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Better Practice Awards

Winning awards for being who we are

Uniting has won another four awards at the annual Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) Better Practice Awards 2016. It’s the third year in a row we’ve been recognised for our work, taking our tally up to 16 Better Practice Awards since 2014.

The Better Practice Awards are one of Australia’s most prestigious aged care industry awards programs. They promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practice and showcase programs and initiatives that all providers can use as examples to help improve their service delivery.

We feel humbled by this win. To us, it's just the way we do things. We're a family, and we know how to celebrate life. We call it the Uniting way.

Check out our award winning programs below.

2016 awards

Our Choice – Uniting Caroona Jarman Goonellabah

In 2016 Uniting Caroona Jarman in Goonellabah revamped its recruitment procedures, winning a Better Practice Award in the process.

The ‘Our Choice’ initiative was an overhaul of processes in order to find staff who truly had the potential to help the residential aged care home flourish and enhance the lives of the people who live there. A key element of Our Choice was to involve residents as panel members in interviews, and to look more closely at personality though the interview questions.

“No-one knows better than the residents themselves what we should be looking for in staff members,” said Uniting Caroona Jarman Service Manager Kylie Connolly. “This initiative shows Uniting is serious when we say we’re committed to client-centred care.”

Residents and members of the Uniting team who joined the selection panel have said what a great process it was for everyone involved.

“I love being part of this,” said one resident selected to join the interview panel. “I feel you really believe we can contribute.”

“Staff members recruited through the new process have also said how impressive and refreshing they found the approach,” said Ms Connolly.

This award shows the commitment our staff have to the residents they care for. We are all focused on doing everything we can to enable our residents to live their best lives, no matter their age.

Strong, Steady, Safe – wellbeing program

‘Strong, Steady, Safe’ is a Uniting home and community aged care initiative that takes a proactive approach to health and injury prevention by focusing on strength, power and balance. This can help reduce falls, which become more frequent and more dangerous as people age. It also improves overall health and wellbeing.

Building on the success of Uniting Seniors Gyms, this program was implemented at two residential aged care homes. It began as a 10-week pilot, initiated on the request of residents, and was so successful that it is now a permanent program. The positive outcomes of the program have been recognised with a 2016 Better Practice Award.

“This award shows the commitment of Uniting staff to the residents they care for,” said Service Manager for Uniting Seniors Gyms, Nathan Hall. “We are focused on doing everything we can to enable Uniting residents to live healthy, active lives, no matter their age.”

“It’s a proactive approach, developed on the suggestion of our clients themselves, to improve their quality of life. Congratulations to everyone who made this initiative an example of best practice for the industry,” said Mr Hall.

Congratulations to the Uniting team members and residents who have made Strong , Steady, Safe such a great success.

Community Outreach in Public Housing – Uniting home and community care

We received a Better Practice award 2016 for ‘Community Outreach in Public Housing’. The home and community care program promotes social participation and connection through group activities for the 360 tenants of Greenway Estate, a Department of Housing estate in Sydney. Some 75 per cent of tenants who live at Greenway are over the age of 65, and all are financially and socially disadvantaged.

The project was developed with a focus on group activities which promote health, wellbeing and independence.

“Tenants have told us that this helped them to form new friendships and feel part of a community,” said Uniting Community Development Manager of Sydney North, Marcella Monaco. “They have participated in new activities, such as badminton, computing and playing pool, and have even identified more skills they would like to learn, such as English as second language, as for some of them this is a barrier in their day to day activities.”

This award shows the passion Uniting staff have for enabling everyone we can to live full and active lives, no matter their age or background.

Putting out the Welcome Mat – LGBTI inclusion at Uniting

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) has recognised Uniting with a Better Practice Award for our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) inclusion strategy.

The ‘Putting out the Welcome Mat’ strategy was developed and implemented to ensure everyone, regardless of lifestyle choices, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, feels welcome at Uniting.

“Ageing LGBTI community members have often experienced multi-faceted discrimination their whole lives. They are often apprehensive about moving into aged care where they may be confronted by prejudice all over again. Putting Out the Welcome Mat is just one of the ways we have worked to ensure that all people feel welcome, safe and celebrated for exactly who they are when they come to Uniting,” Jill Reich, Uniting executive sponsor for LGBTI.

“This award shows that at Uniting we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Congratulations to the staff who made this initiative an example of best practice for the industry,” Melanie Dicks, Uniting Head of Strategic Commissioning.

Congratulations to the staff who made this initiative an example of best practice for the industry.

2015 awards

Conversation Club – Uniting Wesley Heights Manly

Sue de Monchaux beamed with joy on successfully reciting her well-rehearsed poem ‘Cats Sleep Anywhere’ by E Farjeon.

“My speech has improved so much thanks to our Conversation club. We make friends and everyone supports each other to practice their new skills. I enjoy hearing what everyone has been up to and I feel a strong connection between members. I talk about my opinions more in the group. I like talking about the news,” says Sue.

The annual poetry recital gives residents of Uniting Wesley Heights Conversation Club the chance to showcase their improved speech skills which they build on at their fortnightly get together. The residents’ loved ones get to share their pride in their achievement.

“It’s inspiring/wonderful to see the joy on the residents’ faces on reciting their poem they have practiced for many weeks,” says Sue’s son, Peter. “The program brings purpose to Mum’s life and she can now speak for herself."

Speech pathologist Ruth Hartman, an expert in communication disorders, developed the club to help residents who have trouble communicating as a consequence of health issues such as stroke or degenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s).

“The format of the group is decided by the members, and we review that every six months together and make any changes people want. The meeting consists of both impairment based exercises and social connection opportunities”.
The speech pathologist individualises exercises and facilitates conversation based on skills and needs of group members. Vocal exercises are measured each week for length of vocal endurance and loudness. Current affairs are discussed and each resident is supported to convey their own opinion to the group. Word games conclude the meeting, with a friendly competitive spirit encouraging the members to keep their language skills stimulated and challenged.

“The program has been a great success,” Ms Hartman said. “Members of the club feel more confident about speaking with each other and other residents. Their communication skills have improved, their enjoyment of the club is evident in their enthusiastic participation each week and their sense of being a valued member of the group. Since its inception four years ago membership has remained steady, members’ confidence in communicating has increased, as have their feelings of social inclusion and connection in the aged care home. The Club has also led to increased awareness of resident communication support needs, with in-services being provided to care staff, carer support groups and student nurses.

Quotes from other residents:
“My daughters used to complain that it was hard to understand my speech. The voice exercises are helping with that.” (Ian)
“For an interesting hour we are treated as mature adults and encouraged to initiate and to respond to our fellow students. A mini university in Wesley! In the group I feel like Bill. Individuality is a necessary part of life. I feel like myself in the group.” (Bill)

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

Building Capacity – Uniting Annesley Leichhardt

“We feel valued; our home is happy and more peaceful, there are lots of things to do and we have fun here.”

Residents at Annesley House are full of praise for the special people who enable them to enjoy their daily life to the fullest at the Uniting aged care home in Leichhardt.

Annesley House is a unique aged care home for older people with mental health concerns. And quite a few things have changed around the place since the home embarked on a program to build capacity of its staff to improve the lives of its residents.

“As part of the Building Capacity project, I have participated in training which has helped me develop my skills and knowledge in mental health”. Philomena Graham, Care Service Employee at Uniting Annesley Leichhardt since 1999.

A review of care delivery aligned to meeting the needs of better managing resident behaviour to improve wellbeing needed a plan to strengthen management and diversional therapy teams, provide necessary support and guidance to nursing and care staff, and to create new activities and events for residents.

Diversional Therapist, Hannah Buckland, says the commitment of management to invest in upskilling existing staff, recruit more people with mental health expertise, and seek specialised external advice and support to enhance clinical care at the home has resulted in much needed positivity amongst the care team and residents.

“By empowering staff with current knowledge and training on how best to approach and manage a range of mental health issues, the residents are more fully engaged in daily life, are more at ease in their improved living environment and now treat staff as their family.”

Being able to better manage resident behaviour staff are more engaged, feel satisfied they are providing a happy and safe environment for residents and want to stay working at the home. The increased opportunity for residents to participate in recreational activities and social events allows them freedom to express themselves and keeps them occupied with interesting and meaningful activity.

Relaxation session conducted by resident, Stephen Cusack:
Doris Fenech (resident) - “I cope much better and enjoy my days more now…The Relaxation/meditation program helps (my body and my mind relax) me cope better with everyday feelings.

Stephen Cusack (resident) – “I really enjoy being part of the activity schedule.  I used to be a teacher and have run such type of groups for children.  Running the relaxation therapy group at Uniting Annesley has really given me some meaning and importance to my life”.

Day spa, manicure:

Doreen James (resident) - “Being pampered makes me feel extra special; the Day Spa is so much fun” …”I have never really had the opportunity to be pampered before.  As a mum I always spent my time and money on my children.  I really look forward to my fortnightly appointments at the day spa now.  It’s my time to relax.  I also enjoy talking with the staff and reminiscing about my life”.


Sandra Machon (resident) – “I have always loved gardening but used to find it a bit difficult because of my condition.  Helen, our horticulturist, visits us once every fortnight and has shown me new ways to garden and I have got my passion for gardening back.  We have worked on improving the court yard making it a nicer place to sit.  My favourite gardening project was when we sold our plants and other items that we made at Kirribilli markets.  It has been my favourite and memorable thing to do this year”.

Anne Hudson (Sandra’s volunteer) - “Sandra is so proud of her garden.  When I visit, we often sit outside in the garden together and she shows me what she has been working on.  I visited Sandra at the Kirribilli markets, when she was selling the plants they grew.  I haven’t seen her so happy and excited in such a long while”

Judith Lau (Resident) - “I use to have a small garden on my balcony.  I love that we have developed a place for use to come and potter in”.

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

Physiotherapy pain management – Uniting Arrunga Ermington

“I don’t need medication for pain now at all”

A physiotherapy program that has helped reduce the physical pain and discomfort suffered by older residents is greatly improving their quality of life. Residents at Uniting Arrunga Ermington aged care home are enjoying the pain therapy interventions and coping better with their daily life.

For Valma O’Mara the program had effectively relieved chronic pain in her neck and shoulders. “I had been taking medication for something like three or four years, I had Panadol morning and night, and with the pain management program, well I’m on no medication at all.”

Another resident, Bernard Beehag who has suffered from a chronic neck pain says: “The pain (management) program is very helpful and I look forward to the treatments.”  Service Manager at Uniting Arrunga Ermington, Celedonia Laverty, said the Program was developed to try to overcome significant challenges managing pain in an aged care setting  where many residents had reduced independence and a range of reasons why they could not clearly express their levels of pain.

“We started from the standpoint that our residents should receive the best care possible and that they are entitled to therapy that provides them with good relief from and management of pain,” she said.

The innovative program involves a drug free approach including a range of treatments, including heat packs, massage, joint mobilisation and nerve stimulation, has seen overall improvement in wellbeing of residents who were living with chronic pain. Qualified physiotherapists conduct the pain clinic four days a week. The program has been running for more than four years and the results show that about 85 per cent of the residents on the program have improved or maintained their pain status over time.

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

Community connection pen pals – Uniting Nareen Gardens Bateau Bay

"It’s a delightful new dimension to my life”.

A lifetime between them, Mary, aged 89 and Harrison, aged 9, have revived the age old hobby of being ‘pen pals’.

An uncommon relationship in this era of computerised technologies, the activity coordinated by Uniting Nareen Gardens Bateau Bay has residents and children at a local primary school writing, by hand, to each other on a weekly basis.

The ‘Pen Pal’ program was originally set up to strengthen the home’s ties with the local community whilst promoting an intergenerational program between residents of Uniting Nareen Gardens and school aged children, by enhancing connections through purposeful writing.

At 89 Mary finds the nine year old boy is youthful, full of life and a delight to correspond with. “He is amazingly interested in the 1930’s and the difference in the lifestyles of 2015. This program has added a new dimension to my life.”

Harrison thinks it’s great too, “It’s so interesting to learn about the olden days from someone who lived back then! Mary has lots of great stories.”

The aged care home, Uniting Nareen Gardens Bateau Bay, partnered with Brooke Avenue Primary School to help year three students, aged 8-9, improve literacy and social engagement. Not your standard school writing class, this innovative program offers a learning opportunity that enables children and older people to relate to each other in an interesting way with no pressure, and to learn so much.

This activity adds immeasurable value to our residents’ lives, says Diversional Therapist, Helen Smith. “Recalling experiences and memories from decades ago helps promote the brain function and enables emotions to be relived and sharing them with children who want to know what life was like makes them feel valued, that they still have something of themselves to offer.

Another resident, Joan, aged 92, always enjoys the letters from the children. “Some of the questions bring back memories of my younger days. I write back straight away and can’t wait to read the next letter. It has enabled me to write again confidently.”

For residents, writing letters and sharing stories the old fashioned way is nothing new, but has certainly put smiles on everyone’s faces. They’ve also learnt something new about the lives of today’s younger generation.

For the students, it has helped them to improve their writing and literacy skills – they’ve also had fun when opening their snail mail!

Ms Smith said Participating residents have loved corresponding with the school children.
“Everyone has loved sharing their stories and reminisce. It has been such a great success, it is now a regular part of the school’s curriculum.”

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

Growing Together Community Garden – Uniting Mid North Coast Community Care

“I love gardening; I always had a lovely garden.”

The Growing Together community garden established right in the centre of at Nambucca Heads is a hit in the local community, reminding the participants how much fun and enjoyment is gained when spending time sharing experiences together with other people.

The innovative project is bringing together seniors from the Uniting Community Care Healthy Living for Seniors program with outside groups from the local area including school students and residents of Uniting’s other aged care services on the mid-North Coast.

An avid gardener in her youth local Nambucca Heads resident, Ruth Forbes, is thrilled to have a place to garden again. “I love gardening; I always had a lovely garden. It is so nice to be able to come here to the community garden and have the opportunity to do gardening again. I am looking forward to visiting the garden regularly with the Uniting Healthy Living for Seniors group.”

“At any age, gardening is one of the best activities we can do outdoors. I am 90 years old and the many years I have spent gardening has kept me healthy by encouraging exercise, increasing my vitamin D levels, relieving stress and providing an activity to share with my family and friends. The freshest food you can eat is the food you grow, and when you have access to a garden filled with fruits and vegetables, you’re able to eat some of the healthiest food you can get! There’s always something growing in our garden.”

“Gardening connects me with people and coming to the community garden provides an ideal opportunity to interact with each other.  The garden brings about a better sense of community with all generations being involved,” says Ruth.Groups visit the garden with family and friends, community members and carers, not to just look, but to participate, talk, discuss, share and learn. They experience a new energy and drive as they reminisce and share knowledge. It connects older people to their community through the meaningful activity of gardening, and improves their general wellbeing.

Gwen Latham also thoroughly enjoys working in the garden. “I enjoyed the day and especially having the young folks along from Bunnings helping us out. I have gardened every day of my life; it is good exercise.”

“Being able to come to the garden connects me to the young people in the community.  I am keen to pass on the joys of gardening to the younger generation. It is wonderful to see the garden growing and sharing garden knowledge, produce and recipes. It’s a place that is calming and peaceful.  It’s restorative, especially when you have dementia.   People who have dementia sometimes want to sit by themselves, away from a crowd. At other times we may prefer to have company. The community garden allows us to do this. We can reminisce by talking about the garden and our past gardening experiences.  The raised planting beds are included in the garden for people who still want to carry on their love of gardening but have mobility problems. It allows us to be closer to the plants enabling them to see, touch or smell them more easily. I think all the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.”

Uniting Community Development Manager, Romayne Page said the Growing Together community garden is for anyone young or old. Anyone, no matter their age can have a green thumb.

“Some people enjoy simply spending time in the garden, being with nature and feeling the wind on their faces. Others enjoy getting their hands dirty and being a little more active in the garden,” Ms Page said.

This special garden is an engaging, magical space for everyone – for the primary school children, seniors and people living with dementia.

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

A dignified farewell and memorial – Uniting Farmborough Unanderra

“Time to pay respect and give our friends a dignified farewell is so important.”

A unique memorial program which helps residents and staff deal more openly with the often sensitive but ever-present issue of death has been developed at Uniting Farmborough Unanderra aged care home.

Mrs Thelma Spiegel, feels the Dignified Farewell and Memorial program at the aged care home allows staff and residents time to honour or pay tribute to friends who had passed.

The program challenges the conventional nursing home approach to quickly and discreetly remove the deceased person’s body with little or no communication to other residents in a misguided effort to ‘protect’ them.

“It’s lovely to have the memorial table for our resident’s photo to be displayed for a time after they have passed on; it’s a respectful way to remember our friend with a smile while we get used to not having them around -  I think they would like that, I know I would.”

Uniting Farmborough Service Manager Jill Harvey said the Dignified Farewell and Memorial Project had directly challenged this convention by providing a more open and formal farewell and tribute to deceased residents.

“Everyone at Farmborough is close, our farewell gives residents, staff and family members the time to pay their respects and gain closure,” she said.

“We wanted each person to be acknowledged with a more dignified farewell. When a resident dies we invite residents to say their goodbyes – they form a guard of honour with staff and family members as the deceased person is taken out the front door. Background music is played, a ceremonial quilt is placed on the body and a photographic memorial is set up in honour of their life.”

Ms Harvey said this approach had been extremely well received by residents, staff and family members.

After one resident, Iris, was farewelled recently, the family commented: “The guard of honour you provided for Iris as she departed the facility was greatly appreciated by all the family. It was a perfect gesture to her.”

A volunteer at the nursing home said the memorial table helped her to “prepare myself for meetings and conversations during the day, deal with possible grief and acknowledge those who had passed away”.

The project has been recognised nationally – receiving an Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Award, a prestigious aged care industry award. These awards promote and acknowledge outstanding aged care practices. They are highly regarded in the aged care sector.

2014 awards

  • Caroona Goonellabah - Inspired Voices Choir
  • Garden Suburb Aged Care Service - Family Friendship Group Program
  • Salamander Bay Aged Care Service - Person-centred Multidisciplinary Team Building Initiative
  • Starrett Lodge, Hamlyn Terrace - Bucket List Program
  • Mayflower Aged Care Service, Westmead - Cultural Diversity Framework for Leisure & Lifestyle
  • The Marion, Leichhardt- Falls Prevention Expo Program “Footloose”