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The Maggie Beer Foundation journey

29 January, 2020

In 2010 Maggie Beer was made Senior Australian of the Year – this was the beginning of the MBF journey, but it took some years to form the way forward.

Maggie had 900 requests to speak in 2010 and as a result she had to pick and choose which were the most important ones.  One was an invitation to speak to 1000 CEOs and managers at an annual aged care industry conference in Hobart. Maggie often says ‘the talk wasn’t received well’, but there were a few threads that came out of it to show it had really hit home with some. The most important of them was the life changing moment when Dr. Stephen Judd, the CEO of Hammond Homes, got in touch some months after that conference to ask for Maggie’s thoughts on how they could bring about change.

Maggie continues the story….

“I flew to Sydney and we talked around the table and my advice was they had to find someone extraordinary to be the catalyst for change.  Someone who was passionate about food and people and it should be promulgated far and wide.   Judd was very smart about them putting a search together for such a person without mentioning it was for Aged Care until the final interviews.   The sum of it was that I was sent the front runners CVs to review and, because of the network of the top chefs of Australia, I was able to suggest Peter Morgan Jones as his referee was a hero of mine Janni Kyritsis, formerly Berowra Waters, Bennelong and MG Garage.  Peter had also worked with my friend Stephanie Alexander before that. So, it was easy to have a real insight to Peter and ultimately Peter was chosen.

I first met Peter over coffee four months after he started with Hammond Homes and I was in awe of how he had already begun to change the way food was seen.   He immediately brought molecular gastronomy into the equation for those with dysphaghia…”

Whilst Peter was changing the ballgame in Sydney, Maggie had contacted Mark Butler, Minister for Ageing in the labour government at the time, to suggest the way to bring about change was to find all the great exponents of aged care across Australia;  to celebrate them and use them as a benchmark for change.

Mark loved the idea but didn’t have the funds to support it, so Maggie then joined a State Board in Adelaide for the Aged and, though within this group there was a real hope for change, it was also frustrating as to how much could be done.

When Maggie talked with the Chief Executive of her idea of finding the best practice available, her advice was that “it would have more credibility if it was under Maggie’s name and not a Government initiative”. Soon the State board was sadly disbanded because of Government cuts!

As so often with busy lives it can take time to ferment a plan, it was probably 18 months after that fateful talk where, with Maggie’s offsider in the Maggie Beer Products business, Sarah Goodwin, the decision was made to formalise all these great ideas into a Foundation. That took about 8 months to come about, with all of the necessary bureaucratic issues to be covered but finally, in April 2014 The Maggie Beer Foundation was launched.

In the meantime, Maggie had worked with Stephen Judd bringing attention to the cause.   One particularly memorable occasion was a Cocktail party for the aged care industry, press and Ministers where Maggie presented food that was called ‘Forbidden Fruit’….on one side of the platter the food presented was commercially available in aged care homes and on the other side of the same platter Maggie presented her equivalent of the food cooked with care; honouring the produce and keeping the issues of HACCP in mind so it was possible to do for vulnerable residents.     One of the objectives of this was to challenge the ’17 minute boiled egg for aged care that existed in NSW regulations’….led by Hammond Homes, this ruling was later turned around, through the work of Peter Morgan-Jones and the University.

To date MBF have delivered Education programs to over 350 cooks and chefs working in aged care homes across Australia, along with many of their CEO’s and Managers. There are big things ahead for 2020, including the launch of our first 11 online training modules and our Aged care Summit. We look forward to sharing more details with you all in due course.