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- Mr Ken Habak, Chair of the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra
- Other distinguished guests
- Ladies and gentlemen
As Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, I am very pleased to be here at the CALDWays forum: Identifying Access Barriers for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Consumers in Aged Care. Thank you for the invitation.
I congratulate the forum organisers: the Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra operating as the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care in New South Wales and the ACT.
I am sure this event will stimulate fruitful discussions on the issues and directions vital to Australia’s ageing and culturally diverse population.
The Multicultural Communities Council of the Illawarra and PICAC [pronounced pick-ack] partners are excellent examples of those organisations supporting culturally appropriate and quality aged care.
Their work contributes greatly to improved partnerships between aged care service providers, CALD communities, and Government; and to ensuring the needs of older people from CALD backgrounds are met.
Their information resources, training sessions and promotion of the links between CALD communities and aged care services all make an important contribution to the care and comfort of our older people.
PICAC services change the way many hundreds of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are cared for.
We are committed as a Government to ensuring our growing aged population is properly cared for and the facilities and support services they need are easily accessible.
We want there to be a greater choice for older Australians and improved access to the types of services which will enable them to continue to live active and healthy lives.
We are investing more to make aged care responsive to the needs of this very special group of older people, but there is more work to be done.
As the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and as the son of migrant parents, I can say that the care of older people of CALD backgrounds is an issue of great importance. I have seen this first-hand here in Canberra, particularly among the Croatian and Indian communities.
During my brief remarks, I want to focus on why looking after both our people from CALD backgrounds and our older Australians is intimately linked.
As we all know, we are one of the most successful multicultural nation’s in the world, with almost half of Australians either born overseas or with at least one parent who was.
This is reflected in our older Australians. More than one in three (36%) Australians aged over 65 were born overseas, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures. Among those one in three are my parents, and indeed probably many parents of people in this room – or perhaps people in this room themselves.
And if you look further, you will find that almost one in four (23%) Australians aged 65 and over were born in non-English speaking countries.
Older Australians are an important and increasing demographic. We often hear this, but it is useful to know that every week, an estimated 1,000 people turn 85 years of age.
Our post-war migrant boom includes many people who are now at the point in their lives where aged care has become a consideration – or even a necessity.
The numbers alone tell us that ageing in CALD communities is a concern for most of these communities.
CALD communities are an integral part of Australia and ageing and aged care is something that should concern us all.
And the numbers are not expected to decrease. Some of our older CALD Australians arrived here in their younger years, others came later in life. And we continue to welcome people of all ages to our Australian family.
Our CALD communities must be considered an important part of policy development and assessment. Aged care is no exception.
It is valuable for us all to remind ourselves of why it is important for our older Australians with CALD backgrounds to have culturally appropriate care.
Firstly, older Australians are moving into aged care, either in home or in residential care, which can be a difficult transition.
It’s a big deal to leave behind your family home and move into some sort of aged residential care arrangement. It should not be doubly dramatic by being removed from the familiarity and comfort of cultural touchpoints, such as language, familiar faces, voices, music, customs, religion, courtesies or food.
Older CALD Australians face some unique challenges – sometimes losing acquired language as they age and suffering from feelings of isolation.
And having come from overseas, people making this transition are not always doing it with the support of loved ones, or may not have loved ones close by.
Today, tens of thousands of older Australians need culturally and linguistically appropriate aged care. The expectations of some are that their families will look after them. But regrettably those expectations cannot always be met because of distance and family and work pressures on their children, as is often the case for elderly members of our community more generally.
Our older Australians deserve our best efforts in providing the best possible aged care, helping them to enjoy these later stages of life.
The Government, the community, families and individuals have a fundamental duty to look after our most vulnerable citizens.
We must remember that many of our older people of CALD backgrounds have contributed so much to our nation – just like their Australian born counterparts
They have made major contributions to our country as its nation-builders.
They may have come to Australia to help build the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, for example.
They may have built our homes, they may have started and run businesses, small and large, or they may have entered other professions. Walk around any Canberra suburb and you’ll see houses built by migrants.
Our nation-builders, including those from CALD backgrounds deserve to be looked after appropriately.
It is our duty to do whatever we can to properly deal with the issues affecting our CALD communities to provide dignified aged care, and also care that reflects their cultural heritage.
Australian Government approach
The Coalition Government accepts the challenges presented by an ageing population. That’s why our Health Minister, Sussan Ley, is also the Minister for Aged Care. It is a strong focus for our Government.
The Government understands that the ageing of our population is one of the biggest social issues facing our country. That’s why weare putting measures in place to maximise healthy and positive ageing.
For example, the Government remains committed to our Multicultural Access and Equity Policy – our primary vehicle for ensuring all Australians can access vital Government programs and services including those in the ageing space.
Our aim is to ensure programs and services are responsive and deliver equitable outcomes, regardless of people’s culture or the language they speak.
I understand the forum will include discussion about My Aged Care, the entry point to the aged care system in Australia.
I know that there may be challenges for CALD Australians accessing that service and no doubt there will be discussions about that here.
I think it is also worth acknowledging that we have world-class settlement services in place here in Australia. So migrants who come today are going to have a great future ahead where they can find work, make a contribution, and aspire to the same healthy retirement and positive experience of older age that many of us also aim for.
We are committed, above all else, to building and maintaining our successful multicultural society..
Once again I’d like to commend the work of the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra and the PICAC program in supporting and representing people from CALD backgrounds.
I wish everyone here all the best with this forum. I hope much can be learnt from discussing practical solutions, and from hearing from real-life consumer experiences.
I very much look forward to hearing the outcomes and recommendations flowing from this forum.