Rows of chairs

Sara Blunt – Kalyra Communities

Purpose-led leadership and peer network create innovative communities in aged care

Sara Blunt says having executive peers from various industries in her TEC group inspires her to be innovative, offers a fresh perspective, and holds her accountable:

  • Peer-to-peer mentorship: Sara was mentored and supported by her executive peers to seize the opportunity to create the first co-located aged care facility and primary school at Kalyra Woodcroft.
  • Leadership: Sara learned the value of keeping her senior leadership team invested in the organisation’s mission, which proved vital to the adoption of the co-location.
  • Innovation: When approvals proved challenging, Sara’s group encouraged her to persevere; providing new perspectives to help her navigate this period and find a solution.

Australian-first with the innovative co-location of an aged care facility and primary school

Sara is on a mission to eradicate ageism, break down barriers between generations, and elevate the role and value senior Australians add to our wider community. Challenged by society’s perceptions of seniors and the systemic flaws of the aged care sector highlighted in the Royal Commission.

Ensuring that Kalyra Communities overcomes these challenges and lives its values of inclusivity and community is integral to the organisation’s success. And for Sara, achieving her personal and professional goals is critical to the engagement of team members, and most importantly, the wellbeing and quality of life of aged care residents.

Sara felt armed with the right instincts and support from her board, but committed to seeking out perspective, knowledge, and counsel from experienced executives to assist her in navigating a path to achieve her goals.

TEC supports members to make transformative decisions

According to Sara, the innovative co-location is a result of innovative thinking, a collective commitment to Kalyra Communities’ value of inclusivity, and perspective gained from her executive network.

Harnessing her personal drive, Sara decided to join TEC and gained the mentorship and support she needed to create an innovative and unique community that has enhanced quality of life for residents, and captured hearts and minds across the country.

Sara’s initiative to co-locate the aged care facility, Kalyra Woodcroft, and primary school, Southern Montessori Middle School, is the first of its kind in Australia. Featured on the ABC program Ageless Friendships, the unique co-location on the southern fringe of Adelaide, South Australia, brings together more than 80 residents aged 70-100 and 35 students aged 11-14.

TEC’s peer-to-peer groups offer leaders support and perspective

Sara says a core learning she has taken from sharing stories with her group of local executives is to seize big opportunities whenever they arise. And that’s exactly what she did when the granddaughter of a potential resident put forward an out-of-the-box proposal.

‘We were in the final planning stages of our $23 million redevelopment when the granddaughter of a potential resident, who happened to be a director on the board of Montessori Middle School, approached our Director of Care; asking if we had room on our grounds for a school.

The architect’s plans had already been signed off at this point, but the opportunity to realise something that so closely aligned with our organisation’s vision could not be dismissed. We moved quickly; shuffling a few things around to change what would have been our administrative facility into the middle school, and the opportunity was embraced by the Kalyra community,’ says Sara

Quick-thinking, agility and a community built on the shared value of inclusivity ensured Sara could navigate late changes to architecture plans, but when time came to seek council approval, she and her team quickly became aware that they had a challenge on their hands.

‘More than 200 people turned up to the council hearing where the plan to co-locate was being discussed, and there were groups actively rallying against the idea.’

TEC holds leaders accountable for creating goals and a path to achieve them

‘As a CEO, I’m fortunate enough to have a board to report to, which helps with business direction and growth. Being able to complement this with a pool of people at the same level as me across various industries inspires me to be creative, provides me with a safe place to bounce ideas and always offers a fresh perspective for me to consider.’

Personally, I found this period quite challenging, but was continuously encouraged by my fellow TEC members to persevere. Their support and perspective really helped me navigate this period and drove me to achieve a solution that aligned with my organisation’s vision, while also meeting the needs of Kalyra and the local community. Thankfully, I did just that and 18 months later our plans were approved!

Since opening in January 2019, the co-location has proven to be a success. On top of creating an opportunity for planned and casual interactions between the students and residents, the Kalyra community provides other unique opportunities for mutual benefit, such as the middle school students undertaking hospitality work experience at the onsite café.

Sara says as new opportunities and concerns emerge in her role at Kalyra, she’ll continue to lean on her TEC group for input and support.

About Sara

With over 20 years’ experience in executive positions, Sara is a recognised leader within in the Australian aged care industry. She has been the Chairperson of Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) since 2017 and was previously Chairperson of ACSA NT and SA. Her group’s support and mentorship led her to become the first national chairperson of the ACSA,

Sara has been a member of TEC for 4 years, and claims the value of being held accountable to create and execute business goals and plans, as well as hearing advice and personal anecdotes on leadership, growth and innovation, has been truly invaluable to her as a changemaker in the aged care industry.

Gain new insights and stretch your thinking