By Yasmin Noone
The federal government has met its diversity deadline, having just announced its first ever strategy to promote the recognition of sexual and cultural diversity in the roll out of aged care reform.
The two strategies – National Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Ageing and Aged Care Strategy and National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds – were announced hours apart, first in Sydney and then in Melbourne today.
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said both strategies will inform and support the implementation of the Living Longer. Living Better aged care reform package and ensure that the concerns raised by LGBTI and CALD older people are considered by future policy-makers.
“Ultimately it’s about recognising difference and ensuring equality for all Australians,” Mr Butler said about the reason for the strategies.
“…We want people to be part of the decision making on how services are developed, we want people to be supported to make good decisions about the care they receive and ultimately we want people to get the kind of care they expect and deserve.”
The documents – which were created after six months of consultation with older people and representative bodies – have impressed LGBTI and CALD communities, having been praised by advocacy group representatives.
“This is a historic achievement comparable to Australia’s first national HIV AIDS strategy in 1989,” said the general manager of the National LGBTI Health Alliance, Warren Talbot, who worked with ACON Health and the GLBTI Retirement Association to conduct the LGBTI strategy consultations.
“For the first time ever, we have a national Commonwealth strategy addressing ageing and aged care for LGBTI Australians. We certainly applaud Mark Butler for this.”
Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), Pino Migliorino, who also lead community consultations, echoed similar sentiments in his strategy statement.
“This strategy marks a huge advance forward for CALD communites,” said Mr Migliorino.
Mr Migliorino also praised Minister Butler who, he said, pushed to get the strategies done and completed before Christmas.
“The minister took a lead on this issue. He committed the resources and made his intention clear that he wanted the strategies completed by the end of the year.
“The strategy will exist as a policy statement and commit the government to a series of actions…It’s also a fantastic lobbying tool.”
The LGBTI strategy includes a $2.5 million commitment to provide LGBTI sensitivity training for the aged care workforce and a review of the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) guidelines to include an emphasis on promoting and maximising access to advocacy for LGBTI people. There’s a promise to ensure the Aged Care Complaints Scheme addresses LGBTI inclusion in its public and internal materials aimed at consumers and industry.
The federal government also said it will seek opportunities to recognise and promote excellence in LGBTI aged care initiatives, activities and programs.
It will also take steps to help to ensure all government-funded aged care providers develop policies and organisational processes to address discrimination and prejudice, and promote inclusion of LGBTI people, carers and staff within a best practice framework.
‘Five principles’ were embedded in the LGBTI strategy with the purpose of helping aged care providers incorporate LGBTI inclusive practice within their organisations: inclusion, empowerment, access and equity, quality and capacity building.
“The success of any government strategy rests upon it implementation,” said Mr Talbot about the LGBTI strategy.
“And there’s a responsibility for the LGBTI Health Alliance and other [consulted] organisations to hold the department to account.
“I believe there is good will in the government and department and I think we will see a number of new LGBTI-specific projects announced over the next six months.”
The CALD document outlines ‘a rolling review’ of the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) which will include an emphasis on promoting, supporting and maximising access to advocacy for older people from CALD backgrounds, their families and carers.
It aims to ensure that the Aged Care Complaints Scheme is also promoted to CALD communities, including by use of interpreting and translating services. And, the strategy commits the federal government to working with the CALD sector to provide cultural competency training for promotion and incorporation into all aged care services, and develop structured pathways to facilitate the employment of appropriate bilingual staff in the aged care system.