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Launch of As Time Goes By - Continuing the Commitment: an aged care policy for the veteran community, 7 June 1995: speech



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Speech by

The Hon Con Sciacca MP Minister for Veterans' Affairs

at the launch of

As Time Goes By - Continuing The Committment

An Aged Care Policy for the Veteran Community

7 June 1995

Parliamentary colleagues, Major General Digger James - National President of the RSL, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

During the last 100 years, Australians have distinguished

themselves in a number of conflicts around the world. Many have lost their lives, leaving behind family and loved ones, many more have returned to Australia carrying scars that have effected them emotionally and physically. Others have survived with no ill-effects from their war service and re-entered Australian life to make valuable contributions to our society.

They are all brave men and women who made a commitment to defend this country and its Allies in their hour of greatest need. That commitment, that they have so amply demonstrated over

the years, cannot be measured by statistics nor dollars and cents;

it is an indefinable notion that comes from the human spirit.

The majority of them, both veterans and war widows, are entering their senior years. They have served their country with honour and valour. It is now time for us to demonstrate that same commitment to them so they can live with dignity and

quality of care that reflects their contribution to our country.

Ladies and gentlemen, that commitment is why we are here

today. I am honoured to launch this morning a very important

document that will set out the Federal Government's aged care policy for the veteran community entitled AS TIME GOES BY:

Continuing the Commitment. It clearly outlines the direction

that the Government has and will undertake to ensure that our

veteran community receives the highest possible standard of

care. It is, quite simply, a guarantee for the future to ensure that Australian Governments honour the nation's debt to these people.

It is a fact, that the average age of the Australian population is increasing. The veteran community forms a substantial proportion of this country's aged population. Almost one quarter

of Australian males over 65 years are veterans and 7 per cent of

women over that age are veterans and war widows. My department, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, provides assistance to a total of 536,000 veterans, widows and other dependents.

Between 1994 and 2001 the number of people in Australia aged 75 or older is projected to increase by 29 per cent. Over the same period the number of veterans and dependents aged 75 or older will increase by 76 per cent - a rate just over two and a

half times that of the general community.

Clearly, it is incumbent upon the Government to respond to the increasing needs of this special group of people.

This document represents a landmark development in aged care

policy for the veteran community. Instead of adopting a

piecemeal approach of addressing issues as they arise, for the

first time since the formation of the Department of Veterans'

Affairs in 1918, the Federal Government has formulated a co­

ordinated aged care approach for the veterans community.

Through extensive surveys and research, and consultations with ex-service organisations, aged care service providers and staff from the Department of Veterans' Affairs we have identified eight priority areas of need. We affirm our commitment to veterans and their dependents in these priority areas. We will provide:

• health care through access to high quality services; • health promotion through programs to assist people to improve their quality of life; • home care and support through more support to allow people

to stay in their own homes longer; • housing and residential aged care through better housing choices and access to high quality residential care services; • retirement income through adequate levels of financial

security; • support for carers through more support for carers of veterans and war widows; • support for ex-service organisations through increased

support for ex-service organisations to provide their welfare and aged care services; and • information and communication through better information on aged care issues by the Department to the veteran

community.

In pursuing these objectives, the Government is clearly enunciating to the veteran community the level of care and support that they can expect to receive from the Department of

Veterans' Affairs over the next 10 years and beyond.

Within the Government's $6.2 billion Budget for Veterans'

Affairs, there is a comprehensive array of support and services in the area of aged care. However, as I stated earlier, this is the first time we have taken a co-ordinated approach to the delivery

of these services.

This aged care policy has been developed in the context of the broader aged care framework for all Australians. Aged care services are funded and delivered by a wide range of government and community based organisations. It is therefore

critical that the Department of Veterans' Affairs engage other

Commonwealth government departments which provide important services to the veteran community.

In 1994, myself and the Minister for Human Services and

Health, Carmen Lawrence, established the Joint Ministerial Taskforce to Investigate Specialist Veterans' Aged Care Services. The Taskforce was established in response to concerns in the veteran community about equitable access to mainstream health and welfare services. The ex-service community was

widely consulted and contributed very constructively to the

process.

The Taskforce made 26 recommendations, the two major ones

being:

• the recognition of veterans as a special community of interest

in aged care planning; and • the establishment of a three tier consultation process between

my department, the Department of Human Services and Health and, importantly, ex-service organisations to develop aged care priorities at the national, state and local level.

These recommendations are incorporated in the overall strategies outlined in the aged care policy.

The magnitude of the Government's commitment to the aged care needs of the veteran community is reflected in the 1995/96

Budget. $50 million over five years will be used to fund a range of aged care services for the veteran community. Major Budget

initiatives included:

• the allocation of over $20 million to help meet the needs of veterans and war widows in aged accommodation and within

their own homes by:

- making available funds to ex-service organisations to improve their residential care facilities; and - increasing the availability of community aged care services through a seeding grants program; • the expansion of the Hostel Development Scheme to include

a more flexible range of assistance in residential aged care;

• increasing the health care entitlements of more than 140,000

veterans and their dependents through the simplification of

the Health Care Entitlement Card system;

• the extension of travel assistance to all veterans and

dependents who are receiving treatment through the Department of Veterans' Affairs; and • the establishment of the Veterans' Affairs Financial Information Service which will provide free advice on a

range of financial issues of interest to veterans.

The Taskforce and Budget initiatives represent the first steps

towards achieving the aims of the aged care policy.

One of the primary aims of this policy is to promote healthy living in the veteran community. Through preventative care we can help avoid where possible the premature onset of conditions normally associated with ageing and premature reliance on acute and institutional care. We will work with

community organisations to develop programs and materials to assist members of the veteran community to maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible.

We have already been successful with joint initiatives with such agencies as Quit Victoria and the National Heart Foundation. In

addition, we are currently working with the Australian Sports Commission to encourage greater participation by veterans, war widows and their carers in sport and physical activities. We

have also developed a joint initiative with the Arthritis Foundation for a pilot self-management program.

I should also point out that my department has taken a leading

role in the development of innovative health care policies in

recent times - that not only benefit veterans, but also the wider community. I specifically refer to the work we have undertaken in the fields of dementia care and provider education, treatment

of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, wound management, Medi- Whyz - a drug education and awareness program and a rural satellite program which assist doctors in country and regional

areas.

I fully expect that my department will continue this leading role

as a result of the release of this policy.

In many ways this policy would not have been possible without the co-operation and input of ex-service organisations. If it were not for the expression of concerns by these organisations for the health and well-being of their members to me over the last 15 months, the development of this policy may not have occurred.

The ex-service organisations have in the past, and will continue to play, an important role in providing residential aged care, welfare advocacy and hospital visiting services.

As is clearly stated in this policy, the Government will work in partnership with the ex-service community to develop and deliver appropriate aged care services to the veteran community.

8

The bulk of our veteran community served during the Second

World War. This year is obviously an important anniversary in

their lives. Today they face a different challenge to the one they faced more than 50 years ago. The release of AS TIME GOES

BY: Continuing The Commitment - An Age Care Policy For The Veteran Community gives the assurance that they need not age without proper care, compensation and compassion.

Thank you