Aged Care

19 June 2023


I rise in support of this motion acknowledging the significant process that the Albanese Labor government has made in aged care, and I want to thank the member for Jagajaga for bringing this motion forward and providing this opportunity to talk about this incredibly important issue.


Most of all, I do want to acknowledge the progress in aged care and the priority that our government has placed on aged care. In particular, I acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, over the year that we have been in government, not only for the things that have been achieved in that relatively short time but also, importantly, her acknowledgement of the importance of having ambition for aged care. The minister spoke about this at an address to the National Press Club recently, and I was really pleased to be there in person. This shouldn't be a significant thing that we say we have ambition in aged care, but it is because we have not seen that for such a long time. I think it's really significant, when we have been talking about aged care a lot in the political sphere—for as long as I can remember—and at a time when we have had a royal commission, which has exposed some of the most harrowing experiences of Australians in aged care and that showed that over 30 per cent of people had substandard experiences in aged care, that this is the first time we are starting to talk positively about it, because it is something that should be positive. It should not be normal that Australians are actually fearful of themselves or their loved ones going into aged care. When the minister spoke at the Press Club, she was the first Minister for Aged Care to speak at the Press Club. I found that so surprising, given this has been one of the key policy issues of our recent memory.


The minister finished her speech on a personal note. When she was studying, she worked in aged care, and her mother worked for 15 years in aged care. It really resonated with me, because she said that when she was working there the problems that she saw were the same problems that she saw coming in as a new minister a year ago and visiting aged-care facilities all around the country. This resonates with me because, as I have talked about before in this place, both my grandmothers were in aged care here in Canberra. Their experiences were the same things, the same issues we are still dealing with. When the royal commission came out, I honestly felt that, while a lot of the stories and findings that came out were completely unacceptable, they were not surprising to anyone who has had a loved one in aged care, because we had seen many of those things happen. I have spoken before in this place about it. When my grandmother was in aged care here, staff would be very dedicated and would work really hard to do their best, but with the resources and the staffing shortages they just couldn't care for the residents in the way they wanted to.


That really did resonate with me, and I'm very proud that our government is putting that ambition into this and wanting to see improvements. In particular, we have recognised the dedication and hard work of aged-care workers by announcing a record 15 per cent pay increase, representing the biggest ever pay rise for aged-care workers—overdue and much deserved. These people are doing some of the hardest and most important work in this country. At the many aged-care facilities I've visited here in Canberra, and going back to when my grandmothers were there, these workers care so much. We need to support them in that and the incredibly important work they are doing.


Labor has also committed to improving the facilities and quality of aged care for aged-care residents and has legislated for 24/7 nurses and increased came minutes, which will allow those workers to actually spend that time with the residents and ensure that they are getting the care they deserve. I have run out of time to talk about all the achievements we have made in just a year, but I think ambition is a really important part of this. We actually want to see this as something we can be proud of, and we want people to be able to look forward to the care that they will receive.