Standing up for Canberra

Aged Care Reform 2012

Aged-care reform is long overdue in Australia, so I am absolutely delighted to support this motion. With an ageing population, it will not be long before we have a generation of baby boomers who will begin to place more pressure on our aged-care services. In fact, I understand that Canberra is ageing at a higher rate than any other metropolitan capital in Australia, so it is very much at front of mind for me as the member for Canberra. Our current aged-care system is ill-equipped to deal with the needs of an increasing number of retirees and their parents who are living longer and healthier lives. That is a good thing; that is a great strength for Australia. But it is also a challenge for us: to make sure that we live longer but we also continue to lead happy and active lives.

Last Friday, I was at the COTA national policy forum at the Manuka Oval, and the motto for the day was that people were wanting to live longer, live better and live stronger. I am strong believer in active ageing—that is, the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security to enhance quality of life as we age. Flexibility and transitional care are the keys here. With that in mind, I too congratulate the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing on the aged-care reform package.

On the weekend I was privileged to attend the 100th birthday of Mrs Dot Gordon, who was celebrating with her family and the caring staff at Goodwin Village in Monash. Visiting the residents there highlighted to me just how important it is to ensure our older Australians are comfortable and are receiving quality care in our community as they age. The Living Longer, Living Better package will make it easier for Australians like Dot Gordon. It will help them sustain their own homes or give them greater choice when the time comes to move into some form of aged care.

This reform package is a turning point. It places older Australians at the centre of a policy that will improve their lives and deliver better outcomes in health, both physical and mental. We are backing up our commitment to reforming aged care with a $3.7 billion investment. This investment will help older Australians so they can stay in their homes while they receive care. It will also ensure more people can keep their family home, and it will prevent anyone being forced to sell their home in an emergency fire sale to pay for their aged-care place. Also, for the first time, we are also introducing a system that is fairer and based on the capacity of people to pay.

These reforms are important and they are designed to ensure senior Australians can have peace of mind as they get older. Alongside these improvements to the way the aged-care system works, we are also increasing residential aged-care places. We are improving the aged-care workforce through a $1.2 billion workforce compact, and we are providing more funding for dementia care and more support for services. In fact, $268 million will be invested to tackle the nation's dementia epidemic, which is growing at an exponential rate. We are also establishing a single gateway to all aged-care services so they are easier to access and navigate.

Living Longer, Living Better shows that Labor has a real plan to reform aged care. Our plan will give every Australian confidence that they will be able to get safe, secure, high-quality aged-care services, either in their home or in residential care, when they get older. Our plan will also ensure older Australians have better access to safe, secure, quality care no matter what their background or their economic circumstance. This is a good plan, which also has the backing of the aged-care sector. COTA's Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said that COTA welcomes the package as it delivers on many of the issues that older people have been raising for many years. Others have described the plan as helping older Australians receive aged care in their own home while improving the sustainability of aged-care services, such as through Catholic Health Australia. These are just some of the comments from organisations who understand what it will take to improve aged care in Australia. I know the government will work closely with them to achieve better outcomes for the sector. Again, I commend the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing for this important reform and call on all members to support this step towards better aged care for all.

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