National Press Club Address

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra on 25 October 2017.

Page last updated: 25 October 2017

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25 October 2017


I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in attendance today.

When I was young I loved listening to the stories of my grandparents and older people about their lives and life experiences as they contributed to their careers, family needs, their respective communities but more importantly the work they did to build this nation.

I saw the same qualities in my father and mother and I appreciated their knowledge, skills and wisdom which guided me in my own personal journey through life.

We all hold memories of our lived experiences, our achievements, our successes and failings and as each year passes we accumulate knowledge and skills acquired through listening to others, practical work, social experiences and through learning from other people we engage with.

In my First Parliamentary Speech in 2010 I acknowledged the importance of our wisdom givers and today I am just as steadfast in that view and this is what I said.

“Whilst campaigning and meeting people at their front doors, I was affected by the number of ordinary Australians who struggle from day to day - and in particular the number of seniors, retirees and veterans - struggling to make ends meet.

I find this an anomaly because the wealth, prosperity and facilities that we take for granted were established and provided through the hard work and sacrifices of our elderly. Additionally our freedom, the liberties that we enjoy and the democratic processes we have today are because of our veterans and the sacrifices that they made for us.

I do not want to celebrate a day or a week dedicated to seniors and veterans, but instead I want to work with all Members of this house to find real solutions that will enable them to enjoy a comfortable retirement and to be financially secure.

Elders within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities are revered and respected, and hold a special place – they do not go away but remain as wisdom givers and our guides to the future. The same concept has to be applied to all seniors and retirees, and the support they require should be accorded to them.”

When I delivered these words I had no sense that I would one day be charged with Ministerial responsibility for aged care. I thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity to focus on the value of all Australians who are closer to 100 years of age than their youth.

I want you to think about your current age and then how many years you have left before you turn 60, and now I want you to think about turning 83, the average age of people entering residential care.

For some of us, neither figure is all that far away.

The sentiments I expressed in my first speech are equally concerning to me today, especially as the prosperity and amenities many of us take for granted, were built through the hard work and sacrifices of older Australians.

Our elders should hold a special place in our society - they are not to be sent away or shunned, but remain fundamental to family groups and communities, as wisdom-givers.

Australians must give the same reverence and respect to all seniors.

Today, growing older in large modern societies, where living separately from children and friends in retirement homes for the elderly is far removed from the approach in smaller traditional societies, where older people lived with families surrounded by children and friends.

Living to 100 could be one of the greatest gifts that those of us alive today will enjoy because we are living longer than our parents and grandparents.

The lengthening of life is happening right now and all of us are affected by this.

Medical intervention, innovations, treatments and healthier lifestyles are all contributing factors to our longevity. How will we individually and as a community make the most of this gift?

The challenge for all of us is that longevity has been rising at a remarkable rate and people have a lot more time as workers, consumers and family members to influence society and the economy.

Its 85 years since the phrase “Life begins at 40” became famous as a self-help book title.

It’s time we helped ourselves again - our challenge is to change attitudes to ageing and, just as globalisation and technology have shaped the way we live and work, so will living longer impact on individuals, the private and public sector and almost all aspects of society.

Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott from the London Business School cite in their publication “The 100 Year Life” state “If the child you are thinking about was born in the US, Canada, Italy or France there is a 50 percent chance that they will live until at least 104. If the child you had in mind was born in Japan, then they can reasonably be expected to live to a staggering 107 years”.

These projections are the real deal.

Therefore, we need to seriously refocus our attention on living longer and living better. This brings challenges, even for forward thinking governments.

The reality is that in most developed countries fertility rates are falling below the population replacement line, creating a conundrum for future workforce needs that will also impact on how we deliver services to older Australians.

For some, I know the word “ageing” still brings negative connotations, but I also believe it carries great potential - and as a society, an economy, and in government, we must have a vision, adapt our thinking, and adjust our attitudes and our actions, to reflect the opportunities that senior Australians have to offer.

An important part of this is aged care, which has developed significantly in recent decades. It now must accelerate and maintain its transformation and continue embracing reform, while keeping safety, quality, compassion and consumer choice and control, at its core.

The heart of my vision for ageing is ‘value”.

Valuing older people for who they are, not just in terms of economics, but for what they have done and continue to do – as grandparents, mentors, volunteers and givers of knowledge and experience.

Changing our mindset, and our concepts of growing older should be viewed as a strength in living to 100 years.

Cherishing older Australians and their contribution, by keeping them in their own homes and active in our towns, cities and suburbs for as long as possible.

On average, we are all living longer – and it’s a good thing.

I intend to be here through my eighties and nineties, and as far as possible, I still want to be living the life I enjoy now, contributing to the community in which I live.

From the moment we are born, our homes are the centres of family life, where we share our challenges and work out solutions.

This vision of supporting people to live wherever it is they call home is close to the hearts of millions of senior Australians, and is especially important in this era of time-poor families.

We must work to maintain the links between senior Australians and the community.

There are two periods of our life in which we a vulnerable - in our dawning years from birth, and our twilight years, when we are frail.

I want us to remember that when we are born we are held, and we are loved, unconditionally and we feel connected with those around us.

As we grow, we fall in love and we hold each other and we feel the power of touch. With our partners we give our hands to each other and we feel the intensity of the love that we share.

The need for holding, love and touch remains a strong reminder of the people in our lives.

And we keep that love - but what dismays me is that when we become old and life is busy we neglect each other too often and are left on our own without family contact.

Our love should not be conditional on a point in age, or because we drift away from those who once gave of themselves to care for us.

I have heard that up to 40 per cent of people in residential aged care have no visitors 365 days of the year. For those of you listening, I want you to cast your mind to the last time you told your mother, father, husband, wife or partner that you still love them and if you can hug them.

The essence of who we are is shaped by our culture, our heritage and our family.

Home should always be the base for coming together, to a familiar place and a safe haven.

One of the fundamental things that is important to all of us is our home – it contains so many memories, favourite smells, warmth and shelter it has provided for each of us in many different ways.

As a government we have heard very clearly from senior Australians across the country that they want to receive aged care services in their homes.

That is why we introduced the Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms in February this year, to allow them to live independently, and receive care when and where they need it.

This new arrangement means that funding now follows the individual, providing them with greater choice and control over their care needs.

Empowered consumers can now choose and change providers, with certain fees now coming down, as market-driven care comes to the fore.

Providers who adapt and give consumers what they want, will attract more consumers.

There’s a new, transparent national prioritisation system for allocating home care packages and since February we have rolled out around 2,500 per week.

In addition, we have made available an extra 6,000 packages, to help more people with higher care needs stay living in their own homes.

The number of home care packages has been growing steadily, and is currently set to expand significantly, over 70,000 at present to 140,000 by 2022.

Providing more at-home aged care, including high-level care, is a win-win for cost reduction and consumer preference.

As critical as it is, aged care is only part of a suite of Government initiatives to help us as we age.

The Commonwealth will spend more than $330 billion over the next five years for senior Australians.

Home support demand is strong, so to help provide certainty, we have allocated $5.5 billion to extend the Commonwealth Home Support Program until 2020, to provide lower-level services.

This investment is part of our record $100 billion aged care commitment over the next five years, an annual growth rate of 6 per cent.

To help guarantee supply of residential care, this year I have announced the rollout of almost 10,000 new places, valued at $649 million in recurrent funding.

Additionally, an extra $64 million in capital grants will fund re-development or construction of new care projects, with $34.7 million for 475 new short-term restorative care places.

A particular focus across these new allocations is ensuring rural, regional and remote residents have aged care support.

Ageing is everyone’s business and caring for older Australians is core business for the Turnbull government.

We have commissioned two critical reviews, of the Living Longer Living Better reforms, known as the Legislative Review, and Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes (Carnell / Paterson).

The government is committed to the continuous improvement of aged care access.

On top of the $20 million already allocated to streamline My Aged Care, today I am announcing an additional

$2.8 million over the next 6 months to set out a plan for future investment for My Aged Care, this will be done in close consultation with consumers, service providers and community partners.

For the first time in 20 years we are on track for a single set of quality standards that have been co-designed with wide ranging consultation, to reflect community expectations.
To help make ageing safer and more secure, the government is providing $25.7 million for the new National Aged Care Advocacy Program.

And now for the first time, the new GEN website collates and helps people interpret aged-care data from every region of Australia, supporting both personal and community planning.

We know our diverse, multicultural nation, has equally diverse aged care needs. It’s integral to ensuring all consumers have aged care choice and control. Thanks to some amazing community input, we’re on track for an Aged Care Diversity Framework by the end of the year.

Only last week the Turnbull Government announced more than $60 million for end of life projects that will help improve quality and access to palliative care.

Dementia is now the second most common cause of death in Australia, and there is no cure, yet.

It’s predicted the number of people with the condition will rise to more than 900,000 by 2050.

I have convened a series of dementia forums, and we are currently investing $200 million in dementia research.

Already, over half the permanent residents in Government-funded aged care facilities have some form of dementia.

It’s a top priority for ageing Australia, and I applaud the dedicated staff and the innovation of many providers on this front.

More than six million of Australians now aged between 50 and 75 are facing an extended life expectancy.

They are already changing our society, and they have the capacity to change our economy, too.

Before the 1940s, we didn’t have the notion of a ‘teenager’.

Now, the teen years have their own rites of passage, and a massive industry has grown up around teenagers, both in services and goods.

I think it’s time, given our increased longevity that the concept of a ‘third age’ is re-examined.

Perhaps we need a new transitional phase, for when we are moving out of the traditional workforce, into an exciting new period of our lives.

Not a sudden stop to working, but a gradual approach – transitioning to retirement.
This may involve part-time employment, changing careers, volunteer work or a combination of both.

The National Ageing Research Institute says: “Australians are living an extended middle-age not an extended old-age. There is no arbitrary age when frailty and decline sets in. For most of us this will not occur until around eighty years or even later.”

As lifespans lengthen, the financial implications, both for senior Australian and for taxpayers in general, may dictate longer working lives.

In communities closely engaged with their older residents, I believe more and more people will want to work in some capacity, into their seventies or beyond.

For all of these reasons, I personally believe we should consider a “seniors gap year”, made available for employees, in the lead up to the traditional retirement age. This is something I am keen to explore with my Ministerial colleagues as it is outside of government policy.

Like teenagers have done for decades, as they plan their studies and career paths, this “gap year” could allow older people to map out their future, while maintaining job security.

Right now, people like me, who may finish full time work in their 60s can expect to live for at least 20 years, post-retirement.

The question is what will we do for the next few decades? How will we continue to contribute and how will our knowledge and skills be harnessed for the benefit of society and the economy?

The number of us aged 65 and over is projected to more than double during the next 40 years, but we’re still failing to prepare well for living to 100 years of age.
On average, we are retiring between 61 and 62, and research by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission suggests that 27 per cent of us aged 55 and over aren’t saving and preparing for the future.

Again we need to ask the question, what do we want our futures to look like?

While half have a financial plan for the next five years, only a third have a plan for the next 10 years.

What about the discrimination suffered by so many experienced older job seekers – this is truly devaluing the skills of senior Australians.

To help these mature age jobseekers, we’re now rolling out the new $98 million national Career Transition Assistance Program.

This month, a Regional Australia Institute study warned of the cost to taxpayers and communities, of older people who wanted to work but were restricted to claiming the pension because of lack of opportunities.

Fortunately, I have also met employers who understand the incredible value of older workers – their experience, efficiency, reliability, and their capacity to mentor younger people.

The economic risks associated with an ageing population are well understood and outlined in successive Intergenerational Reports. But we need to also focus on the tremendous opportunities, and a significant one of these will be the workforce required for the growing provision of aged care.

As I have said, the Productivity Commission estimates almost 1 million people will be needed to work in aged care by 2050.

So this is also about jobs of the future – from horticulture and catering, to nursing, caring and senior management.

Just yesterday the ABS released its latest workforce data that highlights aged care as one the nation’s fastest growing job markets.

For too long aged care has been seen as the poor cousin. It’s time to realise it is a career of choice, and a profession for life.

The impacts of increased longevity will cut across many areas – employment, welfare, finance and superannuation, education, health and aged care among them.

That is why I am working so closely with the Prime Minister on the cross-government Ageing Taskforce within his department.

The ultimate realisation of our vision of valuing older Australians is empowering them.

This means ensuring they have options as they age, in the workforce, in retirement and in aged care.

From the Baby Boomer era onwards, our lifestyle choices have expanded greatly, and we rightly expect this to continue in our later years.

The pillars of our reform agenda aim to promote personal empowerment.

From home and residential care options, to mental health and dementia support, and the development of the best workforce for safe, quality care.

The provision of sustainable aged care is a crucial part of our response to record longevity.

People will need it at different stages of their new ‘middle age’.

Some people start accessing home support and care from the age of 70.

The average age for those entering residential care is 82 years for men, and 84 years for women.

There are many levels of care and support available, with most aged care in fact provided by families, friends, volunteers and community members.

Some is organised and paid for privately, but a large portion of formal aged care is taxpayer-funded.

Around 1.3 million people access government-funded aged care in 2015-16. These included:

    • an estimated 925,000 receiving home supports
    • nearly 90,000 people accessed home care packages,
    • almost 235,000 people lived in residential care homes
    • and under 25,000 used other targeted and specialist programs.
Many Australians do not realise that around three quarters of all aged care funding is provided by the Commonwealth Government, with a Budget commitment of $18.6 billion this financial year.

Recently I received a comprehensive report from David Tune, examining the changes to aged care since 2012 – how well they worked, and what else we should consider to ensure we can provide quality aged care for all who need it, in the long term.

His report concludes that current levels of taxpayer-funded support are likely to be unsustainable into the future.

He recommends more contributions from some care consumers, and foreshadows the need for tougher eligibility tests.

There will be even more aged care demand as the Baby Boomer generation reaches the age of 80.

We have ruled out his recommendation of including the full value of a person’s home in the means test for residential care.

But key questions remain: Do we have the best mix of aged care program and services – how will Australians finance this and how will the cost be shared?
The report also recommends we work to improve wellness and reablement activities, to allow people to continue to living independently.

Like the Tune review, the latest detailed examination of the Aged Care Funding Instrument also warns of the financial implications of failing to reform the funding system.

New technology can have a major positive impact on this.
While talking robots are already making their mark in some residential care facilities, artificial intelligence is set to have a broader impact in complementing and assisting the delivery of care.

The latest $34 million round of dementia and aged care research grants promises care options we could barely have dreamed of just a few years ago.

Innovative models are already linking people needing home services and care with individual providers. Another is linking Aged Care homes with staff, filling rosters, improving job satisfaction and yielding more time for care delivery to residents.

There's a virtual reality product in development to help analyse the early onset of dementia, while Aged Care homes are teaching Skype and FaceTime to keep residents in touch with their families.

And given the pace of change, there will be many more innovations to come.
But none of these will ever supplant the fundamental need for human kindness and touch, and the company and good judgement of trusted care and health professionals.

While our homes are close to our hearts, for some of us there comes a time when home care is no longer an option and residential care may be the only alternative.

My vision for this and one I am sure is shared by all designers of modern facilities – is to ensure it is as homely as possible.

In reality it is our home when we become frail.

I believe the most exciting developments on this front are what are called “small house living”.

Based on a European model, each house brings just eight people together, with all facilities including a kitchen they can work in.

Entering these homes is exactly like entering your own house.

Residents are encouraged to prepare food, cook, garden and go on excursions.
There’s a great sense of friendship and support - as far as they can, they manage their own lives, cared for by specially trained staff.

These small homes are not only yielding strong health and wellbeing results, they are proving financially viable.

Fostering this kind of innovation is vital, and I believe that older Australians will drive demand for this type of care, by voting with their feet.
But as we move forward, we need to ensure that safety and quality are paramount, that people with special needs and cultural differences are provided for with dignity, and that those in regional, rural and remote areas can remain in their communities.

During my many visits to aged care facilities around Australia, I am always heartened by what I see.

But I know this is not always the case.

As you’ve seen, there is evidence that some people are not receiving the care they need and deserve.

Worse still, some are treated badly, which is absolutely intolerable.

I have carefully considered the Carnell / Paterson Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes, that I ordered after the shocking revelations about the Oakden mental health aged care residence in South Australia.

It is appalling that anyone could be treated so badly, and that this mistreatment was not detected earlier.

That is why I am today releasing the Review and announcing that the Turnbull Government will move as soon as possible to implement unannounced assessment visits across residential aged care facilities, to help ensure safe, quality care standards are maintained at all times.

Aged care safety and quality are non-negotiable and must be delivered to residents 365 days of the year, without exception.

While I ordered this review after Oakden, there have been other high-profile aged care failures which have highlighted where parts of our systems have sadly let us down.

The overwhelming majority of facilities provide excellent care and are working to continually improve services, but our focus must be on those that are not delivering.
The old process of notifying providers ahead of subsequent re-accreditation reviews will go, replaced by comprehensive unannounced visits conducted over at least two days.

Our commitment to this will be relentless, on behalf of all senior Australians, who deserve nothing but the best of care.

I remain equally committed to working with all aged care providers and the entire care sector, to ensure our quality and safety standards are world-class.

The details will need to be worked through with all stakeholders, and as the Government is also considering the recommendations of the legislative review, we will need to ensure all decisions taken are integrated.
Expectations of the aged care sector are understandably high – because all of us want our family members and ourselves to be treated with nothing but dignity and respect.

Fundamental to achieving this is an appropriate, skilled workforce.

At present, the aged care sector employs around 366,000 people, approximately 3 per cent of Australia’s total workforce.

About two thirds of these are in residential care, and overall staff numbers are forecast to almost triple in the next 40 years.

A taskforce is currently being formed, led by Professor John Pollaers and backed with a $2 million budget, to consult widely and create a workforce strategy to support our aged care future.

While getting the workforce right is one of the pillars of quality care, we are facing a broader issue of how much the community cares for individuals, as well.

For me, one of the most disturbing trends I see in Australian ageing is loneliness.
It saddens me immensely that up to 40 per cent of people in care, especially those with varying degrees of dementia, receive no visitors.

We must all ask ourselves: "Do I want to be abandoned in my later years? Is this what my elders deserve? Is this how I want to live out my days?"

We must champion inclusion, and reach out to senior Australians. We must offer our hearts and our hands in love and respect.

When I talk to people in Aged Care, I find so many who crave simple touch, a hug, the warmth of palms clasped together, or a soothing hand on their shoulder.

Coming together, looking after the lonely - these are surely hallmarks of the Australia we want, but this is a challenge for our society, not something that governments alone can solve.

Fortunately, there are communities showing the way forward.

After five years of growth in Sydney, the Waverton Hub organisation is now offering its experience of "ageing well in your own neighbourhood" as a model of community engagement and re-invigoration.

The hub boasts living and lifestyle successes.

Examples include an 85-year-old saying her family has stopped pestering her to go into a retirement village, while another elderly local was helped to remain at home for several years longer than doctors thought possible.
Australians must place a much greater emphasis on preventive health, rather than curative health.

Promoting where people of all ages can interact safely is a top priority.

When we feel safe and confident, we are more likely to get out and about and participate.

This in turn creates more supportive communities, setting in motion a positive cycle.
All Australians have inherent rights, built on a foundation of dignity which should not in any way diminish with age.

Elder abuse is unacceptable, and will only be stamped out when it is confronted and corrected, and the Turnbull Government is now leading a national agenda to address this.
The more lifestyle options and social connections people have, the less likely they are to suffer from abuse.

And being financially secure provides more choices, and supports better decision making.

While there is always room for improvement, Australia is fortunate to have a first class health care system that overall serves us well. I know this because I recently attended the G20 Health Ministers meeting where I witnessed first-hand the high regard that our overseas counterparts have for our aged care system. It made me think that despite the challenges and the changes required, we have a “bloody good” aged care system to build on and we should celebrate this in so many ways.

This new middle age will eventually bring all of us so much freedom and fulfilment if we manage it right.

Changing this mindset will be challenging.

Older people need to seize the opportunity and not limit themselves, to get out, to be active and committed.

As I mentioned earlier, the adage “Life begins at 40” was coined way back in 1932.

Today in 2017, I suggest that 70 is the new 40 - and counting.

This is why, I will say again, we ought to have a serious conversation on the idea for a gap year before retiring. It should be part of our new thinking because lets face it, if its good enough for the young folk as they embark on life’s adventure then its good enough for senior Australians.

Our legacy for this century must be a nation in which older Australians, whether in home or residential care, have safe, secure, quality lives.

In respect of our ageing society, not only should we always acknowledge and value our elders for the contribution they have made, we must create opportunities for them to continue giving to, and sharing in, our communities.

They are fundamental to our family, social and economic fabric – and must be woven into all aspects Australian life, through work, education, volunteering, and the myriad of flexible options to optimise their lives, and their enduring worth to Australian society.

In the end, how we consider and care for our elders is the ultimate reflection on ourselves.


Chris Uhlmann: Thank you. I’ll get you to return to the podium and we’re now going to go to questions from journalists, and I might begin. Given that you said that the seniors’ gap year is not yet policy, so it has to go through Cabinet, can you give us the pitch that you will give to the Prime Minister on how this might work?

Ken Wyatt: Let me give the pitch to all of you, as opposed to Cabinet. Just imagine if, when we reach 60 and we are thinking of retiring, and we are given the opportunity to take 12 months' leave without pay and go and do the grey nomad travelling, do all the things you wanted to do on your bucket list for 12 months, and then you come back and you say to your employer, I'm back, I'm ready to start working again. And I premise that on the number of Men's Sheds that I've been to where I've talked to older men who say to me, I wish I'd never retired. I want to go back to work but nobody’s interested in me. I keep being told I'm too experienced, I’m too qualified, and that I need to look at other opportunities. But if you get told that at every job, you soon become disheartened, and I think that the wealth of knowledge, Chris, is far too great for us to waste in our wonderful country.

Chris Uhlmann: Ken, it might be a more difficult audience, but that’s- go now to Sky News.

Question: David Speers from Sky News. Thank you very much for the important speech you've just given. Look, having regretted not taking the gap year when I left school myself, I, too, am quite enthused about this suggestion, just want to test that out as well. I think it’s a really interesting point you raise there about the conversations at Men’s Sheds. People who do retire spend a bit of time out of the workforce, but then realise they’d quite like to get back in.

Just a couple of practical things. Great if you can afford to take a year off and travel and do all the things you’ve ever wanted to do. What about those who can't, given their income situation? Would the pension be available to them while they go and do these things before going back into workforce? And for the employer, if you are saying they should be then entitled to go back to their job or back to that company or that organisation, should the job be available to them? I mean, there will be some practical issues here, notwithstanding a terrific idea.

Ken Wyatt: David, let me take you to the analogy of maternal leave, long service leave. We all apply for it and we are given it and the employer readily takes us back. They appreciate the fact that, after so many years of working, that both those intervals allow us to go off and take really a mental health break, and it allows us to spend some quality time with family and within our community.

I already have a couple of companies that are looking at working with a gap year model and they are employing older people. I've got three or four businesses in my own electorate that are employing men over 60, and they are finding that their contribution in teaching younger people within their industry and in their businesses has been extremely invaluable. In terms of people- any holiday that we take – and I'll use this – if I take a holiday, I've got to save to take it, and I would expect all of us, if we want to take that pathway, shouldn't rely on a government. It should be at our own volition and within our own means. And I know there are people who do struggle with their salaries, but there are others, too, who might take time off, not travel anywhere, but just spend some time at home.

So there's an opportunity. I based this on when I turned 50. I took a redundancy, and for 12 months- and when I put in for the redundancy I was told, you’re mad, you’re 50, no one will employ you, you'll never end up in a senior role again. But I spent 12 months doing absolutely nothing other than growing vegetables in the backyard, reading, and spending absolute leisure time and letting my body and mind reset itself. And then Andrew Refshauge from New South Wales, who was the Deputy Premier, rang me and said I believe you are trying to emulate The Good Life from the ABC series. And I said, no, I'm enjoying life. And he said, how about coming and working in New South Wales? And I took that opportunity because I was fresh again. I had a renewed vigour to go and take a career change. And I loved my five years in New South Wales, and it was great to then go back home and then continue the journey ultimately to where I am now.

So I would encourage anybody to seriously think about it, because if you want to keep the talent that you have in your organisation, then don't let it go to waste, because you have people with a cumulative corporate knowledge. I see people who are given redundancies, and then 12 months later, that same department is hiring them back to fill in a void that they created in letting them go. So we need to change our mindset and we need to think about the incredible living books and living knowledge that sits within every Australian over the age of 60.

Chris Uhlmann: Just one final point on this. Are you finding some companies are already innovating on this? You were talking about companies in your own electorate, so are you finding some companies are ahead of government on this?

Ken Wyatt: There are. Even the gentleman who services my pool has employed an older man. He employed him because he heard me talk at CEDA and thought he would try it, and he has now done that and he said it's the best thing. He said it’s like having his father working with him, giving him sound advice, and he has valued that advice. That's why I made reference to Bunnings. Bunnings does it superbly in older tradies spending time with younger people, teaching them.

We seem to have drifted from wanting to teach each other the knowledge we have. We've got to come back to it as a community and as a society, because it’s through that that we value and teach others our knowledge, that they retain it for the benefit of a nation.

Chris Uhlmann: Radio 2CC.

Question: Minister, Tim Shaw from Radio 2CC in Canberra. John Barilaro, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, called for expressions of interest about integrated aged care facilities to be constructed all within distance of TAFE education facilities in New South Wales, to bring that direct teaching and learning that you've said is critical in the growth in the aged care sector. I wonder if you’ve had any feedback on that and do you support that model?

Secondly, I spoke to Susan Ryan, the former Age Discrimination Commissioner this morning, the former ACT Senator, and a sprightly 75. She has got full intention of living through to 100. She says that older workers in Australia are mind and body willing, have great wisdom, great capacity to teach, but they are not given that incentive or opportunity. Instead of a single gap year, should it be a single decade where older Australians are given that extra 10 years within the workforce? And not just Bunnings, standing there on a Saturday serving the customers, right across the workforce, including the Australian public service?

Ken Wyatt: On the first part, all of us learn on a daily basis, whether it is formal or informal, and the capacity to learn doesn't diminish until we suffer the experience of dementia. But my understanding from a Canadian researcher is that people with dementia still learn, it's just that they don't recall it, which is a fascinating piece of work. But all of us have the capacity, so I don't see any reason why people can't go back.

When I was Pro-Chancellor for Edith Cowan University, doing a graduation there was an 87-year-old woman who I awarded her doctorate to, and the piece of work she did it on was around community and the strength of community, and I asked her the question – why so late in life? She just said to me, sir, learning is never too late in life, and my doctorate reflects my capacity and ability to absorb knowledge and provide a doctorate that will be read by others.

In respect to a decade, a gap year would only be a gap year for taking leave, Tim. It would not be for a decade of a gap year. But I want Australia to seriously think about the human capacity we have in this nation that we don't harness. I was talking to a gentleman yesterday who, when I mentioned the gap year to him, now will probably consider that as an option, in taking a short break, coming back and contributing to an organisation that contributes so much to the thinking of this nation.

So, if we get people starting to think and behave that way, by a metamorphosis process, it will occur. You don't need governments to lead this. If organisations- and I certainly hope that chambers of commerce and industry will certainly encourage colleagues of theirs to do that.

Chris Uhlmann: NITV.

Question: Hi, Minister. Nakari Thorpe from National Indigenous Television. Thank you so much for your address. I wanted to point to the other part of your portfolio, Indigenous health, and wondered where Indigenous Australians fit into all of this. We know the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is wide, if not widening, and earlier this week the Government announced it would overhaul its Closing the Gap strategy. How will this gap be tackled in this new strategy?

And secondly, we also heard earlier this week Indigenous elders and leaders calling on the Government to address calls on the Referendum Council’s proposal for an Indigenous voice to Parliament. Could a body like this help Indigenous Australians to live a healthier, longer life, and does the Government support such a body?

Ken Wyatt: Let me answer the first part, in terms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within ageing, and we are doing a substantial amount of work looking at where the gaps are; I'm overlaying health need against where services are and identifying demographics of population. We've not done it well. But certainly, having been in the APY Lands, I've seen some models that work extremely well at community level, so I will be pursuing that. But the department also has revisited its cultural diversity framework, and we will now will have three substantial documents: one that will reflect the culture of a linguistically diverse community in Australia, and we will start to tackle their needs; the LGBTI community, who often are left out of the thinking of their needs, based on aged care; and our own people.

In respect to the constitutional statement out of Uluru, the Prime Minister is working closely with Senator Scullion and certainly Senator Brandis, and I know that they have had discussions, so that issue hasn't gone away. Government is still committed, so we will see what it involves.

Chris Uhlmann: In your mind though, how important is that in terms of reconciliation for, if you like, the mental health of the community that has been dispossessed? How important is it that we eventually get something in the constitution?

Ken Wyatt: Look, I think the thing that is important is not only for our people but also for all Australians. It is a high watermark of recognising the continuity of existences, and the co-existence of two significant nations of people. And Australia has often embraced some key issues, and they have delved into it fairly deeply. The 1967 referendum was one that comes to mind. I was in Redfern when Paul Keating gave his speech, and that was the beginning of the recognition that we had this continuity. Kevin Rudd's apology, Prime Minister Turnbull's use of addressing the Parliament, having been taught Ngunnawal language, and I have not seen that before. So Australia’s moved a long way and Constitutional recognition will cement that tapestry of the way we work together. When I – and I will finish by saying this: 20 years ago, when acknowledgement to country was referred to in a particular event, I
heard the groans. Now I don't hear it anymore. It is so commonplace, it becomes part of who we are as Australians, and that is why I see the importance of it in the greater aspect, because there are many Australians who have the same view.

Chris Uhlmann: Canberra IQ

Question: Simon Grose, Canberra IQ. You mentioned the increasing range of aged care services, which sounds cool. It also becomes a forest where you can't find the trees, or the right tree. The Tune Report recommended support for systems navigators, which I gather is an emerging sector, that these are outfits who provide advice to individuals or families about what the best aged services for them. I imagine this is a growing area. When you think about what has happened in the financial advice sector, I figure it is potentially fraught with problems. Do you have any ideas or policy on the revenue models for that kind of service, and in a wider way the general regulation of that kind of service?

Ken Wyatt: A couple of issues arise with that. The My Aged Care website was established only two years ago. And it serves a very critical function, and the hotline number that people ring, I am hearing frequently now that people are finding that very useful. The reference to navigators arose out of people's frustration with accessing My Aged Care, but also in having responses in some instances back from aged care providers. The navigators is intended to make the journey easier to understand the number of organisations with nary the types of options that you could have. I want to use the analogy of a Bain Marie. If we walk into a restaurant and we look at a menu, we’ve got some eyesight of it. In aged care, what I want is a system that is like a Bain Marie, where people can look at that Bain Marie and see the choices they have within it and then make the right choices based on their packages. At the moment, that is not what they are perceiving their opportunities are, and hence David's report makes strong reference to that. I would certainly want to look at the implications, but I don't want to create layers of red tape that make it extremely difficult for senior Australians to access aged care providers.

But ultimately, aged care providers should be on the front foot, and themselves- and they’d have to turn from what they were to now marketing what they have available. And that’s what will attract people. Word-of-mouth in the sector is very powerful.

Chris Uhlmann: And next, one of our National Press Club directors.

Question: Minister, Peter Phillips, one of the directors of the National Press Club, it is good to welcome you here and I thank you both for your address, and also for your ready agreement to play the role that you did in the presentation of our annual health journalism awards. I also take the opportunity to thank you very warmly for your endorsement of 70 as the new 40. That is music to 70-year-old ears.

My question isn’t, I regret to say, from the portfolio, but it does go to the matter of wisdom. Earlier this morning we saw 32 policemen marching into two offices of the AWU in Melbourne and in Sydney, and I ask you whether you have any views either politically or personally about the wisdom of what appears to the public punter to be this obsessive continued preoccupation with getting the Leader of the Opposition as being the best means of the Government securing its own re-election at the next Federal election.

Ken Wyatt: I don't see it that way, I see it as the laws of the land applying. And there is obviously a reason for the police to make that decision, it would not have been driven by the Prime Minister, nor his office, nor by government. And Australia is an incredible country in which we have in place structures and laws that all of us live by. And when we transgress from those then there are of course consequences, and I think this is more about a set of consequences made on a judgement at a level outside of politics. It is a due process that applies, and we have seen it historically time and time again, it doesn't matter whether it is a government at the Commonwealth level, or state and territory governments. There are reasons for our law enforcement agencies to take the actions that they do.

Chris Uhlmann: Alright, before we began the broadcast today, we had them health awards and thanks again to BUPA for sponsoring those and we have now, one of our award winners Andrew Daniels.

Question: Andrew Daniels, freelance health writer. Two nights ago I went to an Alice Cooper concert, and he has obviously embraced 70 as the new 40. However, he was supported by a very young, talented and youthful band, which brings me to my question. Last week was National Carers' Week. What is your government doing to support the carers who are supporting our older people?

Ken Wyatt: I meet with many carers around the country, and in discussions with Minister Porter we have been talking about ways in which we will support carers, and the reason I have an interest in carers is because I was one of the co-chairs of a Parliamentary Mental Health [indistinct] and I listened to a mother who talked about the impact of being a carer, and what it did to her over a number of years. And equally, there was a young woman who spoke about looking after her mother from the age of five, missing school, missing the things that she would expect to have growing up as a child who wasn't in that incredible role. And then a young man spoke and they had both been given respite from their roles. And at the age of 22 was his first time he’d been to a movie. He had never had that opportunity before because most of us don’t think about the role that a carer plays and there are carers that I’ve met who look after children with disabilities.

I have a very good friend Shirley Fitzhome(*) who won't mind me mentioning her. Her son, or her grandson is Down Syndrome but the love and nurturing she gives him is absolutely important, and hence my discussions with my colleague Minister Porter, about how we provide levels of support. But equally recognising the important role they play, and I will continue to look after those that I can within the aged care sector.

Chris Uhlmann: At the National Press Club we value enormously the wisdom that comes with many years and we have a patron, and that’s Ken Randall and he has the next question.

Question: Minister, it was heartening today to hear you talk about some of the positive reactions you’ve had from your contacts with the private sector - I don't think you mentioned the public sector - but anyway, about respecting the wisdom and the usefulness of employing older people. But we still, in the media, here many more stories about the difficulties of people above the age of about 50 find in getting any reaction at all to job applications. How fast or how slow do you think the culture is changing and are you encouraged by what you see?

Ken Wyatt: I am encouraged by the fact that the population replacement line is going to become challenging across western countries. We’re going to need the level of skills. With our trading opportunities with China, particularly in aged care, then I suspect that we will use those who need job opportunities to become part of the aged care workforce.

Our issue in this country is changing the mindset that 60 years old. I hear women who tell me when they’re 55 that they’re old and they need to retire. They’ve got to stop that thinking and think about their capability. I hear men who say I’ve got one more year to go before I retire. And you ask them what are you going to do? And some smile and some play golf two days a week. But in the public sector we need to also look at the skill capability of older Australians and you are right, they do not get responses back from people that they apply to for jobs.

Having the discussion; having the discussion become as common as the discussions we have around a barbecue over our football teams has to be the way in which we change the mindset in this nation. Governments should not have to regulate, and it is not my intent to take that pathway. My intent is to talk with companies, to talk with people, and talk about examples where older Australians are employed because senior Australians that I see languishing who want a job, and we had a forum in Queensland just recently, and a woman stood up and said I used to be a nurse, I finished nursing, I wanted a change in life, and I have applied for hundreds of jobs and nobody will now look at me. Can you do something about it? And what I hope is that a talent and a capability like hers is not lost, and someone will employ her.

I continue to have discussions with the various chambers of commerce, and I will continue to raise this as an issue within the minds of Australians while I'm in this role.

Chris Uhlmann: To David Speers, who has 17 years to go before he hits his gap year.

Question: Not that anyone is counting. Minister, can I take you to your announcement on the unannounced visits to aged care following the Oakden facility scandal, how do you see this changing some of the appalling incidents that we do see from time to time in this sector? Will the findings of these inspections be made public, or at least available to families who do have a loved one in one of these centres to improve transparency as well?

Ken Wyatt: David, when we have issues raised with us, and I refer them to the Rae Lamb and the Aged Care Complains Commission, she follows them through. And Rae’s reports are provided back to- and she meets with both sides of the family, but she also has to respect the privacy element of an individual. And that is an element that does impact.

But in all of the cases that either has been brought to my attention or to hers, we’ve sought resolution with the aged care providers. What I want to see is aged care providers 365 days a year providing the quality of care and the standards that we should have in place for senior Australians. I get told by aged care providers that when there is an announced visit they spend up to two weeks getting ready - not all - just some have expressed that. I have a great deal of faith in our aged care sector, I know that they have been hammered recently with some of the articles that have appeared. But that is not the norm. But I want to stamp out that because we shouldn't allow any senior Australian to be subjected to some of the events that have happened. Maggots in the mouth when you are admitted to a Canberra Hospital is not appropriate. Wounds that should have been dealt with when they were small ulcers should not be allowed to develop to a large pressure wound. And some of the other events that occur I will continue to work with my agency and with all of the aged care providers to make sure that we collectively commit to providing a very safe home for senior Australians. Because I want to be able to go into aged care when I get to that point knowing that I’m going to get care that will look after me until the day I pass away. And that is what I want, but I want quality care in that total mix. The advocacy groups that have been raising this issue with me for some time as well.

Chris Uhlmann: Please thank the Minister.


Minister, thank you very much for coming, I know as someone who- both of my parents have passed on now, but I know in their final years of their life, this is a huge issues for all families as people make that transition. So please join us again, that’s a membership for the National Press Club and we give you also a book of some of the great speeches that have been delivered at this club, so thank you again.

Ken Wyatt: Thank you very much Chris.


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