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Annual Report


Always was, Always will be, Aboriginal land

Seniors Rights Service recognises and acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as Australia’s First Nations Peoples and their ongoing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to Elders – past, present and emerging.

Welcome to our Annual Report

Protecting and advancing the rights of older people

This online version of our Annual Report is intended as an executive summary to improve accessibility and transparency. You can view and download the full report at the base of this page.

Seniors Rights Service supports older people to know their rights and be empowered to assert these rights by providing free specialist legal services, aged care advocacy and information across the breadth of NSW. We are a not for profit community organisation that is independent of government and has been supporting older people for over 36 years.

Our Vision

A society that respects and upholds the rights of older people

Our Purpose

The purpose of Seniors Rights Service is to raise awareness and empower older people to activate, uphold, extend and defend their individual rights. We foster communities to respect and value seniors and their rights. We achieve our purpose by providing accessible and confidential legal services, aged care advocacy and information.

Our Service Principles

In all of its endeavours, Seniors Rights Service will:

  • empower older people as rights holders and active contributors to society
  • provide high quality, appropriate and timely services
  • provide equitable access to services for seniors, regardless of race, nationality or ethnic origin, gender, marital status, disability, religion, political beliefs, sexual preference or any other characteristic
  • support capacity development of staff to ensure they can deliver high quality services
  • collaborate with other organisations in pursuit of common goals
  • work with broader civil society to foster respect for older members of society and their individual rights.

Our Priority Populations

  • Seniors Rights Service prioritises engagement with older people who:
  • are disadvantaged and vulnerable
  • are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Peoples
  • reside in regional, rural and remote locations
  • are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or other

Seniors Rights Service is a proud member of:

At a glance

Our services

Total enquiries






Intake referrals


Aged care Navigator


Community engagement


information sessions at expos, conferences, and webinars

Social Media

Facebook followers


Engagements, up from 263


Linkedin followers


Engagements, up from 72


Instagram followers


Engagements, up from 53


Twitter followers


Engagements, up from 27


Comparing July 2021 to July this year

Our board

Seniors Rights Service thanks all our Board members for their guidance and thoughtful contributions over the year. Ours is a voluntary Board and we acknowledge the time they generously give to the organisation.

Margaret Duckett, President

Margaret has held various senior roles including Director of the NSW Office of Ageing. Her career has been primarily in the health and social sectors, building on her science background in terms of health promotion, advocacy and policy development. Margaret has extensive experience in government and political processes, and strategic policy development and implementation.

Elaine Leong, Vice President

A career governance and legal professional to the for-purpose sector, Elaine holds a portfolio of professional, pro bono and volunteer roles. Elaine is the general counsel and company secretary of Australia’s oldest charity, The Benevolent Society, and partner in a boutique law firm with a focus on making the law accessible to individuals, families and charities.

Barbara Anderson

Barbara’s professional background is in health information management and she has extensive experience in ageing and the care of older people. At NSW Health, her roles included principal policy adviser in the Aged Care Unit, Health and Social Policy Branch. Barbara also ran her own business as a quality improvement, accreditation.

Andrew Byrnes

International Law and Human Rights at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, an associate of the Ageing Futures Institute and the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and of the Australian Academy of Law. His publications address women’s human rights, human rights of older persons, gender and human rights, national human rights institutions, economic and social rights, peoples’ tribunals, and the incorporation of 

Hakan Harman

Hakan is the Chief Operating Officer of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, he holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Commerce, is a Fellow of CPA Australia and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Hakan has over 30 years experience as a senior executive across public, commercial and not for profit sectors. He has a strong community focus, commitment to social and cultural justice and a deep passion for sustainability, inclusive leadership and social cohesion.

Ross Halfacree

Ross has held senior roles in both government and corporate sectors, most recently with large US, Danish and Swedish medical device manufacturers. Primary roles have involved business strategy design, risk management, sales and marketing strategies. Ross is on the fundraising and marketing sub-committee of Odyssey House, and supports his local community with pro-bono mentorship and coaching for small businesses and individuals. 

Rob Lake

Rob has worked and volunteered in the NSW community sector for over 30 years since arriving from New Zealand in 1987. He has worked in community development, service delivery, policy and advocacy. Rob has a passion for advocacy and for Home Care programs and services that support older people to live well at home and in their communities. Rob has been a Director of the AIDS Trust of Australia, NCOSS, Active Job Services as well as Parramatta and Marrickville Legal Centre.

Barbara O’Neill

Barbara is a Dunghutti woman and an Indigenous Trauma and Recovery Practitioner, who specialises in the support of care leavers from institutions and the Stolen Generations. Barbera is an Aboriginal Support Worker at the Junction Neighbourhood Centre in Maroubra. Untold Stories, her DVD and presentation at the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference, drawing on her own post-graduate research, provided unique perspectives on the impacts of ageing on Aboriginal people.

Margaret Duckett

President’s Report

As I write my final annual report as President of Seniors Rights Service, I am both heartened and gratified at the resilience and strength of the organisation I am leaving, but also somewhat apprehensive about the work that still lies ahead to ensure that the rights of older people across NSW are recognised, respected and acted upon. We have come a long way since the organisation was founded over 36 years ago, but there is still a long journey ahead before we can claim we live in a society that truly upholds the rights of older people.

I first joined the Board of Seniors Rights Service in 2013 and became President in 2018. Since that time the organisation has grown substantially from a staff of 17 to close on 50 Aged Care Advocates and Solicitors spread over a dozen locations across NSW today. Our income has also grown from under $3M to over $9M, most of this growth being in the past two years. This welcome expansion has largely been fuelled by the adoption of some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and various government responses to the often heartbreaking experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Certainly, it is gratifying that increased funding reflects the government’s and community’s trust in our organisation and the services it provides.

It has allowed us to reach more older people across NSW. However, the effects of the pandemic on older people within the community and in aged care has laid bare the precarious position older people still inhabit in our communities and has starkly reinforced the need for the legal and advocacy services offered by Seniors Rights Service.

In coming to Seniors Rights Service, my driving passion has always been that older people be afforded the same human rights as all people and it is the work we do to foster and advocate for these rights that I am most proud of. Our society’s whole approach to ageing needs to be challenged.

The Royal Commission provided evidence of the failings in our current aged care system, whether in residential facilities or in home-based care. The people who seek out our services every day also bear witness to these failings.

Seniors Rights Service has long called for a total rethink of aged care, away from a commercial service model to a person-centred rights-based one where the wishes and rights of older people are paramount. We know that most people do not want to reside in increasingly large, institutionalised residential facilities. Most want to stay in their own homes and receive tailored support. We must keep fighting for new models of aged care that respect the rights of older people to live their lives in the way that they want. Yes, there has recently been a greater emphasis on home care services and yet we are still seeing a system where home care services are simply inadequate and far too long in coming for many people. For some in regional areas the services they need just don’t exist.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the vulnerability of older people into sharp relief being shockingly reflected in the case numbers and deaths from the virus. We have seen older people being stripped of their autonomy and prevented from connecting with their loved ones for weeks and months at a time. The only way to prevent these violations in the standard of care for older people is to have an aged care system that is driven by human rights at its very core and a culture that deeply respects and values older people.

There are many things I am proud of that have occurred during my stewardship of the organisation. In 2018 we hosted the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference and it galvanised our commitment to confront and respond to all aspects of elder abuse. The conference attracted over 570 delegates. It was a massive undertaking for our small organisation and its success a significant achievement. Given the estimate that close to 15% of older people will suffer one or more forms of elder abuse in their lives, it is clear that the abuse of older people in all its forms will continue to be a key focus for our services in coming years.

Another key development was the establishment of the Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) in 2017-18 in which I played a key role. In bringing our state and territory counterparts together under one banner we were able to facilitate greater collaboration and bring more consistency to advocacy services nationally. Being a united, strong and consistent voice to the Government has also allowed us to garner significantly more resources for our work. I have represented Seniors Rights Service on the OPAN Board since its inception, and I want to thank the OPAN Board Directors who have ensured that OPAN continues to support its member organisations and drives the growth in our sector. The demand for our services across Australia continues to rise, and through OPAN, we have been much better resourced to respond.

There are many other people I wish to thank for their support, advice and encouragement over the years of my presidency. I want to thank my fellow Board members over the years who have supported me and provided the organisation with their sound advice, strategic thinking and excellent governance, all voluntarily.
I acknowledge and thank our funders who have provided increasing resources to the organisation to help us meet the rising needs of a population that is ageing and we are extremely grateful for the trust they have put in us.

I especially want to thank the Seniors Rights Service staff for their tireless commitment to supporting older people and their families. The last few years have been particularly difficult and they have continued to meet the challenges with compassion and sensitivity. I also want to acknowledge our CEO, Shannon Wright who has taken up the leadership of the organisation with determination and passion and established firm foundations that will support the organisation as it continues to grow in coming years. I have very much enjoyed working with Shannon and I am confident that she will continue to deliver the organisation’s purpose with her energy and drive.


I am hopeful that it will not be too long before we have a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People that will provide an enforceable international framework to ensure that the human rights of older people are respected and enacted across all aspects of Australian society. 


I am extremely proud of the work of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Committee of which I am a member. Under the leadership of Dunghutti woman Barbara O’Neill, our First Nations Board member, we have achieved most of the commitments in our Reflect RAP and are close to finalising our new Innovate RAP. Encouraging the input and engagement of First Nations communities and ensuring that we are reaching our most vulnerable older people with culturally safe and appropriate services will be a focus of our new RAP. Fostering a lively, stimulating and impactful engagement with First Nations Peoples across NSW has been one of my most ardent objectives as President. The commitments made in our Innovate RAP will ensure that the voices of older First Nations Peoples will be heard and that we will be better able to respond to their needs and empower them to achieve their human rights.

As I leave the organisation I am hopeful that it will not be too long before we have a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People that will provide an enforceable international framework to ensure that the human rights of older people are respected and enacted across all aspects of Australian society. Playing a role in its development as part of the UN Open Ended Working Group on Ageing has been a great privilege of my position.

Looking to the future, I believe that the landscape of aged care is poised to change for the better with a new rights-based Aged Care Act on the horizon and a more vocal commitment to address the ageism within our community and the issues impacting the lives of older people. The lived experiences of older people are valuable and can help guide us through the many challenges that, as a society, we are facing. I am confident that I am leaving an organisation better positioned than ever to play a leadership role in ensuring that the rights of all older people are the driving force of change. I wish the organisation strength, resilience and ongoing success in meeting these challenges in the years to come.

Thank you for the privilege of leading this great organisation.

Seniors rights are human rights!

CEO’s Report

This year Seniors Rights Service’s focus was on growth, extending our reach and expanding our services. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and its recommendations highlighted this much needed positive change in the ageing sector.

Providing services to more people, more often and in more places has been the hallmark of the past year. Through an expansion of our advocacy services we have been able to more than double our number of aged care advocates across NSW and to set up a new hub in Newcastle with a further two planned on the South Coast and Western Sydney. In addition, we will be providing a new home care check in service for older people in the Hunter region and two financial aged care advocates who can help older people who receive aged care services to understand the overly complex financial requirements involved in various aged care arrangements.

Our legal services have also grown with additional resources to support an extensive outreach program to people living in supported accommodation including Retirement Villages across NSW. This project has included developing resources outlining the key issues raised by people living in supported accommodation on our newly designed and more accessible website. We have also been fortunate to have received additional funding to support and expand the legal team’s work with older women who are the victims/survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence.

Quality improvement in our systems and processes has been at the forefront in supporting this growth and much of my focus has been on ensuring we have the right technology and systems in place to drive productivity and innovation. Adopting a platform to manage all employment related activities, upgrading our finance system, developing and customising our client management software and ensuring that our staff across the state can access fast and reliable digital telephony and IT support has underpinned and facilitated this growth.

Systemic advocacy has remained an important part of Seniors Rights Service’s work and we have contributed to several reviews and enquiries including a response to the NSW Trustee and Guardian’s Discussion Paper regarding increases to fees charged for its services and a submission to the NSW Law Reform Commission and Sentencing Council Department of Communities and Justice on sentencing for fraud and fraud-related offences. We had input into the NSW Womens Alliance’s election platform and contributed to the Community Legal Centres NSW policy platform. We called for an end to cold call telemarketing of all financial products and argued for law reforms that would address the lack of accessible, timely and affordable responses to the abuse of older people living in aged care facilities, including extending the powers of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to hear and make findings in such cases.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Board for their time, support and expertise over the past year and especially want to give a heartfelt thanks to our departing President, Margaret Duckett, for her tireless commitment to our organisation and for the wise counsel and guidance she has provided to me. Margaret’s passion for ensuring the rights of older people are upheld and that seniors are able to live the fullest lives possible has been our guiding principle. She has brought a deep understanding of ageing to our processes and championed seeking out and hearing the voices of older people. I wish her the absolute best for her future.

Our goal is to reach older people in our communities who need our services and I am confident that with our Board and our amazing staff, we are well up to the task.

My closing comment is a sincere thanks to all the staff here at Seniors Rights Service. I really want to thank the incredible staff who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic. Change can be challenging, but they have bought energy and enthusiasm every day, continuing to provide compassionate, client centred and rights based services. They are key to everything we deliver for the sector and our clients.

Shannon Wright
Chief Executive Officer 

Our funders

Seniors Rights Service gratefully acknowledges the funding we receive to support our work. 

Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care through the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) – National Aged Care Advocacy Program 

Community Legal Centres Program administered by Legal Aid NSW 

NSW Fair Trading – Supported Accommodation and Strata Legal service 

NSW Department of Communities and Justice Digital Innovation Fund 

NSW Department of Communities and Justice Ageing Peaks Program. 

Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care through Council of the Ageing (COTA) – Aged Care Systems Navigator Pilot Program 

Multicultural NSW – support for our financial abuse video projects 

Our Aged Care Advocacy Service

Extending our regional reach

In February, the Federal Government announced a substantial increase in funding for the National Aged Care Advocacy program that will allow us to expand our advocacy services across the state over the next three years, greatly expanding both our regional and metropolitan reach. This funding boost was the result of the government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Our aim is to ensure that any older person who needs and wants our services, is able to access them and this funding boost will help us to achieve this.

Our team of aged care advocates has more than doubled this year and that has enabled increased advocacy services in the Newcastle, Illawarra and and Far West regions.

Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our aged care advocates have continued to provide much needed support and advocacy services to over 5700 older people, their families and their carers in the past year.


“I want to thank all our aged care advocates and navigators for their dedication and hard work this past year. It has been challenging, it has often been heartbreaking, but it has also been rewarding. Seeing the difference we can make to people’s lives makes any challenge worth our efforts. Empowering older people, in particular with information so that they can advocate for themselves, is especially gratifying”

Coreene Horenko, Senior Manager Service Delivery


The impact that COVID-19 continues to have on our clients cannot be underestimated and has resulted in more complex cases and ongoing stress and anxiety for some of the most vulnerable in our community. In this context, the role of aged care advocacy has never been more important.

Although public health orders were relaxed across NSW this past year, many aged care facilities still have in place strict visitation rules with separation from family and loved ones, and isolation for many older people very much a daily reality.

The Role of an Aged Care Advocate
Aged care advocates assist older people to understand and exercise their rights and to have their voice heard as they move through the aged care system in Australia. These rights include the right to safe and high-quality care and services; the right to be treated with dignity and respect; the right to live without abuse and neglect; the right to make choices about care; and the right to be listened to and understood.

Delivering a holistic service
With the increasing complexity of issues raised by older people, our advocates are able to refer to our legal service to assist our clients when their issues involve a related legal matter.

Seniors Rights Service’s aged care advocates accompany solicitors to appointments with older people where aged care is involved. The advocate is able to identify rights related issues and assist the older person to uphold their rights.

Our Aged Care Navigators
The aged care system is a complex and multifaceted system that can be confusing and difficult to understand for many people. Accessing and understanding information about the system can be a challenge for some people, especially those living in rural and remote areas where access to the internet and even access to mobile network coverage is limited. Our Aged Care Navigators are part of a National Aged Care Navigator Trial and are there to help people, before they receive aged care, who want to know what the options are and how to go about getting care appropriate to their needs.

Our service has a commitment to the following principles:

Inclusion: All seniors across NSW should have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the services, programs and activities of Seniors Rights Service.

Respect: Seniors Rights Service will respect the beliefs, cultures, languages and issues faced by older people across NSW and ensure our services, programs and activities reflect this diversity.

Access: Seniors Rights Service will ensure that older people have the opportunity to access its services, programs and activities and will endeavor to remove any barriers identified.

Recognition: Seniors Rights Service recognises the importance of diversity as fundamental to the development of an inclusive organisation that is highly valued by the communities it serves.


Full financials


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