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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 562

Dr Cass asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 April 1980:

(   1 ) What actions has his Department taken to alert immigrants to the dangers of using pharmaceutical products such as (a) barbiturates, (b) opiates, (c) hallucinogens, (d) morphine derivatives, (e) codein derivatives and (0 other addictive or hallucinogenic drugs.

(2)   Do warnings in languages other than English appear on any pharmaceutical products manufactured in Australia.

(3)   Is he able to state what the situation is in European countries as far as the language of warnings and descriptions of the contents of various pharmaceuticals is concerned.

(4)   In which hospitals, health centres or clinics under his responsibility are there bi-lingual signs and directories posted.

(5)   In what hospitals, health centres and clinics are there any bi- or multi-lingual persons working at the information desks.

(6)   What action is taken by his Department to cater for the specific needs of aged and newly arrived immigrants.

(7)   What is the country of birth, the level of employment and status (e.g. permanent, temporary) of the employees of his Department.

(8)   In which hospitals, health centres and clinics are persons employed as: (a) domestic staff, (b) cleaners, (c) kitchen staff, (d) tradesmen, (e) catering staff and (f) other nonprofessionals used as translators and interpreters.

(9)   How many of the patients (a) admitted to hospitals, (b) treated in private clinics within hospitals, (c) treated in health centres, (d) treated in out-patients departments of hospitals, (e) referred for specialist consultation in hospitals, (f) examined in radiology departments and (g) in other specialist clinics were born in (i) Australia and (ii) other countries.

Mr MacKellar - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   No actions are specifically directed at migrants, but of course the Drug Education Program is directed at the total Australian community. The responsibility to alert migrants to the dangers of using pharmaceutical products is generally assumed by the pharmacist dispensing the prescription.

The Poisons Schedule Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH & MRC) is currently reviewing the many problems associated with multilingual labelling of a miscellany of hazardous chemicals, including drugs and pesticides. The Poisons Schedule Committee would welcome advice from the honourable member if he is aware of significant problems in this regard.

(2)   Not to any appreciable extent, although at least four Australian pharmaceutical manufacturers use additional nonEnglish labelling for specific products they consider need this extra information. Furthermore it is usual for pharmacists in districts with a sizeable component of non-English speaking customers to employ some staff who are fluent in the relevant language.

As stated in (1) the Poisons Schedule Committee is currently examining aspects of multi-lingual labelling of poisons and hazardous substances.

Multi-lingual warnings are not mandatory given that they could be required in over fifty languages. In localities with a high proportion of a specific nationality some drug companies may provide bilingual labels with the pharmacist usually making the decision as to whether their use is appropriate.

(3)   No.

(4)   The Commonwealth Government has an agreement with each State Government and the Northern Territory under which the Commonwealth Government meets 50 per cent of the agreed net operating costs of each State's recognised (public) hospitals. While the Government makes this significant contribution and has an equal voice with each State in determining aggregate budgets, the provision and administration of an effective hospital service in each State and the Northern Territory is the responsibility of the respective State or Northern Territory Government. The only hospitals for which the Federal Minister is responsible are those in the Australian Capital Territory and the position in these hospitals follows:

Bilingual signs and directories are not used in the Woden Valley, Royal Canberra or Calvary Hospitals. Some universally recognised signs such as those indicating rest rooms are used. The Telephone Interpreter Service sign is on display at the three hospitals.

Under administrative arrangements applying to the Community Health Program, Commonwealth payments are by way of block grant allocations to the States and the Northern Territory. The State and Territory health authorities have the responsibility for the detailed administration of the Program.

The only health centres for which the Federal Minister is responsible are those in the Australian Capital Territory and the position in these centres follows:

All the Capital Territory Health Commission health centres, of which there are nine at the present time, display the Telephone Interpreter Service sign. In some cases this is the only bi- or multi-lingual sign. No health centre provides bilingual directories. Health information pamphlets are on display in various community languages at some health centres.

(5)   Australian Capital Territory. In Calvary Hospital there are no bi- or multi-lingual persons working at information desks. In Royal Canberra and Woden Valley Hospitals there are staff employed at information desks and in-patient reception and service areas who are bi- or multi-lingual, but the rostering of such staff is not such as to ensure that bi- or multilingual staff are always on duty.

Two health centres have multi-lingual receptionists and bilingual staff work within other centres.

The Commission has recently employed an adviser on ethnic affairs to provide advice on these matters.

(6)   The Department of Health endeavours to cater for the needs of aged and newly arrived migrants in the following ways:

(i)   Providing multi-lingual publications on a variety of health services and topics, e.g.

Tuberculosis; 1 979 Health Benefits Changes;

Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefits;

Quarantine in Australia:

Nutrition (Posters)

Further publications on Emergency Medical Aid and Health and Medical Services in Australia are shortly to be printed.

(ii)   Funding of various State activities under the Community Health Program.

My Department has recognised the need to be wellinformed about the needs of older migrants, particularly in regard to their health care, and has collected a considerable amount of material and statistical data on this subject.

Other Departments, including the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, have contributed to this information bank which is being used, inter alia, to formulate guidelines for use when such matters as hospital facilities and nursing home licences are being considered.

My colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, has a responsibility for providing services for the needs of the ethnic aged and newly arrived migrants. These services include:

Settlement Sections providing personal counselling, community consultation and general assistance to migrants from outlets in the Department's Regional Offices located in all capital cities and some district centres such as Wollongong, Geelong, Townsville and Parramatta (approx. 250 personnel are involved).

The Telephone Interpreter Service which now extends throughout Australia (approx. 70,000 calls will be received during 1980).

The Grant-in-Aid Scheme to enable ethnic or other voluntary organisations to employ social welfare workers to assist ethnic communities.

Migrant Project Subsidy Scheme: 'Once only' grants up to $5,000 to ethnic or other voluntary organisations to assist with welfare or welfare-related projects.

Translations units provide assistance to new arrivals to facilitate their settlement. This service is extended to other government authorities needing translation of information material having a bearing on migrant welfare.

Education services: The Adult Migrant Education Program provides English language courses and information about Australia to persons from non-English speaking backgrounds. The Program is at present being reshaped to place a major emphasis on education provisions for new arrivals following the Government's acceptance of the Galbally Report. Elderly migrants are eligible to participate in all of the Program's activities depending upon their needs. Studies of the needs of migrants for English language teaching are at present in various stages of completion in all States and the Australian Capital Territory. The studies which result from Galbally Recommendation 10 (i.e. survey the needs of migrants for English language teaching and collect information from which future program development can proceed) are expected to provide more precise information on the extent and nature of needs, including those of elderly persons.

Funding for the Program nationally has increased substantially in recent years as is shown by the following expenditure and appropriation figures:


Special Grants have been approved by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to assist the ethnic aged as follows:

Grant-in-Aid Scheme: A total of 89 grants-in-aid have been allocated of which 1 1 have been made specifically to service aged migrants each at a cost of approximately $15,000 p.a. Appropriation for grants to assist older migrants in the present trienniumwere:


Grants to the following organisations have been approved to date:

New South Wales- Co.As.It. (Italian Assistance Association), Council on the Ageing of New South Wales, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Polish Welfare Bureau.

Victoria - Aust. German Welfare Association, Aust. Greek Welfare Society, Catholic Dutch Migrant Association, Co.As.It. (Italian Assistance Society).

South Australia- Ethnic Communities Council.

Western Australia - Council on the Ageing of Western Australia.

Queensland - Polonia- Polish Association of Queensland.

Migrant Project Subsidy Scheme: In 1978-79 forty-eight grants were made with a further 28 made to date. Five grants were allocated specifically for aged migrants amounting to $18,000..

(7)   Within the Department of Health there are some 4,264 permanent officers and 351 temporary employees. The numbers in each Division are as follows:


Details of the country of birth of staff are on individual personal files and not in a central record. It would be a major task to search the personal file of every Departmental officer throughout Australia to obtain this information and I am not prepared to commit Departmental resources and funds of this order to undertake the very large task involved.

(8)   Australian Capital Territory. From time to time, staff referred to in (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) are used as interpreters in emergency situations in Woden Valley and Royal Canberra Hospitals, but not in Calvary Hospital. The Telephone Interpreter Service is used by the three hospitals. All health centres use the Telephone Interpreter Service and, when available, non-professional staff such as clerical assistants and receptionists. Also patients are relied on to bring a relative or friend to interpret for them. In some centres the presence of a bilingual professional obviates the need for an interpreter when the patient and the professional speak the same language.

(9)   Australian Capital Territory. The Capital Territory Health Commission records the country of birth of patients admitted to hospitals and of patients treated at health centres, but this information is not collated centrally until the patients are discharged or die.

The most recent figures on discharges and deaths available are for the year 1977 and show the following distribution:


In respect of (b), (d), (e), (f) and (g) no data are available because no record of the information required is maintained for any of the hospitals.

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