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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 683


Senator PATTERSON (7.01 p.m.) —I rise to speak on the report Working together. Like Senator Tambling, I too will be fascinated to see Mr Burdekin's response to this report. I think he will be absolutely outraged that all the work he put into his report has been treated in such a cursory way.

  Page 31 of the report that deals with older people is totally inadequate. Mr Burdekin's main findings on the elderly were that dementia should legally be considered as a mental illness; that many people in psycho-geriatric wards of public hospitals would be more appropriately placed in nursing homes; and that nursing homes should be avoided for placing people with psychiatric illnesses—not those suffering dementia but other psychiatric illnesses.

  The report also highlighted concern about the design and adequacy of nursing homes for caring for people with dementia. The RCI classification for determining the level of dependency in nursing homes did not take into account mental disabilities or dementia. Residents' rights did not apply to state public nursing homes. Mr Burdekin expressed concern about the number of nursing home residents given night sedatives, and claimed that dementia-specific facilities are more humane and cost effective.

  There is no mention in this report of the current plight of dementia specific units and of the great need for more of those facilities. Mr Burdekin spoke at length about the importance of special dementia facilities. However, it seems that this government is absolutely opposed to the idea and wants no more of them. It is appalling that the calls from the industry and Mr Burdekin have fallen on deaf ears in the government.

  Further, Mr Burdekin's report claimed that family care breakdown is a primary cause of institutionalisation. There is nothing in this report to address that. Mr Burdekin also claimed that the tax system discriminated against people with dementia living at home and people with paid carers living at home. I cannot see that addressed anywhere in this report.

  Mr Burdekin advocated an integrated and flexible approach to community care for people with dementia. I do not believe that has been addressed in the report. He also outlined a lack of community care resources in rural areas. There is a hint of that in this report with the increase in funding for Aboriginal facilities, but there is nothing in this report about the issues associated with aged people living in rural areas.

  Mr Burdekin also pointed out the inadequacy and inflexibility of day care, and that issue has not been addressed in the report. He pointed out the need for in-home respite care for people with dementia. That has not been addressed here. He spoke about inadequate and poorly coordinated information for carers, and that has not been addressed either. He also mentioned the need for support for local brokerage officers for community care, and I do not believe that issue has been addressed.

  Mr Burdekin claimed that responsibility for the mentally ill elderly falls between departments and that aged services should be put under one budget. The government has not addressed that factor. As Senator Tambling said, normally the government goes through reports that are put before it giving reasons why it has not accepted the report's recommendations. I am not necessarily saying that all of Mr Burdekin's recommendations should have been accepted. However, we have no reason from the government for rejecting the recommendations. The government has just cobbled together a few things that it dragged out from the budget which had something to do with mental health and said, `There's our response to it.' I think Mr Burdekin will be staggered, and I hope that he takes the government to task, as we will continually, for failing to adequately address the issues.

  As for my other portfolio responsibility of women, the same argument applies. One issue, for example, that I have just had time to pick out is that Mr Burdekin recommended the establishment of a specialist post-natal depression clinic. That does not appear in the report—it is nowhere to be seen. Obviously we are to forget that. He also said that there should be pilot early intervention programs, and there is scant reference to that. There is mention of only one of the four major areas in which Mr Burdekin would like to see the establishment of such pilot programs for women. Even then, the issue is just glossed over in this document.

  While the Burdekin report recommends that a pilot early intervention program should be undertaken to examine the links between violence, abuse and mental illness, the government has only committed itself to establishing a national group to raise awareness of the issue. That is not what Mr Burdekin was reporting. This report fails in respect of older people and also in having regard to the needs of women. From the point of the Australian community, the government has failed totally in its response to the very grave matters raised in the Burdekin report.