This year is a special one for COTA Victoria – we’re celebrating 70 years of promoting opportunities and protecting the rights of all older Victorians. It’s a time to reflect on our origins and achievements, and to look ahead at how we continue to advocate on the important issues for older Victorians.
COTA Victoria’s origins
COTA Victoria came into being in the period following the Depression and World War 2. With the postwar baby boom and economic reconstruction efforts putting the focus on younger people, the needs of older generations were being forgotten.
In October 1950, the Melbourne Herald raised the alarm with a headline asking ‘Is old age a crime?’ Describing the poverty and homelessness of many older people in Melbourne, the Herald warned ‘we are on trial and time is running out’. A year later, the Herald reported that little had changed: growing old was still a ‘harsh business’ in Victoria.
Growing concern among social welfare organisations and private funders led to the formation of the Old People’s Welfare Council – the organisation that later became COTA Victoria. The aim was to address poverty among older people and attract state and federal government attention and spending.
Enduring issues for older Victorians
Many of the issues that occupied the Old People’s Welfare Council have proven enduring. When Victoria conducted an Australia-first social survey on old age in 1954, it uncovered issues of low income, loneliness and inadequate housing and community amenities.
A more recent survey conducted by the Commissioner for Senior Victorians Ageing Well in a Changing World’ (2019) identified ‘Eight Attributes of Ageing Well’, including respect; connection to family, friends, and community; financial and housing security and health autonomy. These are some of the issues that COTA has been working to address over the past 70 years.
The quality of our aged care system is another issue of continuing importance to older people. Australian government expenditure on aged care has risen from a relatively low amount in the early 1950s to around $18 billion today. Despite that progress, COTA Victoria CEO, Tina Hogarth-Clarke, says many of the issues affecting older people at the time of COTA’s start remain, and as a community we must be concerned.
For COTA, turning 70 is an occasion for reflection. But more importantly, it’s a time to rededicate ourselves to the cause of shining a light on the issues older Victorians tell us need to be addressed to improve their quality of life.
‘When you are 70 you recognise the importance of having a positive outlook and a network of people who are genuinely interested in you and are willing to work with you to maintain a good quality of life,’ Tina Hogarth-Clarke says.
‘That’s how we’ll celebrate being 70! A COTA Victoria that continues to be positive and a leader in promoting and working for the interests of all older Victorians,’ she says.