Nurse consoling senior woman holding her hand

As the Aged Care sector in Australia expands rapidly to cope with demand, we learn how one highly-regarded brand is diversifying its offerings in order to provide services for those within its community and, at the same time, survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace…

One of the biggest expanding sectors globally is in residential and community care. But that really shouldn’t come as any great surprise to anyone considering the average lifespan in Europe, America, Oceania and other developed nations has increased significantly over the decades since WW2. In NSW, Australia – where the Maroba Community operates – men can expect to live to 80 and women, to 84, for instance.

We talk to the chief executive of the Maroba community – an aged care specialist which has been around now for 64 years and whose high quality accommodation and care services for over 180 residents within its Waratah facility are needed today more than ever.

It’s for this very reason the Maroba brand plans to expand into community care, says Viv Allanson, who has been CEO of the group for an impressive 24 years. As President of Aged & Community Services NSW & ACT, Vice President of Aged & Community Services Australia and Director of Global Ageing Network, her credentials for elderly care management are, quite simply, impeccable.

How is the Aged Care sector performing where you are?

Right now in Australia, as in other western nations, there is an increasing amount of company mergers and takeovers. And this is undoubtedly set to continue – thanks to the fact small providers are struggling to keep up with the pace of change and diminishing resources.

The number of individuals living with conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s is on the rise globally and impacts on how services are delivered. Organisations on the front foot are seeking best practice options or, like here at Maroba, developing our own models of service delivery to meet the pressing needs of these consumers and their concerned families.


Is home care becoming more popular than residential care?

Many older Australians if given the choice would vote to stay at home. But with the rise in the number of cases of Dementia, coupled with poorly-designed housing stock here in Australia, that’s not always possible.

The big dilemma though is found in the funding models for care services. Today we’re finding many organisations are jumping on board for the first time ever because they can see the future potential of the sector.

But who pays for the care – and indeed who should pay more – is undecided and causing a lot of headaches. Everyone involved in elderly care wants to offer a profitable and sustainable long-term service but funding issues are in many cases preventing that.


How is the name Maroba regarded within the community? 

Having been around for so long, Maroba is well known by the community and definitely fondly regarded. So many people have a story to tell about their experience of Maroba; their great gran or elderly aunt may have spent their last days living life to the full here, or their mother or brother could have begun their care career at our Waratah facility. Maybe they visited as a child at primary school to perform in a concert. Regardless of how they came to know Maroba, the stories we are privy too are always positive and heart-felt.


How does Maroba manage to survive – and so well?

As a Not for Profit organisation operated by Islington Baptist Church, at Maroba we enjoy a unique standing and reputation within the Hunter Region, NSW and more broadly across the Aged Care and Retirement sectors both here in Australia and internationally.

We are considered an innovative and progressive company – both by our peers and clients. In terms of staffing, for instance, we provide various training programmes, student placements and research projects via Newcastle University/TAFE and other respected learning organisations.

For our residents we offer a real community experience. There are onsite Speech Pathology services (the only aged care unit in the whole of Australia to provide this), as well as full-time occupational and physical therapists. Dieticians, podiatrists, and dentists are scheduled to visit throughout the year too while around 20 GPs regularly meet with village residents either in their own room or at one of the two on-site clinics.

And it’s not all medical check-ups etc either. There is an exciting social scene at Maroba too. For instance, we offer hairdressing and day spa services, theatre and concert visits and movies in our own cinema. Our most recent lifestyle and wellness acquisition is the Gymarobics facility where you’ll find the latest high tech exercise equipment from Finland, guidance from our physio therapist and support from an on-site trainer.

What about the leisure rather than the nursing side?

Mealtimes at our unit can be as formal or casual as you like and taken in the dining room, café, the restaurant or even brought to the resident’s room.

There are sporting competitions, table games, bingo, a coffee club, craft and art classes and talks with guest speakers. In other words, there’s always something going on entertainment-wise.

For those who prefer their own company at times there are two libraries and free Wifi throughout, for both residents and their visitors.

Residents can choose to join any of the shopping and other planned social excursions via Maroba’s community transport service, while both elderly and the young alike benefit from visits by local schoolchildren.

How important is it to have a good team working for you?

At Maroba we have more than 200 loyal employees and volunteers. Having a great team is vital to every CEO and organisation. Flying solo will soon take you off the radar and out of view which is where you are most likely to get into trouble I’ve always found.  A good team helps keep management accountable and encourages transparency. And anyhow, it’s the collective skills and talents of the team that ultimately drives an organisation to success – provided those individuals are allowed to flourish in their own way, of course.

What does the future hold for Maroba?

Our purpose at Maroba is to serve older citizens with contemporary, sustainable and desirable living environments together with an exciting and compassionate care service. This is the reasoning behind our proposal for a brand new seven-storey ‘vertical village’ ie a retirement and assisted living complex. We also hope it will become the first in the region to have a sustainable ‘Green Star’ rating, and in doing so, provide residents with impressive savings on their utility bills.

Other future plans include establishing a new registered training organisation for staff to provide them with further options for learning and career advancement. We already provide a range of learning opportunities at Maroba, such as forums, workshops, seminars, conferences and our bi-monthly speaker series “Leaders in the Spotlight.”

A third future expansion model is the new Community Services offering we talked about at the start of this article. It will mean that those in the community who have care needs but want to remain at home will have the choice of a range of Wellness and Home Support programmes, including the opportunity to come and reside for a day at our Maroba community facility.