Policy, Research & International

2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow

The Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow is selected by the Board. The selected individual presents on the AAG Hot topic for the year.

The Hot Topic for 2020 is
 Future proofing human rights in Australia

AAG is honoured to have Sue McGrath as the 2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow

In discussion with Sue, the AAG 2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow will be wholly virtual due to Covid-19. We are working to ensure that the use technology supports as much engagement as possible.   

Susan McGrath is the Senior Policy Advisor to the Older Australians Campaign at The Benevolent Society (TBS).  This includes leading policy analysis in the national coalition campaign, EveryAGE Counts, aimed at eradicating ageism and its impacts on older people.  Her role at TBS allows her to pursue a fervent interest in the wellbeing of older people and the issues facing an ageing society. 

Sue has contributed to many policy decisions and processes affecting older Australians as an advocate and analyst over the past several years and has represented the interests of older people on a number of high-level government, not-for-profit, academic and private sector bodies. 

She has held a range of professional roles in government and the community sector, and for many years was a senior consultant to both.  Her early work focus was in employment and industrial relations, as an appointed and elected trade union official, government policy advisor and tutor and lecturer in tertiary education.  She went on to consult in policy areas such as health, housing and communications, and to provide services in evaluation, business management, strategy planning and learning and development to government and not-for-profit agencies. 

Across her working life Sue has maintained strong conviction about and taken action towards achieving fairness, equity and rights as the foundation of social and economic policy, especially for women.

Click here to Get to know Sue McGrath Find out what makes Sue excited and angry, why she loves Canberra and the funniest kids joke ever!

The 2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow - Virtual Roadshow

In light of the travel restrictions and public health imperatives associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Glenda Powell Travelling Fellow (GPTF) Sue McGrath has generously offered to continue as a ‘virtual’ roadshow.  Although online delivery is not her natural habitat, Sue agrees that the 2020 Hot Topic around future proofing rights and older people is more relevant than ever during this crisis.  It would be a sorely lost opportunity to postpone focused consideration of this issue. 

From August to September, Sue will be conducting for AAG members for each State Division, workshops on Aged Rights Advocacy with a focus on two areas:

  • Age Rights Activism and Advocacy and
  • Age Rights- lessons in the time of COVID-19


Workshop descriptions

Module 1: Age rights activism and advocacy - locally, nationally and internationally

This module will address the key issues of:

  • What do we mean by ‘rights’
    • Where do they come from
    • How are they guaranteed
    • Do we have to get involved in human, civil or consumer rights law and institutions to pursue a rights agenda, or are there other ways?
  • Are older people excluded from any of these rights sources
    • How do we know that older people are being denied them
    • What is the impact of that denial
    • Why are they denied rights?
  • What is ageism and how does it relate to rights issues?
  • What do older people want, and is a rights-based agenda the best way to achieve this?


This workshop will inform participants/share experiences of the formal rights policy and practice environment available to older people; provide the opportunity to unpack and explore sometimes dense ideas surrounding ‘rights’ concepts in general and as they apply to older people; and simultaneously act as a consultation, gathering views from participants and ‘taking the pulse’ on these issues within the AAG membership and among fellow travellers.

Module 2 Aged Rights- lessons in the time of COVID-19

This module will address the key questions of:

  • What has the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated to us so far about ‘rights’ in general and how they have applied to or protected older people
    • What have been the most fruitful and effective sources of rights in this context and which groups of older people have they most benefited
    • Have institutional and legal rights meant much, or have, for example, ethical frameworks, social morality and individual empathy been more important for older people
    • Which competing narratives have proven the most resistant to age rights perspectives during the pandemic and why?
  • In the Australian context what have emerged as the key fault lines in aged rights and why did it take a pandemic to expose them
    • Did it actually take a pandemic to expose the fault lines or were they already clearly visible and predictable in this pandemic?
  • What difference will the experience of the pandemic make to the status of older age and the rights of older people?
  • As gerontologists and/or activists should our priorities change?

In this module we can use the COVID-19 pandemic as a ‘case study’, or a backdrop, to explore: personal and collective assumptions about the primacy of a rights-based approach in our work and our activism; the barriers to both accessing universal human rights across all age groups and to securing specific rights for older people; and what the particular existential crisis of the pandemic can show us about where best to place our efforts to support fairness, equity and good lives at all ages.

Maximum number of participants per workshop - 40

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