Launch of the Red Cross Christmas Season of Belonging Campaign

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP launched the Red Cross Christmas Season of Belonging Campaign on 10 December 2017.

Page last updated: 13 December 2017

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10 December 2017

Good morning and welcome.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar nation, and extend my respects to Elders past and present.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year — tinsel, lights and trees are up and cheerful messages are everywhere. It’s a time when most of us eagerly look forward to summer holidays and spending time with family and friends.

But, for some, Christmas can be a very lonely time.

A new Australian Red Cross survey has found that up to one in four of us - or 5.6 million Australians – feel lonely some or almost all of the time.

Young men are most at risk, as are people over the age of 55, especially following divorces or separations.

As Minister for Aged Care, and as Member for Hasluck, I meet a lot of people. Some of them, I know, are yearning for more human contact.

A shake of the hand, a smile, someone to listen to them and share a yarn or a joke.

I recently knocked on the door of an older man whose wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away. He broke down in tears, as he told me I was the first person he’d spoken to in more than a week.

Another constituent, a young mother, burst into tears when she opened her door. It wasn’t because she didn’t like politicians, it was because after a relationship breakdown, she’d been so busy looking after her children, that she hadn’t spoken to another adult for days.

During my travels and my visits I have been told that up 40 per cent of people in residential aged care never receive visitors.

But I was heartbroken when I recently visited a home where none of the residents received visitors, year-round.

Let’s just stop and think about that - no visitors at all.

So more than ever this Christmas, I am asking all Australians to reach out to people in residential aged care and relatives, friends, and community members everywhere in need of company

I’m proud to be part of a Government that also provides support for senior Australians who may be experiencing loneliness.

This financial year, we’ve invested more than $17 million in the Community Visitors Scheme, so the organisation can support a national network of volunteers to provide company and care to people in need — to listen to them, laugh with them and share their stories.

Last year, we funded over 220,000 visits to people receiving residential aged care services and home care packages.

It’s great but it’s not the same as a visit from a loved one.

Australia has traditionally been a caring society, but as the pace of life has increased, we’ve left too many people behind.

Our need for love, company, our family and friends does not diminish as we age.

Caring for our fellow Australians is everyone’s business — certainly not just the business of governments and the aged care sector.

Campaigns such as the Australian Red Cross’s ‘Season of Belonging’ are vitally important and will help ensure that people are not forgotten this Christmas.

The campaign offers useful and practical ways people can help prevent loneliness and it can be as simple as checking in with friends and neighbours.

I am delighted to officially launch this campaign today and I encourage you all visit to find out how you can reach out to people in your community who may be lonely.

I am also asking people to reach out — particularly to senior Australians — show you care and take time to share this festive season with relatives, neighbours and community members in need of company.

We all have a responsibility to care for our senior people — to show them that we cherish them and value them by being there as much as we can. We live in a country built on their hard work – surely we owe them that.

Thank you.

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