Step 1

How do I navigate the Aged Care System?

To navigate the aged care system you need to know how you are going to get through the aged care system. You will need to know what aged care home providers are as well as what the government’s role in aged care is. It will be helpful to know what aged care peak bodies are.

1.1 How do you get through the aged care system?

Welcome to the beginning of your 9-step journey to find an aged care home (nursing home) in Australia.

Give yourself some time because it can take several weeks to get everything done.

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View transcript of video here

The federal government has a huge role in aged care.  They fund aged care homes and they make sure the homes are up to standard.  Importantly for you, the government also subsidises some of your costs – so they need to know what care you need and how much you can afford to pay.

You need to register yourself with the government department, which you can do through My Aged Care by dialing 1800 200 422.

They will give you a client number and once you have this then you are on the way. 

If the person you are helping are not capable of making vital decisions, it will be up to other family (or friends or guardians) to get the legal power.  We will deal in detail with these big questions in the next steps.

Before that, here are some key facts which might help.

  • Aged care homes (nursing homes) are places where you can live and get the level of care and assistance that you can’t really get while living at home.  This includes 24-hour nursing care from qualified staff, managing your medicines, continence care and treatment and care of wounds, etc. 
  • Aged care homes aren’t only for permanent residents.


  • Aged care homes also provide temporary accommodation so that carers can have a break (up to 63 days a year).   This can be extended in lots of 21 days if further assessment finds it necessary.   Respite can also be a halfway point if you have been in hospital but you aren’t quite up to going back home (up to 84 days a year).

1.2 What are aged care home providers?

Aged Care Providers

Aged care homes (nursing homes) are run by a variety of organisations and companies that are referred to as aged care service providers.  They can include:

  • Faith based/religious organisations 
  • Community organisations
  • Charities
  • Publicly listed companies
  • Health insurers


  • State governments (in regional and remote areas where aged care homes are often integrated with the local hospital and other health-related services)

Commonwealth Government funding is available for aged care providers, as long as they meet the funding and accreditation criteria and act within other Australian laws.

Approximately 60% of people entering aged care homes receive the full aged care pension and pay 85% of their pension towards their aged care costthose not on the full aged care pension will need to pay top up fees.

Jill Donaldson

agedcare101 Physiotherapist

1.3 What is the government's role in aged care?

Government's role in aged care 

The Commonwealth government is responsible for the aged care system in Australia. Aged care falls under the Department of Health. The majority of aged care homes receive Federal government funding via subsidies.

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency

Before they can receive Commonwealth funding, all aged care homes in Australia have to be accredited and approved by the Australian Government.  The government organisation responsible for managing both the accreditation process and the quality systems for government subsidised aged care homes is the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency.

Aged care homes must comply with all 44 expected outcomes against four broad accreditation standards at all times.

The Agency publishes a report of every accreditation audit.  This report also includes any notices of non-compliance or sanctions on its website.

Monitoring the quality of aged care homes

To be accredited and to receive government funding, aged care homes MUST all go through the same process of accreditation on a regular and ongoing basis.

The length of time awarded to a home for its accreditation status is a reflection of the findings in the assessment process. Aged care homes with 3-year accreditation have met the standards effectively. Homes with 1-year or 2-year accreditation have met the standards but generally still need to make some changes or improvements.

Can I find out if an aged care home has failed to meet accreditation standards?

There are three ways of finding out if a home is fully accredited or has a problem with accreditation, including the nature of the problem.

1. The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency publishes the full report of every aged care home’s accreditation audit on its website.  
To read the current accreditation audit report of any Commonwealth subsidised aged care home, you can use the Quality Agency’s search function.

2. The Department of Health publishes the names of all aged care homes which have been issued with notices of ‘Non-Compliance’ or ‘Sanctions’ on its website at this Department of Health link.  
The Department of health link also includes homes that have been non-compliant or sanctioned within the last two years.

3. The My Aged Care website also identifies aged care homes that have received a sanction in its Aged Care Home Finder.   

Aged care audits are incredibly thorough  down to interviewing not only the residents by the resident's family.  Most take several days with two inspectors on site.

Jill Donaldson

agedcare101 Physiotherapist

1.4 What are aged care peak bodies?

Aged Care Peak Bodies

There are two main peak bodies representing aged care providers.  Their role involves advocating on behalf of their aged care provider membership in public and political arenas, developing aged care policy, as well as providing leadership, professional support, staff training and other member services.

The two main peak bodies are: 

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) represents ‘mission-based’ - not-for-profit and faith-based - providers of aged care homes (nursing homes); home care and community care services; and housing and support for people with a disability and their carers.  ACSA represents “over 1,100 church and charitable and community based organisations providing accommodation and care services to over 700,000 older people.”

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) represents “both private sector and not-for-profit providers delivering retirement living, home care and residential aged care services.” 

You should ask if your care provider is a member of a peak body or sector association.  It reflects their commitment to ongoing training, the latest systems and procedures and accountability.

Chris Baynes

agedcare101 Commentator

2 weeks
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A special thanks to our contributors

Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.