May 14, 2021

The glaring omission from the federal budget: “It’s time to bring multicultural seniors in from the cold”

Cultural diversity

Having had the privilege to work with seniors for over 30 years, Tuesday’s budget is a chance to turn things around and ensure high-quality care for all seniors, including the 30% of Australians from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

But disturbingly, the Royal Commission’s report into aged care, released earlier this year, found people from CALD backgrounds have serious problems accessing aged care services.

Analysis from Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) found there are no mentions of ‘cultural diversity’ throughout the Royal Commission report summary and only four mentions of ‘CALD’.

While Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is framing this funding as investment and reform for aged care, the fact is two out of three seniors don’t live in aged care facilities and receive their basic support package at home.

Most ethnic seniors prefer to receive care in their homes because it’s an environment they’re comfortable with from a language and cultural point of view.

The wait for at-home services is too slow in arriving. The latest figures from December 2020 reveal about 97,000 people were waiting for a home care package.

With this budget funding 80,000 packages, it is a welcome start, but more is needed, our peak body the Australian Aged Care Collaboration says.

It is past time to bring in multicultural seniors from the cold and lift aged and home care funding to 2.5% of Australia’s GDP.

Doing this would put our spending on people who need it most in line with other advanced economies, such as Switzerland, France, Belgium, Finland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, the OECD says.

It’s not as if this money won’t go anywhere – an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report says 78,000 more workers will be needed as our population continues to age.

As I said on ABC Radio National on Monday evening, it makes sense to harness our economy to look after the wisest and most experienced part of our population.

Migrants have worked hard all their lives to build Australia – it is our turn to work hard to support them.

As one Indian senior told me, “What is life without support?”

Elizabeth Drozd is the CEO of Australian Multicultural Community Services and a former Victorian multicultural commissioner.

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