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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8077


Ms JACKSON (3:04 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Ageing. What is the government response to community concerns about the quality of aged care for Indigenous communities?


Mrs ELLIOT (Minister for Ageing) —I thank the member for Hasluck for her question. Earlier today the Australian government detailed a plan to improve aged care for remote Indigenous communities. It includes, for the first time, a set of standards applied to these unique aged-care services in remote communities. In addition, we are providing a $46.2 million program for staff, locum relief and emergency capital works on facilities. Nationally, there are 30 Indigenous specialist aged care services providing about 700 places. It is time that the Australian government started to improve the care for frail and aged Indigenous Australians. When it comes to life expectancy, there is a 17-year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and the Rudd government is committed to closing the gap within a generation by taking practical steps to improve the health status and social and economic wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. This plan is about providing proper care for older Indigenous people while still being respectful to their cultural needs. We will consult with and take the advice of Indigenous communities and the Indigenous aged care sector.

I would also like to make a few comments about the tragic death of Dulcie Brumby, which occurred on 14 June 2007 at Docker River, which is 670 kilometres by road south-west of Alice Springs. This was an appalling tragedy. Dulcie Brumby was 70 years old and in an Indigenous aged care service. That night she was unsupervised and fell into an open pit fire. She subsequently died at Alice Springs Hospital. Her death has been the subject of a report by Northern Territory Deputy Coroner Dr Celia Kemp.

On behalf of the Australian government, I extend our condolences to the family of Dulcie Brumby. This afternoon, I asked the independent Aged Care Commissioner, Ms Rhonda Parker, to personally conduct an assessment of the Department of Health and Ageing’s handling of the Docker River aged-care death. It is imperative that we act to improve aged-care services for older Indigenous Australians, and that is what the government has outlined today.