Buckley uses her skill as a finance professional to support the aged care sector, which was significantly affected by pandemic challenges.

By Katie Langmore

Jennene Buckley FCPA is quick to acknowledge that her CPA qualification has given her the ideal skill set to become CEO of Feros Care, a not-for-profit aged care and community care organisation. Yet it is clearly her passion for the aged care sector that has kept her in the role for 20 years. 

Over those two decades, Buckley took the organisation from supporting 95 clients to overseeing 1000 staff servicing more than 60,000 clients a year.

“I became CEO at 31,” says Buckley, who started at Feros Care as an accounting manager. “At the time I couldn’t imagine what we would achieve; that we would grow this little community-owned not-for-profit to an organisation with A$100 million a year turnover, providing services around the country and winning national and international awards for our leadership in digital transformation and innovation.”

Buckley has now passed on the baton of CEO and plans to use her deep knowledge of the sector supporting government and service providers through her new consultancy, Enkindle.

“Right now, the industry is really struggling,” explains Buckley, describing staff who “are exhausted with managing 30 months of the Royal Commission [into Aged Care], two years of the pandemic, insufficient funding and financial strain, and workforce shortages like I have never seen in the 25 years I have been in aged care.

“Providers are trying to keep services operating to the best of their ability in almost impossible circumstances. I want to play a much bigger role in shaping a world-class aged care system for senior Australians.”

Buckley is also giving her time and expertise to several social enterprises. “As soon as I moved from Feros into Enkindle, I wanted to make time to give back,” she says.

This includes volunteering with a business mentorship called Sourdough Business Pathways, a not-for-profit that Buckley has also been supported by over the last decade. “I’m supporting two businesswomen who have a growing allied health service, helping them with goal setting, business planning and general advice,” she says.

Buckley has also helped a previous staff member set up Women Connex, which supports women aged 40 to 70 to get back into the workforce. Launched last year, Buckley is a member of the Women Connex advisory board.

Until mid-2021, Buckley was also giving her time to the advisory board of Be Someone For Someone, an initiative she established before leaving Feros Care. It advocates for people experiencing loneliness and creates programs that enable meaningful connections and better wellbeing for Australians.

“Be Someone For Someone was really a dream come true for me,” says Buckley. “The idea of creating a charitable foundation that would passionately tackle a problem that we saw every day, which was the devastating impact of loneliness on people of all ages. Launching just before the pandemic couldn’t really have come at a better time.”

Alongside her many commitments, Buckley hopes to work with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations to help them to expand into aged care. It’s a very personal mission as she’s recently found out she has Aboriginal heritage on her father’s side.

“The royal commission [into aged care] talked to the need for First Nations elders to be cared for by First Nations people; for Aboriginal elders to access culturally appropriate and culturally safe care. I really want to assist in closing the gap for Aboriginal elders and I think I can use my 30 plus years in health and aged care to support these organisations.

Sourdough Business Pathways

Sourdough Business Pathways is a not-for-profit organisation supporting businesses in New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region to start up, skill up and scale up through its start-up programs, business skills workshops, mentoring and businesswomen’s pathways.

Women Connex

Women Connex is a Queensland-based social enterprise that provides activities and events designed to get members together to learn new skills, make connections and have fun.

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