Getting to know you ..... Anita Westera
What’s your day job and how do you engage with AAG?
I’m a Research Fellow at the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the University of Wollongong working on program evaluations and service development projects, mainly in the aged care and dementia space. I joined AAG when working in government on dementia policy, and found my tribe!
What is the biggest challenge and opportunity for gerontology?
Gerontology has many challenges (not least trying to explain what the term means to those not working in this space!). Both COVID-19 and the Aged Care Royal Commission have highlighted the challenges that are faced by older people needing care, and the people who support them. This presents us with a huge opportunity to be the ‘honest brokers’ within the sector, to make sure that the reforms, funding and policy arrangements that emerge are evidence-based, accountable and deliver the improvements the sector needs.
What is your favourite thing about your career?
My career journey has been rather serendipitous, and I’ve found myself in roles that I could never have imagined when I was growing up. I ‘fell’ into dementia and aged care policy nearly 30 years ago, and haven’t looked back. Despite having worked in three different sectors – nursing, policy, academia – the common thread has been my interest in policy and practice that is underpinned by evidence, equity, efficiency and effectiveness.
What does AAG and gerontology mean for you?
The beauty of the AAG is that we have a broad range of people, all working towards a common agenda of improving the lives of older people.
Who is your “hero” (not necessarily in the ageing space) and why?
My late mum who was born in Holland and was a young psychiatric nurse during the war. During the Hongerwinter (winter of famine) she would smuggle food in for the patients, riding past the Nazi guards on her bicycle through the thick snow, knowing she (and her family) could be shot if found out. She was the only one of her family to come to Australia post-war, where she married my father, had seven children within ten years, lived with chronic health (including depression) issues, and ended up working nights in aged care to ‘keep her sane’! Despite this, or perhaps because of it, she was known for her strong faith, empathy, hospitality and fearlessness in calling out injustice when she saw it.
What really makes you angry?
The sense of entitlement that some people have, and lack of empathy and compassion, particularly by people in leadership roles.
What makes you laugh the most?
Comedians who are able to take ordinary, everyday experiences and turn them into comic gold – Sarah Millican, Kitty Flanagan, Denise Scott are a few of my favourites.
What's the most daring thing you've ever done?
Trusting my instincts and marrying my husband within 3 months of our first date, and having our son 9 months later. That was over 20 years ago, and I am constantly surprised at how it’s all worked out!
17 June 2021