International day of love: National day of action!

The sector’s key players united with one voice to show their support for aged care reform during a national day of action yesterday.

By Yasmin Noone

On the international day of love, Valentine’s Day, the sector’s key players united to speak with one voice about the issue closest to their hearts — aged care reform.

Aged care providers, peak body advocates, union delegates, aged care workers, residents and their families, MPs, consumer representatives and even the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing himself, Mark Butler, all turned up to the Australian Nursing Federation’s (ANF) national day of action yesterday to show support for sector-wide reform.

The main event, held at Mercy Place nursing home in Melbourne, coincided with smaller events held at aged care facilities around the country.

ANF federal secretary, Lee Thomas, said that the national day of action was held to publically demonstrate just how serious the entire sector is about the issue of reform.

“We think that the day was very important and very successful,” Ms Thomas said. “I think it clearly demonstrated that we are all standing together and it highlighted the urgent need for reform.

“Clearly, from our perspective, reform needs to include not only issues to do with wages, but also, very importantly, adequately resourcing the sector so quality care can be delivered.

“I think we are all speaking from the same song book in terms of that agenda.”

Acting CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, (ACSA) Pat Sparrow, paid reference to the minister’s first address to the sector at the ACSA Conference in Hobart last year, and the fact that he called for stakeholders to be more united on the issue of reform —especially when the Productivity Commission released its draft report.

“[Yesterday], we were united on the need for the reform of the aged care sector,” Ms Sparrow said.  “And we will continue to work together. We are all committed to ensure the reform of the aged care sector.

“Certainly everyone has agreed on the issue about competitive wages but funding has to be changed to enable providers to do that. I do feel that we are working together well and are united behind the call to reform aged care.”

CEO of National Seniors Australia, Michael O’Neill, agreed that the key stakeholders came out in a united front, but that is not to say that everyone agrees on everything.

“Of course we didn’t cross swords at all,” Mr O’Neill said.

“There is an opportunity for real reform but for real reform to occur, we need competitive and equitable wages for all people working in the sector. Unless we reform that, there will not be reform.

“It’s encouraging that people are, at this stage, generally on the same page. But there remains a long way to go in the process and we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves.

“I don’t think it’s all hunky dory in reality but there is a degree of good will and recognition that had an interest in finding common ground.”

Minister Butler’s ‘love’ for aged care

In his address to the crowd yesterday,  Mr Butler minster made reference to Valentines Day’s and his love of this aged care portfolio: “It really is a pleasure to be here with you this morning and to show some love (as the theme of today requires) for the process of aged care reform.

“Speaking of love, I just want to say how much I love being the Minister for Ageing. It’s important to say that because not everyone who has been the Minister for Ageing has loved the job. I remember reports of one of my predecessors in the last Government indicating that he thought he was too young for the job and actually had an interest in foreign affairs, which went down like a lead balloon.

“I do love the job. I mainly love the job of ageing because I believe that one of the truest tests of a decent society is how we treat our seniors; those people who for years and years worked hard, paid their taxes, raised their families, and in their senior years, after building so much of the society that we now take for granted need a bit of support and care in return.

“I think what has really characterised the debate over aged care reform over the last couple of years, and happily for me continues, is the level of cooperation and consensus about the need for reform between the different interests that exist in the sector. It has been a very positive thing and I hope that it continues.

He welcomed the cooperative dialogue that now exists between the ANF, other unions, providers and the consumer groups.

“Their capacity to talk through some very difficult issues and present government with a level of consensus around at least some of them is incredibly valuable to us, hearing from the sector what sort of path we should be taking forward.”

Mr Butler spoke about the comprehensiveness of the Productivity Commission’s draft report.  

“We didn’t want a report that drilled into a couple of issues deeply; we wanted a report that covered the whole gamut of issues facing the aged care sector. I think anyone who has read the 507 pages plus the 50-page introduction plus the hundreds of pages of appendices would acknowledge that this report is nothing if not comprehensive.”

He outlined the three principles that will guide the government’s approach to aged care reform.

“The first is that older Australians have earned the right to be able to access the care and support that is appropriate to their needs, when they need it.”

“Secondly, older Australians deserve, frankly, more choice and more control over their care arrangements than the system currently delivers them.

“Lastly, and perhaps most challengingly, aged care needs to have funding arrangements which are fair and sustainable, both for older Australians and for the broader community.

“Those are the principles that will guide us in the coming months as we listen to the community’s response and the response of stakeholders like ANF and others to the Draft Report. They’re the principles that will guide us through the process following the release of the Final Report that we expect in June.”

Tags: acsa, anf, minister-mark-butler, national, productivity-commission, seniors, valentines-day,

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