Speech for the Graduation of Indigenous Aged Care Workers

The Assistant Minister for Health Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the Graduation of Indigenous Aged Care Workers on 8 December 2015.

Page last updated: 09 December 2015

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8 December 2015


I thank you for your welcome to Country. It is always tremendous to be welcomed onto someone else’s Country, particularly given that I’m a Noongar with Yamatji and Wongi heritage and all three are as equally important as they are to each and every one of us in this room in terms of our own cultural grouping.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal People, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.

I’d also like to acknowledge:

    • The Chief Executive Officer of the Replay Group, Dr Mary Jones;
    • The Director of the Replay Group, Dr Ed Jones ;
    • Aunty Neita Scott, a Wiradjuri woman and member of the Premier’s Council for Women;
    • Aunty Margaret Lawton, a Ghunglu-Garingbal woman and member of the NAIDOC Committee;
    • Invited guests;
    • Employment partners;
    • And most importantly, graduating students.
I’m pleased to be here with you today as the new Assistant Minister for Health to express my personal pride in your achievements and wish you the very best for your careers. Minister Ley also sends her sincere apologies that she can’t join you today, but I know she shares this sentiment.

From my point of view – I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to address you here today at the start of what I hope will be a rewarding vocation for you in providing care and support to older Australians.

It’s no secret that Australia’s population is ageing. This makes it an exciting time to be living in Australia. We are living and working longer. And older Australians – more so than ever – are living their senior years with energy and enthusiasm.

This is a time of significant change for the way aged care is delivered in Australia.

Traditional models of care – where providers largely directed how funding was spent – are now changing as we move towards a consumer driven system which places the needs and goals of older Australians at the core of service delivery.

The aged care workforce is critically important to providing quality care and in making the shift to consumer led service delivery.

I know that for aged care staff what you do is far more than a job. When you get up each day and head into work, you know that you are making a contribution to improving someone’s quality of life.

I think it’s a very great privilege to work in aged care. The people who you support put their trust in you, and they often do so at a vulnerable time in their life. This is a great honour and on an occasion like this, pausing for a moment to remember that is important.

Indeed further change is needed in aged care to get to a consumer led system. The Aged Care Sector Committee is in the process of developing an Aged Care Roadmap to advise Government on how to get there. And at some point, I will meet some of you in your workplaces and talk to you about your shared ideas because they are as equally as important.

Certainly you have completed your training at an important time, and given the future demand for your services, you’ll more than likely have a career in this space for a long time.

For those graduating in the field of early childhood, your role is very valuable as you will establish the foundations for future school success by encouraging children to enjoy learning and provide them with the best start in life.

As with most opportunities, education is the first step towards success. And I’m encouraged to see you’ve embarked on this lifelong journey.

I have always held a view that a quality education is important in achieving our hopes and dreams. That personal drive for self-improvement is something I also see in your faces today.

Some of you may be aware that I come from a small town in rural Western Australia. I was fortunate to have the ongoing support of my local community, which came together to provide the financial assistance that allowed me to complete my education. Their faith and belief in me and what I might be able to achieve is something I have never forgotten.

In my Maiden Speech to Parliament in 2010, I referenced the words of the great Nelson Mandela, who also reinforced the importance of education. He said: “education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation.”

I’m very proud that you have all shown such a strong commitment to education through your studies.

I also want to acknowledge today the work of the Australian Centre for Workplace Learning – also known as the Replay Group – in your educational journey.

The Australian Government supports the Australian Centre for Workplace Learning, through our Indigenous Advancement Strategy, to provide real career opportunities in aged care, disability care, and early childhood education.

They give their students the very best head-start following graduation, by working closely with employers to confirm traineeship positions.

Most of these positions are in areas with high Indigenous populations. It means you can remain close to your Country, while becoming more prosperous through a sustainable, long-term career.

Since 2001, the Australian Centre for Workplace Learning has successfully trained, placed and supported more than 760 Indigenous jobseekers into jobs.

It’s a fantastic achievement which has given hundreds of Indigenous Australians – just like you – a head-start to a great career in areas identified as Government priority industries.

I want to talk a little more about the Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which has supported you in gaining your qualifications, because this is an important pathway to giving us a solid foundation in the Australian workforce.

The programme helps improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. It has many aims, but among them, it helps:
    • Get Indigenous Australians into work, foster Indigenous business and ensure Indigenous people receive economic and social benefits from the effective management of their land and native title rights;
    • Ensure children go to school, improve literacy and numeracy and support families to give children a good start in life;
    • Increase Year 12 attainment and pathways to further training and education;
    • Increase participation and acceptance of Indigenous Australians in the economic and social life of the nation;
    • Make communities safer so that Indigenous people enjoy similar levels of physical, emotional and social wellbeing as that enjoyed by other Australians; and
    • Addresses the disproportionate disadvantage in remote Australia.
The Indigenous Advancement Strategy is changing the way Australian Government funding is delivered to ensure it’s more flexible and better designed to meet the aspirations and priorities of individual communities.

It will help prepare our future generations to embrace a better quality of life, and give our workforce the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing society.

Together, we can achieve real and lasting results to close the gap on disadvantage and ensure all Australians have the same opportunities in life.

The qualifications you have earned today will be highly sought after in the communities you will be working in. Earning more money from a job is always great, but a career is so much more than that.

It’s about greater confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. It’s about support and respect. It’s about sharing your professional experiences with your peers. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives, especially those whose days ahead are fewer than the ones that have already passed. We owe it to them to provide the best possible care for them in their later years.

As Indigenous Australians, our culture and rich history has taught us to revere and respect our elders and to learn from their rich life experiences. Perhaps this provides us with a unique perspective on the importance of the ageing experience.

When you are out in the workforce, I encourage you to get to know the people you care for. Learn from their stories. These people have lived through remarkable and rapid changes in our society – and it’s something that should live on through us all.

It speaks volumes about each one of you that you have chosen a career centred on caring for the most vulnerable in our society; namely children and the elderly.

I’d like to conclude by making a couple of additional comments in terms of the choices you’ve made. Each and every one of us aspires to achieve change and make a contribution. The contribution you make in the fields you’ve chosen will remain there for some time. In the aged care sector there will be families who will get to know you and they will appreciate the fact that you are caring for someone who is close to them.

I think the richness of our culture is that we care for all of those that are a part of our family. So to each and every one of you graduating today, I commend you from the bottom of my heart for the choice that you have made because I have responsibility for aged care in Australia so you’re going to make my task easier in caring for so many older Australians

Congratulations. I’m immensely proud of you all.

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