History of the Better Practice Project

Better Practice Project is turning 20 years old in 2017. This is a significant achievement in the human service sector as an annually funded project. Due to the efforts of many people and under the guidance of Joyleen Thomas, the Better Practice Project is celebrating and working as hard as ever to meet the needs of the organisations and workers who are seeking to strengthen their work practices to result in better outcomes for the people they serve.

Enjoy reading about the Project’s evolution….

Stage 1

The Better Practice Project started in 1997 when the organisation, ACH Group received Home and Community Care funding to develop and articulate a model of service that would enhance the citizenship and positive roles of older people. The report from this stage, A Unique Life to Live, identifies the values and assumptions that guided the project, and the key service principles and practices that increase the likelihood of older frail people participating in the community as valued citizens. Important features included a life strengths approach, developing existing community and unpaid solutions to meeting needs, and the development of collaborative solutions across agency boundaries.

The Project explored what is possible when staff set out to examine their work in detail, to open themselves up to learning from older people, to self-critique and continually search for more potent ways to support older people to be valued members of their community

Stages 2 & 3

Two further stages of the Project were funded to encourage other agencies to consider the Project’s learning which has proved transferable to a broad range of agencies and to provide support and mentoring to implement the model.

Activities included:

  • Training, information and resource development.
  • Workshops for HACC Managers in South Australia and interstate.
  • Partnership with agencies in new projects.
  • Presentations at conferences and seminars.
  • Working with rural and metropolitan agencies in the sectors of aged care, disability, vulnerable adults and ethnic community services.
  • Working with agencies to develop funding proposals for new projects, establishing objectives and developing staff training.

Stage 4

Better Practice and Beyond: Valuing People

This stage of the Project saw a move to Aged & Community Services as a more central auspice to increase the Project’s accessibility and visibility. The goals and actions of this stage include:

  • Build broader awareness of the Project.
  • Involve providers from a wide range of agencies who understand the essence of the Project and want to improve outcomes for service users.
  • Influence new workers in the sector.
  • ‘Value add’ to agencies as they work through the HACC Standards and implement their action plans.
  • Promote forums where values issues can be discussed, at all levels of service provision.
  • Provide a range of resource material that will support agencies to provide people-centred practice.
  • Develop a competency based training package in conjunction with TAFE.
  • Develop a handbook on practical implications of the model of service for service providers.
  • Facilitate workshops at the National ACS conference in October 2004.
  • Promote the writing of articles for publications and resource materials including the sharing of people’s real life experiences.
  • Foster leadership among providers, regulators, educators and the general community in the Project principles.
  • Build the capacity of people to understand and implement the ideas and theory underpinning the Project.
  • Facilitate and test the adoption of the theory in other and new service settings.

The themes of the many consultations, training events, presentations and resource developments continue to maintain a focus on:

  • The people in the face of relentless external pressures and constraints.
  • Understanding the person and their life experiences.
  • The impact of services, societal assumptions and stereotyping versus positive ageing.
  • Appropriate assessment practices.
  • The right response to needs.
  • The importance of people’s roles and contributions.
  • The importance of family and community.
  • The right relationship between provider and client.
  • Building on people’s strengths.
  • Citizenship versus clienthood.

Stage 5

Imagining Possibilities

The acquired learning and experience of key team members, its Advisory Group and supporters from many arenas has culminated in the production and successful trial of the training package Living as an Older Person. From this initiative a Train the Trainer package was developed to enable participants to deliver the training to their own staff. Better Practice Project fosters strong relationships with many organisations, initiatives and independent contractors with unique expertise or world view.

The Collaborative Projects of South Australia have partnered with BPP to produce high quality learning opportunities state wide. Annually one package is developed and rolled out to the services in metro, regional and remote areas.

The Cultivating People, Programs & Community Project was auspiced by Helping Hand Aged Care in partnership with Western Linkages, University of South Australia, Better Practice Project and Anglicare. The project was developed to translate the Uni SA Alone in A Crowd (AIAC) research into practice and grew as an initiative of the Social Links & Respite Workgroup. The (AIAC) study provided understandings of loneliness that can be utilised to inform and support service providers assisting older Australians managing loneliness. A series of cross regional training sessions were conducted across metropolitan Adelaide in 2011.
The BPP training package ‘Importance of Communities and Families’ utilised (AIAC) findings and develop a training package, ‘Keeping Connected’. This was presented in regional SA by Dr Stanley, whilst BPP provided  training to inner metropolitan regions in 2013.

Development of Handbooks “Valued Roles for All – Keys to living a good life” and Imagining Possibilities – A practical guide for working with people in the community”.

The evolution of the project and skills of the Project Coordinators has resulted in a range of products available at no cost to the participants of the training, workshops and BPP opportunities.


Auspiced by Aged and Community Services Australia.





Funded by the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.





Supported by the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion

SA HACC logo