COTA Victoria has been the peak body representing the interests and rights of older Victorians for more than 70 years; we value ageing, embracing its inherent opportunities for personal growth, contribution, and self-expression. Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV), an integral program and service of COTA Victoria, is the key state-wide service dedicated to advancing the rights of older people and the early intervention into, or prevention of, elder abuse in our community.
Through our programs, COTA Victoria stands alongside older Victorians to embrace their worth, to promote ageing well, to protect legal rights, and to address ageism. We engage with older Victorians and their lived experience to fuel our work as fierce advocates for policy change.
We’re used to doing it tough. Delivering vital support for the communities we serve is far from glamorous, but we’ve made it work, no matter what. However, increasing uncertainty over budgets is putting these crucial community services at risk – hampering our ability to function at a time when Victorians need us most.
The state is facing fiscal pressure, and not-for-profits (NFPs), including us, are nervous. With the new financial year fast approaching, many of us simply don’t know what funding we will receive. This delay in reconfirming government funding compounds budget constraints and leads to significant uncertainty in the renewal of essential community programs.
I recently wrote an article – “Not-for-profits face uncertain future” – where I openly discuss some of the serious issues peak bodies like us face year in, year out. Please take the time to read the article to better understand some of the uncertainties we’re facing as Victoria gears up for what will undoubtedly be one of the toughest and impactful state budgets for community groups and NFPs. I fear many community groups and smaller NFPs will not survive this budget, especially those that have an absolute reliance on state government funding as their only source of revenue.
What is COTA Victoria doing to address these serious threats to our funding, sustainability, and ongoing viability as the peak body representing the rights of older Victorians? What are we doing to ensure we can continue to provide a wide variety of innovative, thought leadership-based programs services, and initiatives, as well as continue to provide free community legal centre services to older Victorians suffering from the many forms of elder abuse?
We have significantly ramped up our advocacy and overt engagement activities with our key funding bodies, the federal and state governments. We re-wrote the narrative on how we engage and add value to the many philanthropic organisations who have the capacity to fund organisations like us. Were you aware that a recent national survey of all philanthropic funding identified that less than 1% of all philanthropic funding is allocated to older people? If you are alarmed by that tiny and relatively insignificant amount, you should be.
COTA Victoria must demonstrate our value as a peak body and strongly advocate for further funding from the Victorian state government. We must be first of mind and the first organisation to fund when the state decides where to allocate the ever-diminishing funds available to them at this difficult fiscal period. Some of the ways we are doing this follow:
- Build connections with key contacts in departments with connections to ageing.
- Meet with key stakeholders in Government regarding COTA Victoria funding.
- Coordinate a wider sector response through existing sector relationships.
- Publicly raise the awareness of the issues surrounding not-for-profit and short-term funding.
Advocacy and Engagement Principles
- Demonstrate we need to be listened to – show why we’re the peak body representing the voice of older Victorians.
- Overtly engage the government and the broader public on key issues facing older Victorians.
- Be proactive in protecting our community and interests – in engagement and media communications.
- Leverage our long-standing connections and sector relationships.
- Be agile – adapt as needed, including changing our strategy/plan.
What are some of the key messages for government and the community:
- Victoria is getting older – and it is vital that ageing is represented at the heart of Government.
- With the current pressures on the state, we are concerned at the impact on older Victorians. We need to work with government and the community urgently on this.
- COTA Victoria is best-placed to ensure that the voices of older people are supporting your work – and better outcomes are achieved.
- Seniors Rights Victoria is the only organisation that can best address the issue of elder abuse.
- We want to better collaborate with Government – but are limited by our current funding arrangements and pressures. As is the wider sector.
- It is essential that COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria are supported in this constrained financial climate to be the voice of older Victorians.
- Increasing uncertainty over budgets is putting crucial community services offered by COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria at risk – hampering our ability to function at a time when Victorians need us most. More alarmingly, this isn’t exclusive to us – it’s happening across the entire sector.
- The sector needs to work together to address these structural funding issues.
Call to Action
Support COTA Victoria in any way you can! Speak directly with your local member of parliament, become a member, donate to our organisation if you have the capacity, be proactive in your community when supporting key community groups like us, advocate for our cause, fight for your rights as an older Victorian, fight for your voice to be heard!
We are in the midst of commencing a state-wide campaign to raise awareness of, and access to critical resources to older Victorians, we’re also in the process of leading this discussion in a roundtable with other key peak bodies facing similar uncertainties, please watch this space as the weeks pass.
Chief Executive Officer, COTA Victoria