Doutta GallaNews – In My Shoes: Sue Hendy

In My Shoes: Sue Hendy

July 11, 2024

Members of Doutta Galla’s Board share their personal journeys in our new series, “In My Shoes.”
With over 40 years in aged care, Sue Hendy is passionate about improving the quality of life and rights of older people. As a Board member and Ambassador to our Lynch’s Bridge Home, Sue brings invaluable experience from her diverse roles in residential care, advocacy NGOs, and government. 

Advocating for Elders’ Rights: Sue Hendy’s Perspective

Sue Hendy’s career, spanning more than four decades, has been dedicated to advocating for the rights and quality of life of older people. With a diverse background in residential aged care, advocacy not-for-profits, and various government roles, Sue’s insights into the sector are both profound and deeply personal.

Sue Hendy at Doutta Galla’s Kensington Home, Lynch’s Bridge

Early Beginnings at Willsmere
Sue’s journey in aged care began as a ward assistant at Willsmere, a facility in Kew housing 1,200 residents, many of whom had dementia. Reflecting on this time, Sue recalls, “That was before we understood dementia, really. I learned the whole issue of rights and care there. I was trying to fit a dress to someone and was told I was wasting my time. That angered me and set my world on fire.”

A Passion for Improving Lives
This early experience instilled in Sue a fierce commitment to improving the lives of older people. After furthering her studies in recreation, she returned to the sector, working at Mount Royal, now better known as the Royal Melbourne Hospital Royal Park Campus. As a recreation worker, Sue was responsible for the wellbeing of around 1,000 residents. “Being in recreation, not care staff, I often heard stories that care staff didn’t. It stirred me to provide opportunities for people to continue being who they were,” she says. One of Sue’s achievements was creating personal profiles for residents, capturing their interests and histories beyond medical needs. “We started finding out things like who their footy team was, what they did before they came in. Staff began to see them as people, not just a bed number,” she explains. This approach was later adopted and developed into a manual for aged care workers by the federal government.

Advocating for Holistic Care
Sue’s advocacy extends beyond individual care. She stresses the importance of holistic care in residential facilities. “Do we care for people or do we just provide care? It’s about the person, not the bed number,” she asserts. Sue’s passion for meaningful care is evident in her role as a Doutta Galla Board member, where she continues to influence policies and practices. Sue has also been deeply involved in advocacy at the organisational level. She served as the CEO of the Council on the Ageing (COTA), where she championed the rights of older Australians. “As an advocate, I saw the broader issues affecting older people and worked to address them through policy and systemic change,” she recalls.

The Importance of Quality Staff and Environment
Highlighting the need for quality staff and a supportive environment, Sue advises, “The quality of care is crucial. Do we have enough of the right staff who know what they’re doing and do it in a caring way? It’s also about the facility’s ambience and the importance of food.” Sue’s personal experiences also inform her perspective. Reflecting on her stepfather’s time in care, she notes, “Minor issues can be major for residents. For instance, inconsistent clocks confused him. Small things matter when seen through the eyes of an older person.”

As Sue looks to the future, she remains committed to enriching the lives of older people, advocating for health promotion and meaningful activities. “Even if it’s your last day, you can still do stuff to enrich your life,” she says, embodying a lifelong dedication to the sector.

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