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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4426

Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (09:45): I rise today to speak about the crisis in aged care and to advocate for so many of my older constituents who contact me about the failure of the government in supplying them with the home care packages that they need. We are incredibly lucky to live in a country like Australia, where we have both a belief in the community that we need to look after one another and also the resources in our country to provide people with a level of dignity when they fall ill or attain a disability, and also in aged care. The current government is utterly failing to live up to that responsibility. I see it for the constituents who frequently walk through the door of my electorate office.

There are more than 100,000 people on the waiting list for a home care package today. Close to 79,000 older Australians waiting for these packages have high-care needs. Many of these older Australians have dementia. They are not getting the care that they need, and this is totally unacceptable. The average wait time for level 3 and 4 home care packages for the highest level of care has blown out to 12 months and beyond. I ask: how are we expecting these elderly Australians to survive while they are waiting for the packages that they have already been determined as eligible for? Some older Australians will receive interim low-level care packages, but there are almost 700 older Australians who have been waiting for more than a year without receiving any care at all and, even worse, some 300 who are on the national prioritisation queue but have been waiting more than two years. I believe that our older Australians deserve better treatment than this.

I'm sure that all of us in this chamber are in the same position—we receive frequent, and sometimes heartbreaking, requests for help with this matter. I want to talk about some constituents I represent—Mr and Mrs Dao, who are in desperate need of assistance. Mr Dao is a 92-year-old who is frail and suffering memory loss. He was approved for a level 4 care package on 17 June 2016. He contacted my office when he had been told he had to wait an additional six to nine months. It would have meant waiting 2½ years from the time of the approval of his high-care package till he actually received the support that he deserved. His wife was his carer. She is 88 years old and is suffering her own issues. They were not able to get assistance until I advocated for them to the minister. It shouldn't have to take the intervention of a local member of parliament to provide these elderly people with the assistance that they need and deserve.

I need to note that the federal government's recent budget was a complete hoax in how it approached dealing with this issue. The government proposed to implement 3,400 new places a year. The waiting list grew by 20,000 in the last six months alone. It's not enough and it doesn't show these elderly Australians the respect that they deserve.