May 17, 2021

The most persistent question from stressed carers about the budget: “What about wages?”

Aged care worker stressed

Aged Care Minister The Hon Greg Hunt provided a comprehensive overview of the government’s response to the aged care royal commission during his address

But in questions afterwards, Moderator Peter Mares, from Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, said the most persistent question coming through from ACSA members about the budget is, “What about wages?”

“The vast bulk of the $17.7 billion will ultimately end up paying staff,” Hunt replied. “That’s what that funding is intended to do. 

“There are the direct retention bonuses of $2,700 and $3,700,” he added.

“When you ask what $6.5 billion in home care packages is doing, it’s paying staff, it’s paying more staff and better wages,” Hunt continued.

Mares interrupted to say that if wages don’t rise, there won’t be enough staff.

Hunt said the $3.2 billion for the $10 per day supplement and $3.9 billion for care minutes will contribute to the “capacity” to inject funds into both more staff and better pay for existing staff.

But Mares said many hope the $10 per day will be spent on things like better food, and he went on to ask if the government would support the Health Services Union’s push for a 25% pay rise for aged care workers through the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Hunt said the government will respond and assist with the FWC case, but his patience was wearing thin.

“I’m a little surprised, Peter,” Hunt said. 

“This is an enormous investment and it provides opportunities on every front. 

Mares replied that he was simply asking the questions coming through to him from ACSA members. 

“My point was that the royal commission should collaborate on a work value case, and others get paid more – like in disability – and until you have higher wages, it’s very difficult to attract the staff.”

“Hands off approach not sustainable”

Mares also asked the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, about aged care wages.

Butler said Labor’s biggest concern about the budget is there is “very little in it for the workforce”. 

“The government has said nothing about wages,” he said.

“The idea that the government can wipe its hands [of the issue of aged care wages] and say it’s nothing to do with us, what workers are paid in a sector that is so obviously a public good for which the Commonwealth has a responsibility, I don’t think it washes anymore.

“I think the government should be at the table and starting to do the hard work about what is the pathway for wages.”

The government needs to determine a “sustainable pathway” for wages that reflects the complexity of the work aged care workers do, and that reflects the market they operate in.

“I think this hands off approach is not sustainable,” Butler said.

Butler also said he couldn’t understand why the government did not support the recommendation to have a registered nurse on duty in aged care facilities 24/7, and why only the first phase of the minimum care minutes recommended by the royal commission were picked up, and to be implemented 15 months later than recommended.

The 2021 Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) National Summit will be held as an online event from 17-21 May. For further information please visit:

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  1. Two things:

    1. Food (one of the, if not the most important issue for those in care), is that it should be increased to $10.00 per resident day (currently anything between $6.50 and $9.00 per day). The Average around $8.00prd.
    2. What the ministers do not seem to grasp is the fact that trained staff are the most significant requirement in Aged & Healthcare.

  2. The wages play a big part in getting staff for a facility. Since the recent pay rise, I have seen more staff picking up shifts and are daily happy to do so because it actually feels ‘worth it’ to them. Some of the things that carers have to do would probably turn a lot of people against the aged care industry and now that the residents are going to be higher care, it is only going to get harder… both physically and emotionally so, if your finances are not being met after such a draining workload, the result could be leaving. Have also seen a lot of ‘wage comparing’ before accepting a shift in a variety of facilities. Another area is the ‘amount of staff’ in smaller houses compared to larger houses. Some staff will take shifts in smaller areas that have almost the same amount of staff as the large houses, with the idea of ‘why do all that work in the large house when I get paid the same for a lot less work in a small house?’ For example, a house that has around 32 residents has 5 staff for the whole house whereas, there are 2 staff in the bigger houses looking after around 25 residents. Staff allocations are important for both residents and the frame of mind of the staff.

  3. I have written this before. I have been working in aged care for around 17 years. My pay had gone up around $11 in SEVENTEEN YEARS! I believe I started at around $15 and was only up to around $26 an hour last year. Wow, that is a big chunk of my life dedicated to aged care and I was given around $11 an hour!


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