Respect for his elders came from Matt Sierp's granny, Hope.
"She had a great sense of humour and would sit there drinking champagne, having a cigarette, and playing cards - but she was all about respect for elders," he said.
When it came to his career he followed in his mother's footsteps - becoming a nurse just like her. Though for his father, a butcher, "it was an unusual occupation for a bloke 40 years ago".
Matt now heads Sapphire Coast Community Aged Care Group as CEO. He has been in the position for about five years.
Matt grew up in Adelaide and completed his nursing training through Flinders University in the early to mid '80s. On the weekends he worked as an assistant nurse in a nursing home.
His career choice also led him to meet the love of his life, his wife Wendy.
"I was fortunate enough to meet my wife in the first week of university training, she was doing the same course," he said.
He said he owes his longevity in the field of aged care and nursing to Wendy due to the shared understanding of what the job entails.
"You couldn't do this job without a supportive wife, you'd go insane."
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After finishing university, Matt worked as a registered nurse for two months in a nursing home while awaiting a graduate nurse position at Flinders Medical Centre in the acute ward.
"I was running the first HIV ward in Australia. I kept applying for promotions and they kept knocking me back purely because no-one else wanted to do the job I was doing back then."
After finally being offered a position as the director of nursing at an aged care facility when he was 25, the hospital doubted he'd last and said he'd be back in 12 months - that was 35 years ago.
"I've made a very successful career out of it," he said.
Matt moved around between aged care facilities in South Australia before moving to Queensland and working for Uniting Care.
"We had 10,000 staff and 54 aged care facilities. I was the executive for residential aged care and advisor to the CEO."
He later became a chief operations officer for a community-based organisation on the Sunshine Coast, but his wife challenged him to think bigger and search for CEO roles.
That's when he found a job advertised on the Sapphire Coast with SCCAC - the only community owned, not-for-profit, aged care group in the Bega Valley.
Moving to the area wasn't a huge jump for Matt and his wife as her grandparents were "born and bred Bega dairy farmers Jean and Campbell Cochrane".
Every time the couple came to visit Bega, Matt said he was invited to Hillgrove House to visit them.
The opportunity on the Sapphire Coast was exactly what Matt had been looking for. It offered management of residential aged care, home care, and retirement villages.
"The great thing about this organisation is that we've still got people like OAM Edna Duncanson who was a founding member and is now living in the Oaks.
"She is still on the Hillgrove House Auxiliary, which is at every second funeral in town selling tea, cakes, and meal services - with all that money coming back to Hillgrove House to be spent on people in need of residential care today."
Matt said a day didn't go by that he wasn't spending time with many of the organisation's volunteers, "who all want what's right for the community".
In fact, it was volunteers like Ms Duncanson who started the organisation in the 1970s.
The townsfolk raised enough funds through donations and grants to construct the Bega District Nursing Home in 1979, now known as Hillgrove House.
"I've always worked for non-for-profit organisations" said Matt.
"No disrespect to any profit making business, but the all the money at not-for-profits goes back into the local area, whereas the profit making businesses have to please the shareholders," he said.
Matt said he had always been extremely passionate about ensuring the best care for residents and trying to assist other organisations to provide care.
Recently he has been working with the Snowy Monaro Regional Council to launch two facilities in Cooma and Berridale.
"Our organisation doesn't want to see any more close, that's why we will go out and support others," he said.
He's seen the highs and lows of the industry, but said it has been a particularly challenging time to maintain staffing levels. He said it was the same for aged care facilities everywhere - and was behind many closures.
"Up until about three years ago you used to get 20 applications for jobs over your desk every week, now we hardly get any."
He said it was a combination of housing stress, low wages, and a lot of bad publicity following the Royal Commission into Aged Care that was particularly driving staffing challenges.
"The government's actually given us very little funding out of that, they've promised $17.7 billion but we still haven't seen it.
"The wages are very poor for carers, but there's a 25 per cent pay rise on the table - we're all awaiting Fair Work to make that decision."
Matt said they have relied on their loyal staff who "have bent over backwards and had to do double and triple shifts" to get by.
He said staff had worked hard for the organisation and to ensure older people were treated with dignity and respect.
SCCAC has also been employing staff through a labour market agreement with the Department of Immigration - "we need carers, hospitality staff, and cleaners," he said.
As of last week the organisation had given out 17 offers of employment through the program, with immigrants offered temporary housing.
"But the government will have to start offering funding in the near future as we already spend 75 per cent of the income we receive in wages," he said.
"It's really easy to fix the budget and break even if you cut staff, but it's not what this organisation is about.
"We all know the government will put money into aged care again, but I've got a very supportive board who understand the industry is going through some tough times."
Matt said he was 100 per cent committed to lobbying for "better conditions for rural and regional areas".
"You can't just sit on your hands and expect the funding to come to you. You have to tap on the right doors and make sure everyone's aware that things are tough."
To make sure Matt stays mentally and physically healthy among all the hard work, he has a training regime plan put together for him by his former Surf Life Saving club in Queensland.
He still competes in national and state titles and so trains four days a week at Tathra Beach, Country Club or up at the footy fields. But he's either up at 4am or training after dark at 7pm.
"An executive role in aged care is 24/7 - your phone is always on as we run a 24 hour business," he said, "but it's the down time at the beach that keeps me level and real," he said.
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