Parliament – Aged Care Workers

Monday, 24 August 2020

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (10:42):  During the parliamentary break I’ve been talking with my constituents about many issues. One of the issues that regularly came up and continues to come up is the issue of aged care and the failure of this government to deliver a high-quality aged-care system that looks after our older Australians. I was planning to give this speech before some of the evidence that was provided to the Select Committee on COVID-19, and I have to say that many people are shaking their heads about the lack of interest, it seems, from time to time, that this government takes in aged care and particularly in understanding what goes on, on the ground. In particular, I had a number of constituents who work in aged care come and speak to me, concerned about the staff retention bonus and the fact that, despite them doing essential work, whether they be the cleaners, the maintenance staff, the wellbeing coordinator, or indeed the cook, the catering staff and the hospitality staff, they are not eligible. What the constituents told me is that this shows a lack of understanding about how all of those in aged care are working together to try and give residents the best possible care, but there isn’t always the money.

One of the examples that was pointed out is that administration staff don’t get the aged-care retention bonus. They are at the front door. They are the people who are greeting every single person who comes into the facility, yet they are not seen as doing the essential work in the running of our facilities. Equally, there are the wellbeing staff. The question that was put to me was: why is it different for the wellbeing staff, who are with residents, looking after residents, supporting residents? The conclusion that my constituents and certainly I have come to is that this government is not paying enough attention to how things happen on the ground in aged care.

This government—federal governments of all persuasions—are responsible for aged care. The buck stops with them. It is important that the government have a plan for aged care and ensure that all staff are recognised and supported in aged care. They need to recognise the essential work that all staff in aged care do, have a plan during this pandemic to ensure that staff and, indeed, residents are supported in the best possible way they can be and make sure that it isn’t inevitable that there are massive outbreaks in aged care. Steps can be taken and measures can be put in place, and it is the federal government’s responsibility to see that happen. Shirking one’s responsibility is not very becoming and it does not serve us well in a pandemic. I have also been approached by other— (Time expired)

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