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Tuesday, 9 September 1958


Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- The fact that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has referred to the Department of Social Services and, in particular, to the provision of homes for the aged, prompts me to say something on this subject, because, every time I look at the Estimates and consider the various religious organizations which deal with this matter, I am more impressed with the work that has been carried out by the Government over the last three-and-a-half years. That work has been due to the fact that the Government was prepared, first, to make available a grant on a £l-for-£l basis to religious and philanthropic organizations which were prepared to look after aged people. As everybody knows, the Government's contribution has been increased from £1 to £2. Looking at item No. 5 of Division No. 225, one sees that during 1957-58, of the amount of £1,800,000 which the Government made available, only £837,895 was used for this purpose. I believe that the reason for this was that most of the religious and philanthropise organizations that have taken a specific interest in this type of social service have not yet realized the extent of the financial assistance that is available for this purpose.

Those organizations are doing an excellent job. The great financial contribution the Government has made towards provision of homes for the aged has, I believe, given fresh encouragement to these religious organizations to carry on this work. The organizations have always contended that a home run properly means more to elderly people than does a hand-out of money. That is where, possibly, I cross swords with the honorable member for Scullin. He seems to think that there is a reluctance on the part of many people, particularly elderly people, to enter one of these homes because of some kind of institutional environment. Well, Sir, the home, with an institutional environment has gone. The penitentiary type of building for elderly people has passed, and a new approach to this problem has been adopted, very largely, I think, as a result of the greater knowledge we have of geriatrics, or the medical care of aged people.

I am particularly impressed by figures which were published recently by the Department of Social Services of the number of grants made, State by State, and the total amount of money provided during the last three and a half years. This Government has made available £3,340,993. Everybody will appreciate that organizations have made available an amount equal to, or in some cases one-half, the amount granted by the Government. The Commonwealth has made available, in all, 263 grants. One of the interesting points appearing from this table provided by the department is that some States have taken a greater interest in this problem than have others. It is very hard to understand why this is the case. My own State has a particular interest in aged persons. Victoria seems to have been provided with more grants than, has any other State, and likewise a greater amount of money. Why that is so, I cannot say. It seems to me that, possibly, other States do not appreciate how much assistance can be provided to aged people under the aged persons' homes legislation.

In the past, admittance to homes for the aged was usually limited to the indigent. The very expression " homes for the aged " implied a form of institutional care, and conjured up in the minds of people a penitentiarytype or bluestone building. But that is past, and to-day we have a different form of treatment. Those persons who have been privileged to visit some of these homes which have been provided under this legislation have been very much impressed. In fact, these days, there is a great desire on the part of old people to get into these homes, not because the homes provide care which they would not otherwise be able to get if they were looking after themselves, but because of the fellowship and the company and the mixing amongst people of their own age.

So I compliment the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the heads of the Department of Social Services for the good work that they are doing, particularly in this direction.' I have a very great respect for those people who work for the Department of Social Services. They have a very difficult job to do. It is probably one of the most difficult tasks in government service to perform, for the simple reason that most people think that they should be more free with their money, while others think that they pay out too much. It is rather interesting to note from a pamphlet received only in the last few days that the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales thinks that the Government is spending too much money on social services. Well, if that is the view of the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales. I am sure it is not the view of the community at large.

The Department of Social Services recently suffered a very great loss in the death of the departmental head, Mr. F. H.

Rowe. His death was a severe blow to the department and to the Public Service generally. Nobody could have a greater interest in his work than he had, or have applied such sympathetic understanding to his task. In fact, I think that even social recipients suffered some loss by his death.

In conclusion, I compliment the Minister for Social Services and the department for doing a good job of work. I sincerely hope that the amount set aside to house aged people will be increased each year, as I believe that this money provides greater assistance for the aged people than anything else that we can do.







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