Radio interview with Katie Woolf, MIX 104.9 Darwin, 18 May 2023

Read the transcript of Minister Wells' interview on MIX 104.9 Darwin on the aged care pay rise, aged care bed numbers, sports funding.

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

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KATIE WOOLF, 104.9FM DARWIN HOST: Anika Wells good morning to you.


WOOLF: Minister, thanks so much for your time what have workers told you in regards to your visit while you've been here and out visiting those facilities.

WELLS: They are wonderful human beings. A lot of them have worked at that particular facility for 32 years was the record I think, a lady named Jodie. But 7 years, 10 years, 12 years and that speaks to obviously a really positive culture that Wendy and the team have there. I think what they wanted to tell me when I said what homework have you got for me as your Aged Care Minister is thank you for the pay rise. It’s long-awaited and much needed because what they need are more staff, more carers, more nurses like them to provide the care that they need and to stop the workforce shortages that we see across the country. They experience these calls on their days off you know, to fill in those shifts.

WOOLF: Absolutely, I think that here in the Territory, you know, post COVID we've had some real issues when it comes to staffing levels right across the sector, but it is good to see that there's been that increase. How much are we talking when we talk about that pay rise.

WELLS: It's a 15 per cent pay rise to the Award, which means if you are a Territorian who is a personal carer that's 140 bucks extra a week for you or 7000 a year. If you're a Territorian, who is a Registered Nurse it’s up to $200 a week extra or 10 grand a year.

WOOLF: Now Minister yeah look it does make a huge difference, but we know that when we talk about aged care in the Northern Territory, there is a critical shortage of aged care beds. We hear quite often from families whose loved ones do need a spot in an aged care bed. Is this something that was also raised with you.

WELLS: It was raised with me by your Chief Minister yesterday another important stop on my itinerary, is how we can work together to fix some of these shortages. Obviously, bed blocking is a big issue for the NT, like it is for many other state governments at the moment, and there's a couple of things we can do by working together across the State and Federal jurisdictions that might be able to get more beds, build more beds in the Territory that would allow us to ease those pressures. Because we know when things are terrible in the acute section of health it makes it harder for people in the aged care section of health as well.

WOOLF: So, are their plans for an increased number of beds or even changes when it comes to some of that at home care?

WELLS: Yes, on both those fronts, Katie, well observed. There's $32 billion dollars in the Federal budget for aged care, unprecedented, it's an enormous amount. Some of that money will go to a structural adjustment fund, which is where we help in cases where there is great need and for public utility, we help build facilities and put more beds into places where they're needed. But that's something that I talked about with the Chief Minister yesterday, and we are, like you say, re-gearing our entire home care system, the support at home system is what it's called, because we know that people want to stay at home for as long as possible, and that's what we need to re-gear our aged care system to do, because baby boomers are going to enter this system from next year, on the census data and the trend, and the system just needs to be much better prepared to accommodate them and their wishes.

WOOLF: So how soon do you reckon we're going to see some sort of positive change in that space? I know that you said sort of from next year, but do you think that Territorians will start to see that change that quickly?

WELLS: Well, it depends upon the occupancy of where you are and obviously under Territorians you've got regional areas, rural areas, you've got your townships as well, so it really depends on where you are, how fast you will see it. I think what I can say to you is there's never been more money put towards fixing the crisis in aged care, that will take time to wash through, but you've never had a Federal Government with more impetus and urgency around fixing it, and I must say I really liked the Chief Minister yesterday. I think we're going to have a good working relationship and that will pay dividends.

WOOLF: Yeah, I think you know we hear quite often from senior Territorians or families who've got a loved one who's maybe in a situation where they can't get a long-term spot for them in aged care, or they do want to stay at home, but they're not able to get the support services that they require, so I think that any positive movements we see in this space will hopefully be a good thing. Now, Minister, I know you also have the portfolio of sport, certainly my favourite area. I understand that you've had some meetings. I know you've had some meetings around that during your time in the top end, any investment that we can expect to see on the cards for any of our sporting facilities? We know that basketball's making a huge surge. We love our AFL, we love everything really any sports in the top end or right around the Territory.

WELLS: It's hard to single out a favourite sport, isn't it? I think that's my most dreaded question that I get asked as Sports Minister. I have been working with the AFL about some of the things that we can do to improve footy for Territorians here. I think we'll have more to say on that soon. What I'm doing today here in particular, I'm on my way out now to Driver Primary School to celebrate the 15 millionth student in our sporting schools program. This is free sport for kids and we're celebrating the 15 millionth student to benefit from the program. There's more money—we put nearly 80 million dollars into the budget to make sure that in this cost of living crisis, kids can still access free sport in their schools. And you know, Katie, I also get to sit on the Olympics organising Committee for 2032. The average age of an Olympian is 23, which means that the kids that will be our 2032 Olympians and Paralympians are in school now. They are Territorian school kids today, so we've got to prepare them and I love going out to see them and to ask them what they want from me—get their homework.

WOOLF: Well, I tell you what there I think there's going to be a lot of excited young Aussies as the Olympics get closer. Just before I let you go, though. On that AFL we know that there's been quite a bit of talk about bush footy, particularly with some concerns around the Central Australian Football League, and you know the Alice Springs Town Council originally not allowing some of those games to go ahead due to the social issues that we've seen in Central Australia. But the concern really is that in some of those communities you're talking about playing games of footy on dirt. Is there going to be any investment in that space?

WELLS: Well assessed Katie, exactly what the Chief Minister put to me and what we sort of talked through yesterday in our meeting. Like I said, I've got homework to take away to my colleague, the Federal infrastructure Minister Catherine King. I'll see her next week when we’re both back in Canberra and like I said hopefully I will have more for you soon.

WOOLF: Well, Minister, we really appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for having a quick chat with us.

WELLS: Such a pleasure have a good morning.

WOOLF: You too. That is the Minister for Aged Care, but also for Sport, Anika Wells, joining us on the line there, the Federal Minister.


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