Russ Hargreaves smashes stereotypes in aged care and advocates for inclusivity
Wellbeing Manager Russ Hargreaves is many things – a minister, a valued part of the Feros Care team, a proud member in Feros Care’s Pride Support Network, and a leading advocate for the rainbow community, helping foster a culture of inclusion and acceptance.
The smiles that light up seniors’ faces when Russ Hargreaves enters the room say it all. After warmly greeting his clients, the Wellbeing Manager listens attentively as they share their stories and engages them in their favourite wellbeing activities. His wholehearted approach to delivering care and support makes him a crowd favourite.
Working in aged care wasn’t something Russ ever planned to do. “I was moving to Australia from New Zealand and I applied for all sorts of jobs across the Gold Coast in health and aged care,” he explains.
“Feros Care was one of the only employers to get back to me and I accepted the job not knowing what the journey would bring.”
Not only did Russ discover a deep passion for helping seniors live their best lives, but he was also amazed to find an incredibly supportive workplace culture that allowed him to be his authentic self for the first time in his career.
The long journey to express his true identity
Growing up in a strict religious household, Russ never felt like he fit the traditional mould. “From a young age, I knew there was something different about me,” he says. “I preferred to play Jem and the Holograms with the girls rather than running around with the boys.”
For many years, Russ hid his sexual orientation from people he knew – especially at work.
“I grew up wanting to be a schoolteacher, but I didn’t want to deal with the stigma or bring any risk to myself, so I ended up as a practice manager running medical centres,” he explains.
“I eventually busted the doors off the closet and accepted who I was in my personal life, but I didn’t ever really disclose who I was at work.”
Prior to working for Feros Care, Russ managed a doctors’ surgery where the owners were very religious and a lot of things were frowned upon.
“I still did my job the best I could and grew that practice immensely, but because I felt so limited in what I could do and how I could express myself, I felt it was time to go.”
Fearlessly challenging stereotypes at Feros Care
When Russ joined Feros Care in 2017, he was embraced with open arms and encouraged to let all the facets of his identity shine. The homophobia he’d experienced in previous organisations was replaced by a culture of acceptance and inclusion.
Russ admits that some people are surprised when they find out he’s a fully ordained minister after obtaining his PhD in religious studies, but it’s precisely his religious knowledge that allows him to educate people when they demonstrate intolerance.
“I use the ‘educate, don’t’ obliterate’ approach when people try to argue with me,” he explains. “I can officially say, ‘No, the Bible doesn’t say that, it’s your interpretation.”
As a member of Feros Care’s Pride Support Network, Russ harnesses his knowledge to advocate for LGBTQIA+SB rights and create a safe space for employees and clients to share their stories and express their authentic selves. His clients and co-workers frequently express gratitude for his support and leadership, crediting him for changing their lives for the better.
Helping Feros Care be and do better
Russ also assists Feros Care in educating staff around diversity and creating an ever more inclusive workplace culture. He’s proud to work for such a progressive organisation and is actively involved in attracting a greater diversity of employees into the fold.
“As a Wellbeing Manager, I often do talks with community groups and get out face-to-face with contractors and possible referrers,” he says.
“If I hear about anyone who’s interested in the industry, I give them our phone number and encourage them to register interest even if we don’t have any open positions. I’m always helping Feros Care find ways to showcase how inclusive we are to current and potential employees.”
But above all else, Russ is passionate about helping seniors live their lives to the fullest.
“I’ve learnt that there are some not so great services out there that try to take advantage of the older generation, and that honesty, dignity and respect will take us a long way in shining above others,” he says.
“I treat every one of my clients like my own family and want to ensure they get the best services we can manage on a tight purse string. I want all my clients to know they’re acknowledged, they’re important, and that we will help them live their best lives in their own home.”
Russ’ story has been brought to life in Feros Care’s groundbreaking new documentary series, SMASHING, launching Thursday 15 February 2024. Each episode of SMASHING focuses on tackling a specific stereotype, showcasing diverse individuals within the aged care industry who defy expectations and transform perceptions. Watch the trailer here.
Not your typical aged care worker? Good, because we’re not your typical aged care organisation.
Apply your skills in a career that makes a difference in the lives of seniors. Find out more and view our job vacancies here https://www.feroscare.com.au/careers