by Marika Kontellis, CEO COTA NSW

Ageism (not age) is the real issue

In early May, COTA NSW had the privilege of speaking at NSW Parliament at a meeting convened by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) who are supported by a diverse workforce of over 450 people.

Diversity and inclusivity isn’t always the case in Australian workplaces.

More than half a million Australians aged over 55 are currently seeking work and can provide valuable skills, experience and expertise at the very same time that we are facing significant workforce shortages.

The 2023 report into the employment climate of older Australians by the Australian HR Institute and the Australian Humans Rights Commission substantiates this. Their research highlights trends around elevated employee shortages and provides evidence of ageist employment practices in some Australian workplaces. The report is “a wake-up call to organisations to consider older workers more carefully when developing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies” [1].

Employers may not be aware that many have entrenched ageist views and practices that impair their ability to attract or be attractive to mature workers. Therefore, they should begin working with their employees to actively address this situation.

Concerningly, the COTA Federation’s recently published landmark report, State of the Older Nation, found that 24% of older Australians had experienced employment related discrimination since turning 50 [2].

COTA NSW is an outcomes led advocate for mature workers in NSW. We are working with employers to build their workforce to enable their business to thrive. Our support is focused on 5 key, proven strategies:

  1. Awareness and Education: Employers should facilitate discussions on the value of diverse workplaces. Talk about ageism and acknowledge that there is an unconscious bias; this will raise awareness of the issue and how people can address it by changing behaviours.
  2. Inclusive workplaces: Workplaces should ensure their workplace is diverse and this includes working with and providing a supportive environment for mature workers. This doesn’t require radical change, just an acceptance that diverse workplaces have higher productivity and profitability.
  3. HR Practices: Thoughtful on-boarding and creative employee benefit schemes are important and easy to achieve.
  4. Intergenerational Activities: Learning on the job is important to everyone, including mature workers. Intergenerational elements can support learning, enhance collaboration and stimulate productivity.
  5. Transitioning Support: Leaving a paid job isn’t easy. Very few people plan for retirement or avoid this conversation at work as this may often lead to employees being ostracised or not included given their ‘impending departure’. Employers need to develop strategies to support people get the most out of work and plan for their next stage in life.

Support for Employers

Connect with us at if you are an employer and want to partner with COTA NSW to build diversity, include mature workers and strengthen your workforce.

Support for Workers

Call us on 1800 449 102 and we can provide you with Information and Guidance on where to go and who to call for help.

In addition, The Fair Work Commission is Australia’s workplace relationship tribunal and registered organisations regulator. As well as making awards and approving enterprise agreements, they help resolve issues in the workplace.

Get Involved

There are lots of ways to get involved in combating ageism in the workplace in NSW.

Join: Become a member of COTA NSW now. Our membership base gives us access to people and communities enabling us to amplify the diverse voices across NSW

Donate: Your donation helps us conduct further research hold events and take the voice of older people directly to decision makers. Click here.

Centre for aging better - COTA NSW media
Image source: Centre for Ageing Better


[1] Australian HR Institute (2023) Employing and Retaining Older Workers. AHRI with Australian Human Rights Commission

[2] SEC Newgate Research (2023) State of the Older Nation, prepared for the Councils on the Ageing Federation. COTA Australia