Aged Care Roundtable with Senator Janet Rice

Attendees with Senator Janet Rice at the roundtable.

In October 2022, Aged Care Reform Now was approached by Senator Janet Rice’s Office (Vic, Greens) with the idea of a Roundtable conference on aged care reform. The attendees would be individual advocates and smaller groups who did not have the lobbying power of the providers or bigger organisations. Senator Janet Rice holds the Aged Care portfolio for the Greens.

This opportunity was the result of conversations and correspondence led by Amina Schipp and Yvonne Buters around May 2021 with Senator Rachel Siewert (WA, Greens), who held the aged care portfolio and Senator Jordon Steele-John (WA, Greens). Amina and Yvonne were instrumental in bringing the group together.

The roundtable took place at Parliament House, Canberra on 10th March.

28 people participated in total, in person and online, as individuals and advocacy group representatives. Alongside Aged Care Reform Now was:

The focus of discussion was what a human rights based Aged Care Act should include and the changes advocates believe are needed to enshrine a high standard of care into the Aged Care Act.

Discussion of key elements in a human rights approach to aged care:

  • That Aged Care legislation be guided by existing international and Australian human rights laws and conventions
  • Active and well-funded national independent advocacy service, and for older people to have the right to access advocates
  • Ongoing and proper representation of older people and their carers in decision-making
  • Rights-based training for care workers
  • Right to wellbeing, access to healthcare, choice, safety, dignity and respect, human contact, to access community,
  • Right to medical access and appropriate care e.g. access to allied health
  • Right to legal representation, legal appeal, enforceable remedies, civil and criminal penalties
  • Apology for past bad treatment
  • And more…

Key changes discussed for a new regulatory model for aged care:

  • Overhaul of regulator with stringent regulations for transparency
  • Mechanisms to monitor and enforce rights, a framework for enforceable claims for breach of provider responsibilities
  • The rights of residents and users of aged care services be  enforceable with penalties for breaches
  • New Act should be co-designed with older people and their carers
  • Embed supported decision making
  • Implementation of Royal Commission recommendations
  • Effective whistleblower protection
  • Older people be awarded equivalent standards, staffing resources and rights as those receiving healthcare in other settings
  • And more…

Outcomes of the round table

  • Senator Janet Rice forwarded a joint statement and letter on behalf of all the advocates which was sent to Minister Anika Wells.
  • The advocates present agreed to form a loose coalition to join our voices together – Community of Aged Rights Advocates (CARA). So far we have had two meetings and are working on our readiness to reply to the Government’s upcoming consultation period on the new Aged Care Act. Watch this space!

There was a shared recognition that the current market-based model does not work and that the focus needs to be on the rights of older people using both residential and home care, not the profit of providers. Many present talked to the need for the deinstitutionalisation of residential care, moving away from a market-based model towards a community-led system underpinned by care and caring relationships.

We want to thank and acknowledge the ACRN Committee Members who attended in person, Amina Schipp, Yvonne Buters, Gwenda Darling, Anna Willis and Michelle Chaperon, as well as Alwyn Blayse, – they funded their own travel and accommodation. While Margaret Walsh appeared online from Perth.

We would also like to thank Senator Janet Rice, her team, and the fellow participants of the roundtable. It was heartening to hear everybody expressing shared concerns and passion for change.

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