Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2014 Contents Photograph © Robert Firth - Acorn Photo
The growth in the complexity
and maturity of the Australian
aged care industry has been
the greatest change over
the last four decades, says
Professor Barbara Horner.
Horner, who has worked in aged care
as a clinician, educator and researcher
for over 40 years, was speaking to
Australia Ageing Agenda weeks after
she retired from her post at Curtin
University earlier this year.
Horner says that residential and
community care providers have had to
"step up in terms of their business acumen
and processes" so they can be competitive
in what is "still a very difficult industry."
Part of that difficulty is due to the
innovation-stifling policy and compliance
framework and workforce challenges,
including an inability to attract and build
strong and innovative leaders, she says.
Horner led Curtin's Centre for Research
on Ageing since its inception in 2000 until
her retirement on 31 July this year.
Prior roles have included manager of
human resources and staff development at
Silver Chain and principal education officer
at the Nurses Board of Western Australia,
as well as work in private hospitals.
Although her clinical career has been
varied -- she has also worked in mental
health, Aboriginal health and industrial
health - Horner says it always included a
focus on older people.
"I always felt that there was a lot of
wisdom and experience that we could
gain from older people and I found I was
quite fascinated by interactions with older
people," she says.
'LIGHT MY FIRE'
At Curtin, Horner spent many years
building research partnerships with
organisations in the sector.
With interests spanning workforce,
innovation in models of care, service
frameworks and evaluation, quality of life
factors in aged communities, organisational
leadership and change, and care of people
with dementia, Horner's research is broad,
but she says it has a common thread.
"While research is my tool of trade it
is the process of doing the research and
the engagement and the partnerships and
the translation of that research into some
action; that is what lights my fire."
These partnerships have included
with WA providers Silver Chain and
Juniper, Alzheimer's Australia WA and the
Dementia Collaborative Research Centres.
"The greatest satisfaction of my career
has been the partnerships I have formed,
the organisations I have worked with
and the growth I have seen in individuals
and outcomes for organisations and
for residents. That for me has made
everything I have done worthwhile."
Horner says her research has often
involved mentoring and coaching to help
organisations better understand what
they are doing, improve their systems and
processes and look at different ways of
viewing what they have.
Horner says making good use of the
information organisations collect is a real
challenge within the sector. "There are very
few organisations who really know what to
do with the data, know how to report on it,
know how to analyse it and understand it.
Therefore they don't get the value out of
the data they have collected."
However, the most pressing challenge
is staff development, and this has never
really been addressed, says Horner.
"There's very limited money for
training and development and there's very
little expertise within the industry to be
able to do that. Rather than making sure
people adhere to occupational health and
safety, it is about valuing the concept of
personal and professional development."
Another area is aged care's
multicultural workforce, which Horner
says it is still viewed by many as a problem
rather than an opportunity to have a
multicultural approach to care.
HINDERED BY POLICY
Looking to the top, Horner says the
sector's struggles to attract senior
professionals, to build leadership
capability and recruit innovative leaders,
limits the industry's performance. As does
the policy framework, she says.
"I am quite disappointed with the
current Federal Government's approach
across a number of spheres.
"They lack vision and insight. They
have been really disappointing in their
commitment to growing the industry and
to recognising what it stands for and I
feel that a lot of aged care providers are
finding it tougher now than they did even
five years ago."
Similarly, Horner gets fired up about
Realising the 'capability
of the sector'
While research has been the tool of her trade for the past 40 years,
Professor Barbara Horner tells Natasha Egan that it is the
industry partnerships and the translation of that research into
action that lights her fire.
Professor Barbara Horner
36 | NOVEMBER -- DECEMBER 2014 | AAA
Links Archive AAA Jan-Feb 2015 AAA Spt-Oct 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page