Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jan-Feb 2014 Contents For the 11 years he has been CEO of the Australian
Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency, Mark
Brandon has applied a simple test to guide him when
making challenging decisions.
He asks himself, if his decision was reported on the
front page of the Courier Mail, his mother's local newspaper, would
she read it and think "that's my boy" or would she be ashamed?
He uses this test because, when making a decision as CEO of
a company, the "right" call isn't always the popular one or that
listed in the rulebook. For that reason, Brandon says the job has
required a preparedness to "make the right decision and carry
"It's a mantra I have adopted largely because you should not
be thinking about your next job, about whether you're going to
lose your job; you must be thinking about what is the right thing
to do and how to manage the outcome," he says.
This personal mantra goes some way to explaining why
Brandon has been so successful in his role, why he's been able to
help drive a culture of improvement and quality in aged care, why
he's managed to work successfully under eight ministers, and
why he - and through him, the agency - has gained the trust and
respect of the sector.
Back in 2002 when Brandon was appointed CEO, the sector
had a very different view of the agency, which at that point had
been in operation for almost four years.
"When I started, we didn't have the trust of the sector," he
acknowledges. "And that was fair enough, because we were
new. What I set about doing was building a mutually respectful
relationship. The fact that approved providers are required to
deal with us places on us a greater responsibility than one might
see in a business where the customer has choice. Providers
are in the people business, we're in the people business, and
relationships are absolutely fundamental to that."
Having held senior executive positions in organisations such
as Medibank Private and the Health Insurance Commission, and
having operated his own management consultancy firm, Brandon
says he knew that "understanding our clients as people and their
As he prepares to leave his
post, Mark Brandon sits
down with Darragh O'Keeffe
and reflects on his time as CEO
of the Accreditation Agency, the
changes he has seen in aged
care over a decade, and aged
care politics and policy.
businesses" was essential to the agency's task. "Over time we
have sought to understand the business of aged care. If we better
understand their issues we can better do our job," he says.
Given there was an initial concern among providers about
accreditation and what it meant, the agency's other key role --
education -- was crucial in helping it build trust with the sector,
he says. "Once we convinced the industry our job was the
promotion of quality through education as well as accreditation
we started to build the relationship."
A DECADE OF CHANGE
For the past 11 years, Brandon has had a unique vantage point to
watch the various programs and reforms unfold in the sector.
"The industry has been on a journey," he says. "Some people
have changed quicker than others; some of them are early
adopters, some are leaders. I think there is a large group of
providers and staff for who, regardless of whether there were
regulations, doing it well is in their DNA."
Brandon says there has been an evolution within the sector,
which the agency has been part of through its role promoting
quality, to a point where achieving standards is no longer seen as
the goal. "The conversation now is talking about quality of life for
residents. I think that will continue in an evolutionary way."
Asked of possible future trends, Brandon says with regards to
industry structure and ownership, there will likely be continued
consolidation in some areas. "Having said that, it's easy enough to
consolidate a group of nursing homes in a capital city or a region,
the ones that are not so easy to consolidate are in rural and
regional areas and those that are community owned. It's hard to
see how some of them would benefit."
Consumer directed care, as a government policy, presents
some challenges as people come to grips with what it might really
Mark Brandon, outgoing CEO of the Accreditation Agency.
40 | JANUARY -- FEBRUARY 2014 | AAA
Stories, history, observations and reflections...
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the ageing agenda.
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