to ensure
that every older person in Australia has access to culturally
"Many think that only culturally-specific service providers
need to concern themselves with diversity. So there is still a need
for the government to perhaps demonstrate leadership on this
issue through the development of a national framework that will
help providers address cultural diversity, systemically."
With a total of more than 17 years of sector-wide experience,
Petrov concludes there is "no perfect recipe on how to approach
cultural diversity in ageing". But, she advises that service
providers should "be flexible and continually align their work with
Ljubica Petrov (second from left) with the
rest of the Centre for Cultural Diversity in
Ageing team and the Minister for Mental
Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, at the
Cultural Diversity in Ageing 2012
Conference in June.
46 | JULY -- AUGUST 2012 | AAA
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