Delivered by Senator Linda Reynolds on behalf of the Assistant Minister the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Good morning and thank you for having me here today.
Before I begin I want to acknowledge the Darug people the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to Elders, past, present and future.
I also acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here this morning.
I would like to acknowledge:
- Ms Leonie Sheedy – Care Leavers Australasia
- Mr Norman Johnston – International Association of Former Child Migrants
- Ms Sharan Dorrian – St Bartholomews’s House
- Ms Helen Small - Wintringham
- Ms Kay Richards – Leading Aged Services Australia
- Mr Lionel Quartermaine – National Stolen Generations Alliance
- Aunty Lorraine Peeters – Stolen Generations Reference Committee
- Mr Jason Clare – Member for Blaxland
It gives me great pleasure to be given this opportunity to launch this important resource. This package will enhance aged care services and ensure we can provide the best possible care to the care leaver groups.
Developed in consultation with stakeholders, the Care Leavers Package aims to increase our understanding about caring for our Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations. It’s imperative that we recognise and understand the emotional and physical issues they may bring with them as they age, and look for ways that aged care services can provide care that is sensitive to and respects the needs of these specific groups in our community.
Last century, it’s estimated that up to 500,000 children were placed in either foster homes, children’s homes, orphanages or other institutions. These are our Forgotten Australians. They came from all parts of Australia and were from all levels of our society.
Up until 1970, around 7,000 children were brought to Australia as unaccompanied migrants through child migration schemes. They originated from the UK and Malta. These Child Migrants were also placed in out-of-home care or institutions, just like the Forgotten Australians.
Many children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were also removed from their families. We acknowledge this group as the Stolen Generations. And they too, were placed in facilities or institutions.
Regardless of how members of these groups entered these places, the trauma they experienced as a child is still with them. They experienced physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. They experienced separation, loss and abandonment. They were exploited and neglected. Harsh discipline was the norm for these children.
This has left a lasting impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. Most children who spent time in institutions experienced rigidly controlled childhoods.
People from these backgrounds who now find themselves needing aged care facilities or accessing aged care services can be reminded of this rigidity of activities. This is why we have developed the Care Leavers Package, because aged care services need to recognise these issues when providing daily care services. Simple activities such as dressing, undressing or bathing can trigger very distressing memories.
Aged care services need to consider the physical and/or sexual abuse these people might have been exposed to as a child. And it’s important to recognise the extreme stress this situation might cause.
A loss of identity and culture are also issues for these groups. Some may have no birth certificate, or had their birth name changed. Maybe they were only known by a number in their early years. They may have been removed from their family, either by force or as part of the migration programs, and never reunited. Many people have lost contact with, or have never known, their cultural heritage.
This is why it’s important for aged care services to recognise and empathise with all of the different situations that may invoke feelings of distress. And this is exactly what the Care Leavers Package is designed to do. It will help equip workers with the necessary skills and broaden their understanding of these sensitivities.
Inside the package is a facilitator’s guide for aged care services about providing care to Care Leavers. There is also a documentary-style video that recounts the stories and experiences of Care Leavers – in their own words. A PowerPoint presentation that complements the video is designed to promote discussion on the topics raised in the video. And finally, there is a booklet with information about some of the concerns and fears that Care Leavers may bring with them as they access aged care services, and practical suggestions on how to assist them.
I encourage you all to use and circulate this package amongst your colleagues. By doing so, you will deepen your organisation’s cultural and aged care service capabilities. You will be able to provide the necessary level of care to the people who are part of our Forgotten Australians, Former Child Migrants and Stolen Generations.
It gives me great pleasure to launch this package today.