Australia’s Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) has today paid tribute to former Elder Rights Advocacy President and OPAN chairperson, Mary Anne Hunt, who passed away yesterday after a short illness.
In a statement from OPAN senior management, Mary Anne was described as a passionate advocate for aged care rights and a powerful voice for change.
“Having worked as a manager and senior manager in the aged care and disability sectors, Mary Anne was keenly aware of the challenges involved,” the statement reads.
“She addressed them with a winning combination of compassion and business acumen.
“During her nine-year tenure as chairperson at Elder Rights Advocacy, Mary Anne was steadfast in her commitment to transforming the aged care system.”
She oversaw the organisation’s growth from six staff when she joined the Elder Rights Advocacy Board in 2012 to nearly 50 staff now.
Taking on the role of OPAN chairperson in August 2018, Mary Anne led the network from strength to strength, the organisation said today.
“Her belief in the potential of a national advocacy organisation was unwavering. As was her determination to hold government and providers to account.”
“Mary Anne was an experienced leader and a generous mentor. Elder Rights Advocacy and OPAN are stronger, richer and more stable for her contribution.
“While Mary Anne liked to describe the success of the two organisations as a ‘collective effort’, her role cannot be underestimated.
“She was professional, persistent, and pragmatic. She had a big heart. And she understood the strength of a team.”
OPAN says Mary Anne worked hard to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on older people and to raise awareness around the vital role advocacy plays in the aged care system.
On the back of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report, in 2021, she called on the government to implement the full suite of recommendations to ensure older people could enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedoms when accessing aged care services.
“Having seen the positive impact of deinstitutionalisation in the disability sector, Mary Anne championed OPAN’s push for a similar movement in aged care, asserting the right of older people to live in the way and where they want.”
“She was particularly proud of the recent success of OPAN’s Home and Aged Care Cost Education Project in ensuring older people had a fair and equitable approach to the fees and charges surrounding their aged care.”
Mary Anne, they say, “walked the talk” when it came to aged care.
“A tireless champion for a society in which older people are heard, informed and respected, there is no doubt that she has left the world a better place.”
“The network, Elder Rights Advocacy and OPAN deeply loved and respected Mary Anne. Her wisdom, her unselfishness and her gift for pastoral care will be greatly missed – by staff and older people.”
In her last post on social media, Mary Anne posted: ‘Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. The best is yet to come.’
“She firmly believed this. We do, too,” her OPAN family concluded its statement.