Feb 03, 2023

WA aged care hub for Indigenous people helps bridge the accessibility gap

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The Mandjar Maaman Dance Group. [ Source: SWAMS, Facebook]

Perth’s first Aboriginal aged care hub has opened in the city’s south, helping older First Nations people and elders in Western Australia better access the aged care system.

The hub’s aim is to break down barriers for Aboriginal older people over 50 and offers various supports such as home care, social support, group activities, domestic assistance, basic home maintenance and transport.. 

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) brought the service closer to the metropolitan area from Bunbury, where it was previously trialled.

The Perth metropolitan area has around 7,800 First Nations people aged over 50, but only 8.6% of them access aged care programs — the lowest rate of any capital city.

The hub aims to make support easily accessible and encourage more First Nations people to seek help. 

SWAMS Chief Executive, Lesley Nelson, told ABC the hub expects to help 100 elders by June of this year. 

“We know that in our Indigenous communities, our life expectancies are much lower than in mainstream services and the general population. That’s the reason why we start at the age of 50,” Ms Nelson said.

“So it opens that opportunity for them to access the support and the services that they require. They [the elders] can receive home care support program services but also be included in social activities, and daily activities that are happening in the region.

Ricky Ugle and Franklyn Nannup from the Winjan Aboriginal Corporation performed the Welcome to Country the Smoking Ceremony at the opening event, alongside the Mandjar Maaman Dance Group (pictured).

The opening was MCed by comedian Kevin Kropinyeri, with guest speakers Senator Sue Lines, City of Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams, SWAMS Chairperson Ernie Hill.

Ms Lines took to Facebook to share her gratitude for being a part of the event.

“I am proud to attend the opening of SWAMS aged care centre in Mandurah, the first Aboriginal community-controlled aged care service anywhere throughout the Greater Perth metropolitan region,” she wrote.

The opening coincides with every Australian First Minister signing a commitment to support the Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.

The Voice vows to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s voice in our constitution by implementing a referendum which would include their consult on matters affecting them.

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