Address to the Economic and Social Outlook Conference - 2 November 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Wells' speech at the Economic and Social Outlook Conference, hosted by The Melbourne Institute and The Australian.

The Hon Anika Wells MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Sport

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Hello and thank you Jenna Clarke for the introduction and thank you to the Melbourne Institute and The Australian for inviting me today.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

I extend this respect to all First Nations people with us today.

Together, Australians stand on the shoulders of 1600 generations of First Nations people and that is our shared history.

Uncle Alex, a First Nations elder from Turrbal and Jagera country that I represent in the Australian parliament, would say “Wun-ja-na!”

Which means “May the spirits keep you well”.

I am proud to be part of this Government committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full.

I also acknowledge this afternoon’s panel members:

Peter Scutt, the Co-Founder and CEO, Mable

Associate Professor, Jongsay Yong, Principal Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute

It’s an honour to be here among the country’s brightest thinkers and most influential policy leaders to work together on our vision for the nation and discuss our vision for aged care.

As some of you may know, I worked in aged care in my early 20s, pushing the tea trolley around after my uni lectures.

I chose the job because my mum also worked in the nursing home.

The role taught me humility and showed me levels of compassion I may not have experienced otherwise.

The world has changed a lot since then and, so has aged care…in many cases though it has stagnated.

I vividly remember mum struggling to manage the roster, not having enough workers to cover shifts… unfortunately the workforce situation has only worsened.

I want to be honest with you all today… aged care is in crisis.

We have inherited a mess after almost a decade of inaction.

But we are on the road to reform and already passing legislation. We have already responded to 37 Royal Commission recommendations in just five months.

We are working hard to make aged care better for those receiving care and those giving care.

However, unless we seek innovative models of care.

Unless we embrace creativity, technology and international best practice… we will not be prepared for the greatest impact on aged care this century.

Baby boomers.

We are at the precipice of the next great test of our aged care system – the Boomer generation.

Born between 1946 and 1966, boomers have fundamentally changed every industry they have confronted.

Now, it is aged care’s turn.

Baby boomers believe it is their job to change the world.

In 2026…the first boomers will turn 80 years old.

They have told us loud and clear that they want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

At a certain point, some will have look to residential aged care – and they will expect a level of care they have worked hard over a lifetime to secure. A level of care
they have earned.

Now, I am not saying baby boomers will unravel the aged care system.

What I am saying is, they expect us to do the work today that will see older Australians front and centre of the aged care system.

This should be the expectation.

The Baby Boomer period spans 20 years, this is not a rogue wave.

It will be a rising tide that swells for a decade or more before it peaks.

Some estimates suggest demand for high levels of care, including residential care, will surge by five to nine percent every single year, as the boomers age.

The current number of aged care residents is around 200,000; by 2040, it will be close to 350,000 and this is despite the inevitable increase in home care.

We can’t sandbag against this tide. We must build structures that protect us.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety gave us a blueprint for where to start.

Innovation must thrive.

As a government we have our ideas, informed by an expert public service, but there is great potential to contribute to innovative change among providers and frontline care workers.

Two weeks ago, I visited Ryman Care’s Murray Halberg village in Auckland and saw first-hand their Continuum of Care model … in which retirement living is mixed with home care services, apartments and aged care facilities.

This allows residents and partners to remain in the same village, as their changing needs are met.

I’ve also heard great things about the Korongee Dementia Village in Tasmania … Korongee uses a small house model and a tailored matching process where surveys inform the type of small house best suited to you.

The village resembles a typical Tasmanian neighbourhood and reflects dementia design principles, including multiple visual cues for easier navigation.

This village is based on the revolutionary Hogewyk model in The Netherlands, a model which seeks to deinstitutionalise aged care.

The Hogeweyk model places people together based on similar lifestyles and the village includes a pub, restaurant, theatre and supermarket.

These are examples of innovation thriving.

Collectively we can seek out better solutions here and overseas.

Australia’s aged care providers know their business, they see the challenge ahead.

So, at every opportunity I want to hear those ideas.

But… I can hear your brains’ collectively question… what are we doing about it?

We came into government with a plan to restore quality, dignity and respect to aged care.

Just last week we cemented 24/7 nursing in residential aged care homes into law, and earlier in the year we legislated the AN-ACC, which will allow us to mandate an average of 215 minutes of care per day for residents from October 2024.

We have also committed to funding the outcome of the Fair Work Commission’s decision and made a submission to support a wage rise for our dedicated aged care workforce.

Analysis by the National Skills Commission suggests even a 10 per cent permanent wage increase would halve the workforce gap for the total care and support sector by 2050.

Our recently announced 2022-23 Budget helps facilitate this new era of aged care.

Our $3.9 billion investment responds directly to 23 of the Royal Commission recommendations.

We must and we will do more.

We are on a global search for innovation, which starts right here in this room.

The challenge is before us – the Albanese Government is working alongside older Australians, the aged care sector, our care workforce and the Australian people - you.

We must design new aged care architecture together because as baby boomers age, our challenge will become greater.

Thank you.

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