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Ageing in Australia



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EMBARGOED 1 . 0 0 ' p .’m. E . S . T. 22 O c t o b e r 1982

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THE HON. IAN WILSON, H P .

MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS, .

MINISTER ASSISTING THE MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SECURITY

ADDRESS TO .

W.E.A. SEMINAR

"AGEING IN AUSTRALIA"

ADELAIDE

F r i d a y , 22 Oc t o b e r 1982

EMBARGOED

L a d i e s and g e n t l e m e n ,

I AM VERY PLEASED TO HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE

TO YOUR DISCUSSIONS AT THIS SEMINAR ON "AGEING IN AUSTRALIA"

I KNOW THAT THE SEMINAR HAS BEEN PROMPTED BY THE RECENT

Un i t e d Na t i o n s Wo r l d As s e m b l y on Ag e i n g h e l d i n V i e n n a .

I was a s k e d by Se n a to r Fred Ch a n e y , t h e Mi n i s t e r for So c i a l

Se c u r i t y , to l e a d th e Au s t r a l i a n d e l e g a t i o n to the As s e m b l y .

I BELIEVE THE DELEGATION, WHICH INCLUDED A MIXTURE OF GOVERN

MENT AND NON-GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES, MADE A VALUABLE

CONTRIBUTION TO THE ASSEMBLY'S DELIBERATIONS AND BROUGHT

BACK MANY USEFUL EXPERIENCES AND IDEAS.

The c o n s e q u e n c e s of a g e i n g , so t h o r o u g h l y d i s c u s s e d by th e

As s e m b l y , pose c h a l l e n g e s to th e c o m m u n i t y w h i c h w i l l t a x

THE COMPASSION AND CAPACITY OF US ALL - GOVERNMENTS AT EVERY

LEVEL, VOLUNTARY ORGANISATIONS AND INDIV IDUA LS - IF WE ARE

GOING TO TURN THOSE CONSEQUENCES TO OUR ADVANTAGE. I T WAS

TOWARDS THAT OBJECTIVE, ON A GLOBAL SCALE, THAT THE ASSEMBLY

DIRECTED ITS ATTENTION.

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1 WANT TO USE THI S OCCASION TO SPEAK BRIEFLY ABOUT THE

A s s e m b l y , the c o n t e x t i n w h i c h i t was o r g a n i s e d , the ma tt er s

THAT I T DISCUSSED AND, PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY, ITS IMPLICA

t i o n s for Au s t r a l i a .

I ' m SURE YOU WOULD SHARE THE CONCERN OF ALL THOSE INTERESTED

IN THIS ISSUE THAT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE HAVE THE OPPOR

TUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE THEIR VIEWS AND OPINIONS TO THE GENERAL

DEBATE AS TO HOW BEST TO PUT THE LESSONS OF VIENNA INTO

PRACTICE IN THE AUSTRALIAN CONTEXT. In FACT, TH IS SEMINAR

IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF THAT PROCESS IN ACTION, AND I

CONGRATULATE WEA FOR THEIR I N I T I A T I V E .

Co u l d I j u s t s a y t h a t I b e l i e v e i t i s i m p o r t a n t i n your

DELIBERATIONS NOT ONLY TO PROVIDE COMMONWEALTH AND STATE

GOVERNMENTS WITH YOUR VIEWS AND SUGGESTIONS, BUT ALSO TO

SUBJECT THOSE COMMENTS TO THE D I S C I P L I N E WHICH FACES ANY

GOVERNMENT - THE D I S C I P L I N E OF BALANCING AND RECONCILING

COMPETING DEMANDS ON L I M I T E D RESOURCES IN THE PURSUIT OF

IMPORTANT AND PRESSING OBJECTIVES.

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T he V i e n n a W o rl d A s s e m b l y took p lace i n an e n v i r o n m e n t of

ECONOMIC.AND P O L I T I C A L D I F F I C U L T Y , THOSE D I F F I C U L T I E S HAVE

CAUSED AND TO SOME EXTENT INCREASED E XIS TI NG SOCIAL PRESSURES

THAT ARE BEGINNING TO EMERGE AS A CONSEQUENCE OF AGEING.

Pr o b a b l y t h e m o s t s u c c i n c t summa ry of t h e s i t u a t i o n was

PROVIDED IN THE OPENING PARAGRAPH OF THE DRAFT INTERNATIONAL

Pl a n of Ac t i o n . I s h a l l quot e i t i n f u l l -

" 6 . On l y i n t h e p a s t few d e c a d e s has t h e a t t e n t i o n of

n a t i o n a l s o c i e t i e s a n d t h e world c o m m u n i t y b e e n drawn

to t h e s o c i a l , e c o n o m i c , p o l i t i c a l an d s c i e n t i f i c q u e s t i o n s

RAISED BY THE PHENOMENON OF AGEING ON A MASSIVE SCALE.

Pr e v i o u s l y , w h i l e i n d i v i d u a l s may h av e l i v e d i n t o a d v a n c e d

STAGES OF L I F E , THEIR NUMBERS AND PROPORTION IN THE TOTAL

POPULATION WERE NOT HIGH. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, HOWEVER,

HAS WITNESSED IN MANY REGIONS OF THE WORLD THE CONTROL

OF PERINATAL AND INFANT MORTALITY, A DECLINE IN BIRTH

RATES, IMPROVEMENTS IN N U TR IT IO N, BASIC HEALTH CARE AND

THE CONTROL OF MANY INFECTIOUS DISEASES. T H I S COMBINATION

OF FACTORS HAS RESULTED IN AN INCREASING NUMBER AND

PROPORTION OF PERSONS SURVI VI NG INTO THE ADVANCED STAGES

OF L I F E . "

IT WAS CLEAR DURING THE VIENNA DELIBERATIONS THAT THE TERM

'A G E IN G ' MEANT TWO THINGS - THE AGEING OF INDIVIDUALS AND

THE INCREASING PROPORTION OF AGEING PEOPLE IN THE TOTAL

POPULATION OF IN D IV ID U A L COUNTRIES. THE INTERNATIONAL PLAN

of Ac t i o n , i n r e c o g n i t i o n of t h a t d u a l m e a n i n g was d i v i d e d

INTO HUMANITARIAN AND DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES. THE HUMANITARIAN

ISSUES INCLUDED HEALTH, EDUCATION, SOCIAL WELFARE, HOUSING

AND EMPLOYMENT. ΪΗΕ DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES DEALT WITH THE

EFFECT OF AGEING ON GENERAL ECONOMIC POLICIES AND DIRECTIONS.

The PRESSURES THAT ARISE RELATE TO THAT DUAL MEANING.

F i r s t l y , as p e o p l e become o l d e r i n g r e a t e r n u m b e r s , t h e r e

WILL INCREASINGLY BE PRESSURES ON THE SOCIAL WELFARE INFRA­

STRUCTURE, INCLUDING SUCH ELEMENTS AS HOUSING, HEALTH CARE,

INCOME SECURITY, EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT. SECONDLY, THE

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INCREASING PROPORTION OF AGEING PEOPLE IN THE TOTAL POPU­

LATION WILL INCREASINGLY POSE PROBLEMS FOR OVERALL ECONOMIC

CONDITIONS AND P O LIC IE S , WITH A DIRECT EFFECT ON PRODUCTION,

CONSUMPTION, SAVINGS AND SO ON,

These p r e s s u r e s are a l r e a d y b e i n g f e l t , i n d i f f e r e n t ways

AND WITH VARYING INTENSITY, BY ALL NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD.

The Wo r ld As s e m b l y i n V i e n n a p r o v i d e d a t i m e l y o p p o r t u n i t y

FOR THE WORLD COMMUNITY TO FOCUS ON NOT ONLY THE PRECISE

NATURE AND EXTENT OF THOSE PRESSURES BUT ALSO ON VARIOUS

WAYS OF ALLEVIATING OR EVEN ELIMINATING THEM ALTOGETHER.

AS MOST OF YOU WILL BE AWARE, THE ASSEMBLY DISCUSSED AND

FINALLY ENDORSED AN INTERNATIONAL PLAN OF ACTION WITH RECOM­

MENDATIONS FOR CONSIDERATION BY EACH COUNTRY. THAT PLAN,

WHICH IS NOT YET AVAILABLE, WILL NEED EXTENSIVE DEBATE AND

COMMENT - BUT I SHALL RETURN TO THAT POINT IN A MOMENT.

The As s e m b l y i n a l l i t s d e l i b e r a t i o n s was c o n s c i o u s , above

ALL, OF THREE MAJOR THEMES.

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F i r s t l y , t he a g e i n g t h e m s e l v e s do not r e p r e s e n t a homogenous

GROUP WITH CONCERNS, ASPIRATIONS AND PROBLEMS THAT CAN BE

CONVENIENTLY AND A R T I F I C I A L L Y GROUPED TOGETHER. THE AGEING

AND THE ELDERLY ARE I N D I V I D U A L S WHO MANIFEST A SI MI LA RL Y

WIDE RANGE OF A B I L I T I E S , ASPIRATIONS AND CONCERNS AS WOULD

BE FOUND IN ANY OTHER GROUP OF IND IV ID UA LS IN THE COMMUNITY.

Se c o n d l y , t h e p r e s s u r e s a r i s i n g from t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s of

AGEING WILL BE PLACED TO A LARGE EXTENT ON E XI S TI NG FAMILY

AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT STRUCTURES. INDEED, THE PRESSURES

WILL AFFECT F A M I L I E S AND THE COMMUNITY JUST AS MUCH AS THEY

WILL MECHANISMS WITHIN THE PUBLIC SECTOR. SEEKING NEW AND

BETTER WAYS TO ASS IS T FAMILY AND COMMUNITY GROUPS IN THE

TASK OF PROVIDING CARE AND SUPPORT FOR THE AGEING WILL BE

JUST AS IMPORTANT AS DEVELOPING P O LI CI E S AND PROGRAMS FOR

PUBLIC SECTOR SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE.

And t h i r d l y , t h e As s e m b l y r e c o g n i s e d t h a t to a l a r g e e x t e n t

THERE WAS S T I L L TIME FOR COUNTRIES TO ADDRESS THEMSELVES

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TO THE PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES THAT FACE THEM AS A CONSE­

QUENCE OF THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF AGEING. ΪΗΕ DEMOGRAPHIC

EVIDENCE IS THAT THE CRITICAL PERIOD WILL EMERGE IN THE

FIRST TWO DECADES OF THE NEXT CENTURY.

The As s e m b l y i t s e l f had p r o v i d e d an im p e t u s to and a l e a d

IN THE PROCESS OF FOCUSSING ATTENTION ON A SET OF ISSUES

WHICH POSE ONE OF THE SIGNIFICANT SOCIAL, POLITICAL AND

ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACING MOST NATIONS IN THE REMAINDER

OF THIS CENTURY AND ESPECIALLY THE BEGINNING OF THE NEXT.

Au s t r a l i a ' s fo r m a l c o n t r i b u t i o n to the As s e m b l y was made

IN THE NATIONAL STATEMENT WHICH I DELIVERED AS LEADER OF

. C· .

THE D E L E G A T I O N . I n T H A T S T A T E M E N T , I T R I E D TO G I V E D E L E GA T E S

τ ο t h e A s s e m b l y a n i d e a o f t h e s o r t s o f i s s u e s a n d p r o b l e m s

T HA T WERE F A C I N G A U S T R A L I A AS A CONSEQUENCE OF A G E I N G . I n

P A R T I C U L A R , I H I G H L I G H T E D THREE I S S U E S T H A T , I N THE F U T U R E ,

WOULD POSE PERHA PS THE MOST S I G N I F I C A N T C H A L L E N G E S TO COMMON

w e a l t h , S t a t e a n d l o c a l g o v e r n m e n t s a s w e l l a s t o v o l u n t a r y

O R G A N I S A T I O N S AND I N D I V I D U A L S .

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T hose i s s u e s were the h e a l t h and s o c i a l c o n s e q u e n c e s of

AGEING, THE D I F F I C U L T I E S FACING OUR INCOME SUPPORT SYSTEM

AND THE CHANGEOVER FROM THE PERIOD OF PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT

TO A PERIOD OF LEISURE AND RETIREMENT,

The p r o b l e m s of s u s t a i n i n g our in c o m e s u p p o r t s y s t e m , as

WELL AS EST AB LIS HI NG A MORE SENSIBLE WAY OF MOVING FROM

' w o r k' to ' r e t i r e m e n t ' s e e m to me to p r e s e n t p a r t i c u l a r

CHALLENGES TO THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY.

THE TRANSFER OF INCOME AND RESOURCES BETWEEN THE EARNING

AND NON-EARNING SECTIONS OF THE POPULATION WILL IN THE FUTURE

HAVE TO BE DONE IN A WAY THAT IS BOTH ECONOMICALLY VIABLE

AND WHICH MEETS THE OBJECTIVE OF PROVIDING ADEQUATE RESOURCES

.FOR INCOME FOR, AND SERVICES TO, THE AGED.

A DELEGATE FROM WEST GERMANY, PUT THE POINT MORE FORCEFULLY

BY REFERRING TO WHAT WAS TERMED THE "CONTRACT BETWEEN

g e n e r a t i o n s " . In t h e We s t German c o n t e x t , i t was n o t e d t h a t :

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" I n the ' c o n t r a c t ' b e t we e n g e n e r a t i o n s i t i s a s s u me d t h a t

THE PRESENTLY ACTIVE GENERATION COULD COUNT ON THE

FOLLOWING GENERATION FOR ITS SUPPORT. ΪΗΕ CHANGE IN AGE

STRUCTURE, HOWEVER, HAS PUT A HEAVIER BURDEN ON THE ACTIVE

POPULATION."

Si m i l a r l y , I b e l i e v e we m u s t l ook a t ways i n w h ic h

INDIVIDUALS ARE DESIGNATED AS WORKING OR NOT WORKING SO

THAT, WITH INCREASING F L E X I B I L I T Y , BEING 'O L D ' AS MEASURED

BY AN O F F IC IA L RETIREMENT AGE NEED NOT BE SYNONYMOUS WITH

BEING OF NO USE TO THE COMMUNITY.

These i s s u e s ar e d i s c u s s e d i n more d e t a i l i n th e s t a t e m e n t

to the As s e m b l y , c o p i e s of w h i c h I h av e br o u g h t w i t h me

SO THAT DELEGATES TO THIS SEMINAR CAN STUDY IT AT MORE

LENGTH.

I HAVE ALSO BROUGHT TODAY COPIES OF THE REPORT FROM THE

Au s t r a l i a n d e l e g a t i o n to th e Mi n i s t e r for So c i a l Se c u r i t y ,

who i s c u r r e n t l y c o n s i d e r i n g t h e r e p o r t .

10

The r e p o r t c o v e r s i n some d e t a i l the b a c kg r o u n d to the

As s e m b l y , the way i n w h ic h the I n t e r n a t i o n a l Pl a n of Ac t i o n

WAS DEVELOPED AND DISCUSSED, THE AUSTRALIAN PERSPECTIVE

AGAINST WHICH THE DELEGATION PROVIDED ITS CONTRIBUTION,

THE MAJOR THEMES OF THE ASSEMBLY AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR

Au s t r a l i a of th e outcome of the As s e m b l y ' s w o r k . I hope

THAT YOU WILL ALL BE ABLE TO READ THE REPORT WHICH PROVIDES

NOT ONLY SOME USEFUL INFORMATION BUT ALSO SOME INTERESTING

IDEAS AND COMMENTS FOR DISCUSSION AND COMMENT, . .·

In g e n e r a l t e r m s , of c o u r s e , th e i m p l i c a t i o n s for Au s t r a l i a

ARE CLEAR ENOUGH. W e L IV E IN A COMMUNITY IN WHICH THE NUMBERS

OF AGEING AND ELDERLY ARE BECOMING AN INCREASING PROPORTION

OF THE TOTAL POPULATION, AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS

ESTIMATES SHOW THAT THOSE AGED 65 OR OVER WIL L COMPRISE

11 . 7% OF THE TOTAL POPULATION BY 2001, COMPARED TO 9 . 6%

i n 1980. Th a t m e a n s t h a t t h e r e w i l l be a g r o w i n g d em an d

ON AN INCOME SUPPORT SYSTEM INTO WHICH, FOR A VARIETY OF

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REASONS, FEWER PEOPLE WILL BE CONTRIBUTING THROUGH TAXATION.

It MEANS AS WELL THAT F A M IL IE S , OFTEN SMALLER AND MORE GEO­

GRAPHICALLY DISPERSED, WILL HAVE MORE ELDERLY RELATIVES

TO CARE FOR. .

The SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT i n WHICH WE l i v e i s

DEFINED, TO A LARGE EXTENT, BY THOSE WHO DEVELOP AND

IMPLEMENT POLICIES AND SERVICES, COVERING THE WIDE RANGE

FROM TAXATION AND SOCIAL SECURITY TO HOUSING, HEALTH,

EDUCATION AND TRANSPORT.

IT IS ALSO DEFINED, OF COURSE, BY THE ATTITUDES AND STANDARDS

OF INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS THEMSELVES.

The i m a g i n a t i o n of th o s e p u b l i c p l a n n e r s and p o l i c y

DEVELOPERS WILL BE PUT TO THE TEST INCREASINGLY AS WE SEEK

TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THE AGEING WILL BE ABLE

TO LIVE INDEPENDENTLY AND WITH D IG N IT Y , CONTRIBUTING WHERE

POSSIBLE TO THE L IF E AND DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR COMMUNITIES.

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B ut the c a p a c i t y of the p l a n n e r s to make sure t h a t the a g e i n g .

FACE A FUTURE OF FULFILMENT AND CONTENTMENT RATHER THAN

DECLINE AND DESPAIR DEPENDS ON THE EXTENT TO WHICH OTHERS

WITHIN THE COMMUNITY ASSESS THEIR OWN P RIO R ITIE S AND SO

CONTRIBUTE TO A REDUCTION IN SELFISH DEMANDS WHICH SO OFTEN

TAKE THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO PUT COMPASSION INTO ACTION.

I f IT WERE POSSIBLE TO SUM UP THE CHALLENGE IN ONE SENTENCE,

IT MIGHT BE THAT WE ALL HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT THE AGEING

- WHICH INCLUDES ALL THOSE WHO ARE GROWING OLD, NOT JUST

THE ELDERLY THEMSELVES - ARE NOT CONSIDERED TO BE A BURDEN

BUT RATHER, A V IT A L PART OF OUR COMMUNITY.

I WAS PARTICULARLY INTERESTED AND PLEASED TO NOTE THAT IN

HIS RECENT POLICY SPEECH, THE PREMIER DAVID TONKIN ANNOUNCED

h i s Go v e r n m e n t ' s i n t e n t i o n to e s t a b l i s h a Bu reau for t h e

Ag e i n g a n d to e x p a n d p e n s i o n e r s e r v i c e s an d c o n c e s s i o n s .

I LOOK forward to h e a r i n g f u r t h e r d e t a i l s of t h e s e i m p o r t a n t

I N I T I A T I V E S WHICH I KNOW JOHN BURDETT, THE MINISTER FOR

Co m m u n i t y We l f a r e , w i l l be r e l e a s i n g s o o n .

13

I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THE CHALLENGE I HAVE OUTLINED WILL

BE MET, BY THE CONCERTED AND CO-OPERATIVE EFFORTS OF ALL

i n v o l v e d . Wh i c h b r i n g s me ba c k to t h i s s e m i n a r . The l i k e l i ­

hood OF SUCCEEDING IN THIS V ITAL TASK WILL BE SIGNIFICANTLY

INCREASED IF WE ALL SEEK TO MEET OUR OBJECTIVE WHILE

RECOGNISING THE L IM I T S WHICH, AS REPRESENTATIVES OF ALL

INTERESTS IN THE COMMUNITY, INEVITABLY FACE ALL GOVERNMENTS.

It i s a l w a y s e a s y to say WHAT we w a n t , to MAKE DEMANDS AND

TO ARTICULATE A PERSUASIVE AND ALLURING IDEAL. It IS MUCH

MORE D IF F IC U L T TO DEFINE THE PATH OF PUBLIC POLICY AND

PRIVATE COMMITMENT THAT WILL HELP US IN THE REAL WORLD TO

REALISE THAT IDEAL. ΪΗΑΤ IS THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE FACING

US ALL.

AS FAR AS THE VIENNA WORLD ASSEMBLY IS CONCERNED, THAT

PROCESS WILL BEGIN IN EARNEST ONCE THE INTERNATIONAL PLAN

of Ac t i o n , w h ic h has y e t to be a d o p t e d by t h e Un i t e d Na t i o n s

Ge n e r a l As s e m b l y , i s a v a i l a b l e . Once i t i s , Sen a to r Ch a n e y

HAS TOLD ME. THAT HE INTENDS TO CIRCULATE IT WIDELY THROUGHOUT

THE COMMUNITY TO ENABLE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO HAVE

AN INPUT INTO DECIDING THE MOST PRACTICAL AND EFFECTIVE

WAY OF RECONCILING THE RECOMMENDATIONS WITH THE

CIRCUMSTANCES, PRESSURES AND DEMANDS THAT EX IS T IN AUSTRALIA,

The Co m m o n w e a l t h Go v e r n m e n t i s c o m m i t t e d to t h a t v i t a l

PROCESS OF CONSULTATION, A COMMITMENT WHICH I'M SURE WILL

BE MATCHED BY THE QUALITY AND SINCERITY OF THE ADVICE IT

WILL RECEIVE.

Once a g a i n , I c o n g r a t u l a t e WEA for o r g a n i s i n g t h i s s e m i n a r

AND FOR T H IS OPPORTUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR DISCUSSION.