May 11, 2022

Ian Yates AM to leave peak body for older Australians, COTA, after 20 years

Yates told HelloCare he and COTA had been in discussions about transitioning to a new Chief Executive and made the decision last year he would step aside in 2022.

“I don’t feel any particular need to go now but the point is, as you get older, you don’t know. It’s been 20 years and if we keep waiting and keep waiting, and something goes wrong, then the organisation’s in a bit of trouble,” he explained.

“Replacing someone who’s been there for 20 years and in the movement for over 30 is trickier.”

Yates said it was better to make the announcement prior to the election to avoid speculation – “with all the trolling that goes on” – that it may have been a political decision.

Yates said he was “very grateful” for the “very large number” who had been in touch since the announcement was made.

Yates will remain “in the game” with roles as Chair of the Council of Elders and as a member of the National Aged Care Advisory Council.

He will also be open to “new ventures”.

“I get approached regularly to sit on boards, to write books or chapters, to get involved with the university. I always have had to say no because I just do not have time,” he told HelloCare. Now those options might look “attractive”, he said.

The change is also welcomed by his family, who “complain enough already” they never see him, and Yates’ wife hopes it will present the opportunity to take a long holiday. Yates has not had more than the Christmas break off during the three years of the royal commission and pandemic.

COTA Australia Chair, Jane Halton AO, PSM said, “It would be great if Ian could go on forever, but the real world is not like that, and Ian and the Board have agreed that this year is the right time for the transition to a new Chief Executive.

“Yates’ contribution to the COTAs and to the welfare of older Australians has been immense over 33 years,” she said.

Yates will step aside this year and assist in the transition to a new leadership of the peak body for older Australians. He said it is preferable when succession occurs as a “planned process”.

Yates has been Chief Executive of the national arm of COTA since mid-2002. He was appointed Chief Executive of the state body, COTA SA, in June 1989. 

In announcing he would be stepping aside, Yates said, “Leading the peak national consumer policy and advocacy body for older Australians for two decades has been simultaneously a privilege and a challenge.”

Under Yates’ leadership, COTA made significant contributions to broad-ranging reforms, including:

  • the 2009 age pension increase by $30 per week
  • the 2012 Living Longer Living Better reforms of aged care
  • the successful Hands Off the Pension campaign in 2014
  • the 2015 superannuation reforms that have continued right up to the last Budget
  • the 2018 Budget package More Choices for a Longer Life; and 
  • the 2021 Federal Budget measures in response to the Royal Commission into Quality and Safety in Aged Care

While Yates acknowledged his contributions, he said “there are many things we have yet to achieve”.

COTA’s board has engaged executive search consultant Ian Hansen to assist with the recruitment of a new Chief Executive. The succession is expected to be completed this year.

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