Speech: Aged Care Royal Commission

Speech: Aged Care Royal Commission Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (11:11): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this motion today, and I thank the member for Macquarie for again bringing this vitally important issue to the attention of the House. We were all shocked and appalled by the aged-care royal commission's revelations: 120,000 older Australians waiting for home care in Australia, wait times of more than two years for the highest level of care, overuse of chemical restraints in aged care, and unacceptable numbers of younger people entering residential aged care because they simply have nowhere else to go.

Recently I visited a wonderful facility in Moruya that is helping to provide accommodation for people with a disability. Yumaro Living is an innovative accommodation program for supported independent living. I was lucky enough to take a tour of their four-bedroom group home and five single-bedroom units recently to meet some of the residents and hear their stories. They also have a two-bedroom unit for respite or short-term accommodation. The site includes 24-hour professional on-site support staff, and it is an absolutely wonderful place that provides shared support while allowing people to live independently. One of Yumaro's residents is in his early 50s and, before this facility became available, he had been living in an aged-care facility. The Yumaro staff proudly told me how this gentleman had come out of his shell since coming to stay with them. He now has independence, freedom and a new lease on life. It is heartbreaking to hear of a man like this forced into an inappropriate facility because there is nowhere else for him to go. But places like Yumaro Living are few and far between, and it only has capacity for five permanent residents. We need more places like Yumaro. We need to invest more in supported independent living across Australia to keep younger people out of residential aged care.

The aged-care system is failing our community. I have spoken with carers who have struggled to give the level of care their loved ones need without the help that they deserve. Carers do such an admirable and fantastic job in our community. Often they are family members doing what they can to try to give their loved ones the dignity, comfort and support they need. Too often they go unrecognised and unacknowledged.

Our aged-care workers also do remarkable work. I have visited many of the aged-care homes and residential villages in my electorate, and it doesn't take long before you really start to appreciate the hard work that our aged-care workers do with such love and care. They do it without complaint, and they do amazing work. But there are simply not enough of them. We need more aged-care workers to support our ageing population, and we need to make sure they are being paid enough for the work they are doing.

I want to thank all the carers and aged-care workers in our community. I want to let them know that I have seen them and I have heard them. I will keep pushing to fix the system that is failing them. Older Australians in our community cannot afford to wait for this government to fix the broken aged-care system. They need help now, and the government's response so far has been totally inadequate.

The commission's interim report called for immediate action to provide more home care packages. It called the wait times for packages 'neglect' and urged the Morrison government to act without delay. Three weeks later the government finally announced 10,000 additional home care packages—10,000, when 16,000 older Australians passed away in only one year while waiting for home care. This hardly seems like the response the commission was calling for.

Only last week I spoke about an innovative home care program in Batemans Bay. Booraja has been providing a targeted home care program to older Indigenous Australians and getting great results. It is employing Aboriginal people to provide whole-of-community care. It has won awards and been recognised nationally. But the government won't commit to providing it with new funding. We need more programs like Booraja, not fewer. I truly hope that the government decides to see sense and fund this program as part of its response to the commission's report.

We need action now. Older people in our community deserve to age with independence and dignity. Their carers, families and friends deserve to have help and support. The government must urgently act to fix this broken system. Ten thousand new packages to fix a wait list of 160,000 people is simply not enough.