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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4964

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (20:20): I rise to support the private member's motion moved by the member for Shortland. The quality of life for elderly Australians is particularly important in my electorate, being one of the most multicultural and diverse electorates in Australia and having one of the largest ageing communities. Aging an integral part of the lifecycle and nothing is quite so complicated by cultural and linguistic sensitivities as caring for elderly people and their complex needs. Helping older people to stay in their own homes is an important aim of the government's aged-care reform package. That very much accords with the cultural practices and preferences of the many communities that make up my electorate of Calwell.

Many of my constituents live in multigenerational households where care of all family members, from babies and young children to elderly grandparents and great-grandparents, is considered a natural function of the extended family. However, in our modern, time pressured and finance pressured society, this is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain without proper support and quality community services. Sometimes it is not possible to maintain, and aged-care facilities that can cater to the needs of people from different cultural backgrounds are a vital community resource.

As we all know, ageing brings with it a returning emphasis and reliance on the mother tongue. Older people, no matter how fluently they have acquired a second and subsequent language during their lifetimes, tend to feel most comfortable in their original language as they grow older. It is vital that we are sensitive to this fact when planning and providing services to older Australians of non-English speaking backgrounds. How much more important is it when we are caring for Australians who migrated to this country, often in traumatic and difficult circumstances in their later years, never having had the chance to acquire fluent English? Their needs for culturally and linguistically specific services are even greater.

By way of example, I wish to draw the House's attention to the needs of the Arabic-speaking communities in our country, a significant number of whom live in my electorate. Arabic is, according to the ABS data, in the top five most common languages other than English spoken in Australian households. It is spoken not just by people who have migrated from Middle Eastern countries but also by people from a number of African nations, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. Arabic speakers can be Muslim, Christian and other religions as well, each with their own specific cultural needs. Many families from the Assyrian and Chaldean communities in Iraq, who themselves are quite recent arrivals, have sponsored their elderly parents and grandparents to be with them in Australia and have very immediate needs for aged-care services and support. To this end, I would like to commend the Victorian Arabic Social Services, who have done a great job with fairly limited resources in bringing together existing mainstream aged-care services with a wide variety of Arabic-speaking communities to ensure a mutual relationship of trust and understanding. I hope that they will be able to continue to work into the future.

Under the Labor government's well-pitched aged-care reform package, needs such as I have outlined above are recognised and support made available under the Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grants Fund. These grants are intended to help community organisations ensure that quality services are made available to all those who need it so that they can grow old with dignity and with as much independence as possible and with a quality of life that befits all of our community elders. Importantly however, I want to reiterate the importance of the Living Longer, Living Better aged-care reform package which makes it easier for older Australians to stay in their homes. I also want to acknowledge the very important work that the government is doing in developing appropriate aged-care policies for the large ageing migrant communities, particularly the Italian and the Greek communities which are amongst the largest of those ageing communities. For too many years the previous federal government had been absent in this policy area, so I welcome this government's focus and commitment.

And just to illustrate the importance of the ageing of the Italian and Greek communities, on Saturday I was at the National Institute for Social Assistance Conference, which is a service provided for the Italian community, and I can inform the House that the Italian community in particular is looking very, very closely at the government's formation of policy in relation to caring for the needs of the ageing Italian community. I would like to commend the work of Mr Pino Migliorino, who is the chair of FECCA and an executive member of INAS, who will play a central role in representing and advocating the needs of elderly Australians with an Italian background. (Time expired)