Uniting Annual Report 2020-2021

Uniting for responsible stewardship in FY21.


Despite the financial challenges and various external pressures of FY21, we remain steadfastly committed to wisely using the resources entrusted to us by the Uniting Church, government, and partners. Our sustainability continues to be considered through a 3-way lens for maximum environmental, social and economic impact.”

This year, Uniting’s continued investment in Residential Aged Care, Retirement Living and Social and Affordable Housing was a priority focus. Against a backdrop of increasing demand for these services, a mix of greenfield and brownfield projects were initiated. We also continued to invest in improving amenity throughout our existing retirement villages and aged care homes, while addressing legacy issues in the portfolio.

Amala paves the way for the future of aged care

FY21 saw the completion of Uniting Amala  in the ACT suburb of Gordon, with the construction of Amala Care House 3. This aged care home for 118 residents has 6 households, including 2 memory support units providing dementia care.


Director of Ageing, Saviour Buhagiar, affirms that Amala’s household style of care is the future of residential aged care, aiming to give residents greater freedom to make their own choices throughout the day. Taking 8 years to build, the home is co-located with our Amala retirement living village and the Uniting Canberra Seniors Gym, to offer a continuum of care across different life stages.


The Royal Commission agrees that smaller homes with more personal care should be encouraged and developed, and we hope the Federal Government can look to Uniting Amala to see what can be achieved by this model.”

Saviour Buhagiar, Director of Ageing


A resident-focused approach is especially important for older Australians living with dementia. Our approach brings the dignity and wishes of residents to the forefront.”

Simon Furness, Director of Property and Housing

Recognition for Lakeview

In October 2020, Uniting’s Lakeview Shellharbour retirement village was a finalist in the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Excellence Awards. The development comprises 78 independent living apartments (including 8 Safe and Affordable Housing Fund, or SAHF, dwellings) and communal facilities, in 3 buildings over 4 levels. The village’s layout and features were specifically designed for ageing-in-place with dignity, safety and comfort. It was important for the site to provide the welcoming, well-landscaped appearance of an appealing residential estate. Access and support features were built within this framework to make it easy for residents to use all the living areas and shared spaces.


Some of our new Lakeview residents share their moving-in experiences here:


In the preparation to move here, Uniting put on events so we could meet our future neighbours. It was great to already know some friendly faces before we actually moved in.”

Uniting Lakeview resident

Environmental sustainability in FY21

The Uniting Church has always been a strong advocate for acting on climate change. This position is embedded in the Basis of Union, which urges:


the wise use of energy, the protection of the environment and the replenishment of the earth’s resources for future generations’ use and enjoyment”.

Since 2009, Uniting has been implementing a range of coordinated environmental sustainability initiatives that aim to:


  • Increase awareness among our teams and clients on how to live and work more sustainably


  • Conserve energy, water and waste through operational improvements


  • Partner with sustainability programs and education initiatives


  • Build more sustainable services by designing and developing more environmentally-friendly aged care homes and retirement villages.


Uniting’s track record in emissions reduction is strong. We’ve reduced our carbon emissions by 26% since 2010, by installing solar panel systems, energy-efficient lighting, and initiatives such as moving to hybrid vehicles in the transition to a fully-electric fleet, plus more sustainable design and construction methods. As a result, we’re well on the way to achieving our goal of zero carbon emissions by 2040.

This Net-zero Roadmap indicates how Uniting can reduce carbon emissions to reach our net-zero goal by 2040.


We have 9,760 solar panels on the roofs of 34 services across NSW and the ACT, making us one of the largest renewable energy generators in the aged care industry. The middle of the day, when the sun is at its peak, is also our highest period of power demand – when we harness the solar energy for washing, meal preparation and air conditioning.”

Sustainability of disability services in FY21

This year, Uniting’s Local Area Coordination (LAC) experienced significant growth and innovation, with minimal disruption throughout the pandemic. Our new dedicated website was launched to support thousands of participants in accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).


As at October 2020, over 39,000 meetings had been held throughout the year, supporting people to build and implement their NDIS Plan and access critical services. When the nation first went into lockdown, we also conducted an additional 8,695 individual welfare checks across the communities we serve.


It’s a privilege to be involved in the biggest social change since Medicare. To be able to support over 38,000 individual customers across 39,000+ meetings, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Jade Strongman, LAC Information, Linkages and Capacity Building Manager

Uninterrupted support and expansion of services

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to call for a flexible and innovative approach to service delivery to ensure uninterrupted support for people living with a disability.


Uniting is particularly proud of our use of digital media to reach so many customers during a period when some supports have been restricted. Throughout the year we hosted 68 capacity-building events online, attended by hundreds of customers across our 6 service regions.


Digital media has allowed us to break down some of the barriers for participants in rural and remote communities, from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, in Aboriginal communities, and for people who have difficulty accessing face-to-face events. Our live Q&A sessions with LAC team members who have lived experience of disability have also been popular.


This year, we’ve also grown our social media presence, with an 85% increase in followers of our Facebook page compared with the same time last year. 


One of our greatest achievements this year was the expansion of our services into the Hunter New England (HNE) region, following our successful tender submission for the Commonwealth Government’s Partners in the Community LAC Program.


Over a 10-week period from April to June, we prepared to service an additional 12,000 customers in HNE. With the support of many of our Uniting Shared Services colleagues, we managed to fit out 10 new offices, interview over 266 candidates, recruit and welcome close to 140 new employees, provide mobiles, laptops, pool cars and other critical equipment for them to conduct their business, and hold over 3000 customer meetings in the region.


Representing the communities we serve

A big focus for the LAC team during FY21 was engagement with Aboriginal communities. We have established several collaborative partnerships with Aboriginal organisations, including the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, and we’re working on several initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people living with disability.


With our expansion into HNE, our LAC team has grown to over 430 employees. We remain committed to realising our targets for diversity employment, and currently 18% of our team have a disability, 15% are carers of a person with a disability, 22% come from a CALD background, and 6.5% identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.


The diversity of our team ensures we genuinely represent the communities we serve and that we’re able to continue to provide innovative supports in response to their changing needs.”

Head of LAC, Robert Hamilton

Responsible stewardship story

Sanctuary for older homeless women