Hello everyone, I am honoured to be speaking to you today.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, Gadigal land, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.
I also extend this respect to all First Nations with us today.
Together we stand on the shoulders of 1600 generations of First Nations people and that is our shared history.
I would also like to acknowledge:
Mike Baird, CEO HammondCare who has been someone I have been able to call upon…
Senator, the Hon Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care
Dr Makarena Dudley, Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland
Nova Peris OAM, the first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament
Dr Wendy Hulko, Thompson Rivers University, Canada
Maggie Beer AO, from The Maggie Beer Foundation
And Professor Andrew Cole, The Chief Medical Officer and Rehabilitation Medicine Senior Staff Specialist at HammondCare
And any of my constituents.
We are here today with heavy hearts.
Queen Elizabeth II is the only Monarch to ever visit Australia and her first visit happened… just three kilometres from this hotel.
The then 27 year old sailed into Sydney harbour on February 3, 1954, docking at Farm Cove.
Through the decades since… she embodied grace and dignity.
In 2011, I joined thousands along the Brisbane River to welcome Her Majesty.
I remember what it meant to us in that crowd, a warmth and pride that our Queen genuinely cared how the tragedy of Queensland’s floods impacted us.
An exceptional leader, an exceptional woman.
Our thoughts are with the Royal Family and the Commonwealth. May she rest in eternal peace.
My thanks to HammondCare for organising this event and your tireless work on behalf of people living with dementia, their families, and carers. I understand HammondCare supports people living with dementia and their carers to access this conference through reduced registration fees, a dedicated space, and a support person to assist throughout the event.
This level of inclusion can only make the outcomes of this conference stronger.
In many ways I’m among the fortunate few… dementia has not directly impacted my family… my experience has been with the residents of Daisy wing when I worked at a nursing home (to Maggie’s point, as an unqualified kitchen assistant) twenty years back…
But this new role has made me realise how truly lucky my immediate family is…
How privileged we are to be the exception…
Since being sworn in as Minister for Aged Care I have listened to many people who aren’t as fortunate… who have watched loved one’s battle dementia.
One of those people is now a friend, Pat Cook…
Pat lives in my electorate of Lilley in North Brisbane.
Pat’s best friend of 73 years and husband of 71 years, Jack, was living with dementia and had been receiving a home care package.
I brought the now Prime Minister to meet Pat and Jack earlier this year before the election.
The Prime Minister and I listened to what worked well and what didn’t in their home care package.
We promised Pat and Jack if the Australian people voted us in, we would do our best to ensure home care and support for people living with dementia improved.
Just after we won the election… I visited Pat and Jack in hospital to renew that promise.
Unfortunately, Jack passed away between that meeting and Parliament… before we could make good on our promise.
It was another reminder that dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia.
I briefly told this story when we introduced the Aged Care Reform bill to the House on the very first morning of the 47th parliament… because Jack and Pat deserved better.
I want to let you all know; this Government will be better.
And part of how we will do that…is by not just thanking the aged care workforce and people such as yourselves here today but rewarding you.
Last Thursday, at the Jobs and Skills Summit… Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood demanded carers be paid more to boost the broader economy:
I’ll just read out one of her quotes - “Low wages in care sectors are a result of entrenched gender biases and expectations that women will care selflessly and for little money. And for a long time, they have. But now, both fairness and market reality dictates that pay will need to rise.”
And it will rise, because we wrote to the Fair Work Commission for a needed pay increase and a decision is expected this summer.
This government has committed to fully funding the pay rise.
Because more carers with more time to care is a critical pillar to building a robust sector.
There will be challenges ahead but we are determined to reform aged care, including in dementia care and support.
This is why the Government has committed to delivering practical measures to ensure people living with dementia, their families and carers receive the support they deserve.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety rightly identified dementia as one of four immediate priorities for action.
In 22-23, this Government will continue investing in specific dementia programs to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia from diagnosis through to residential aged care.
The Government’s plan for aged care, including Registered Nurses on site 24/7 and an average of 215 care minutes per day for residents, will improve the quality of residential care for all older Australians, particularly for people living with dementia.
Work is also progressing to make sure staff and workers receive the support they need with additional training.
This Government knows dementia is not just an aged care issue.
To this end, the Government is negotiating a new ten-year National Dementia Action Plan with state and territory governments.
This will enable a national approach for dementia risk reduction, timely diagnosis, and improvements in services for people living with dementia, their carers, and families.
The Plan will be consumer focussed and have shared accountabilities across jurisdictions.
It is being developed in consultation with people with lived experience of dementia.
We anticipate the Plan will be released for public consultation later this year and I urge conference participants to have your say because we value your expertise, your experience and your practical know how.
Hammond Care founder Reverend Bob Hammond was initially driven to help his community after seeing desperate people facing homelessness during the great depression.
That legacy should inspire us all to help provide for people needing care in later life and help ensure they never reach a stage of desperation.
I want to finish by asking you all here today to continue to think about, talk with and listen to older people, families, carers, and their workforce.
Let’s focus on what we can do together to improve care and make a genuine difference to the lives of people with dementia, now and in the future.
Let’s focus on being better.
Let’s focus on how we can help people like Pat and Jack live with more support.