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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10924

Mr HALE (3:19 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. What is the government’s response to community concerns about the need to improve Indigenous aged care?

Mrs ELLIOT (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the member for Solomon for his question and note his very strong interest in and commitment to Indigenous aged care. Our plan to improve Indigenous aged care involves construction of new infrastructure, emergency maintenance works and staff training. Last week, our newly established Indigenous aged care task force completed a site-by-site audit of Australia’s 29 Indigenous flexible aged care services. As a direct result of this, early next year teams of tradespeople will undertake a comprehensive building works program to carry out necessary improvements.

In the last few months, I have visited a number of communities, including in Katherine, Mutitjulu and East Arnhem. I have listened firsthand to the concerns of community leaders and also seen the very unique challenges of remote Aboriginal aged care services. It is very clear that these services need to be improved. Staff training and infrastructure are our priorities in these areas. We are committed to tackling these challenges through our $46 million program.

At Uluru, the older women of Mutitjulu, speaking in Pitjantjatjara through an interpreter, put the case to me for an overnight nursing home facility. In response, we have acted, and we will build overnight staff accommodation so that staff can be there to look after residents. We will continue to consult with and take the advice of Aboriginal communities as we work through the Indigenous aged care plan. In the coming weeks, subject to appropriate community consultation, we will also be providing more aged care places in Mutitjulu and East Arnhem. In addition, we will tackle the problem of overnight staff accommodation at Docker River. This will help retain staff in that area. Also, 11 Aboriginal aged care services will now receive assistance to help them install appropriate protection for elders around open fire pits. This is about finding a delicate balance between cultural sensitivity and ensuring the health and welfare of older and frail Indigenous people. This Indigenous aged care plan addresses long-term staff training and retention. I look forward to further updating the House on how this government is continuing to improve Indigenous aged care.