Adjournment Debate - Ageing

I take the opportunity this evening to report to the House an important event that occurred in my electorate in January. The member for Throsby and I co-hosted a conversation on ageing at which we were pleased to have the Minister for Health and Ageing present to talk with over 200 local people. They came along to talk about the program that the federal government is looking to follow after the publication of the Productivity Commission report on managing ageing, Caring for Older Australians. This is about making sure that our older people, our older citizens, not only have quality of life but, as the minister said, are able to participate in and contribute in an ongoing way to their communities, and working out how we can best achieve this at a time when, as we all know from the originally commissioned reports of Treasurer Costello in the former Howard government, we face challenges as the demographics of our communities change so that there are more people over the age of 65 relying on fewer workers of a younger age.

It was really encouraging and I think the minister's message was well received by those who were present. He particularly did not want to frame this conversation as a problem. He does not want to see ageing presented as a negative in our society but he felt we could find a far more productive way of working our way through this by seeing it as an opportunity and by working with older people in our country in order to find ways in which they see themselves participating more fully over the longer term.

It was a really good forum. We worked through the overarching principles that the minister had outlined as arising from the commission's recommendations. Briefly for the House's information, they are, firstly, that every older Australian deserves the right to be able to access quality care and support that is appropriate to their needs, and when they need it. The second is that older Australians deserve greater choice of and control over their care arrangements than the current system provides. The third is that funding arrangements for aged care need to be sustainable and fair both for older Australians and for the broader community. The final one is that older Australians deserve to receive quality care from an appropriately skilled workforce.

There were a lot of contributions from local people ranging across their direct experiences and their hopes and ambitions not only for themselves but for generations that will follow them—an aspect of our current older generation that is familiar to us all is their commitment to making sure that they achieve things not only for themselves but for their children and their grandchildren. We had a lot of that presented at the forum.

I want to finish up by referring in particular to a follow-up email I received. One of the groups at the forum was the Dementia Support Network from our local area. The member for Throsby and I had met them when they came to Canberra at the end of last year for a larger forum and lobbying on dementia support event. I followed up on 13 December and met locally with the local support network, organised by Val Fel and Dianne Zisis. I had a really moving meeting with them. There was one lady there—I will not name her—whose husband has dementia as young onset dementia, and it was particularly brave of her to talk about the situation that their family found themselves in and the pain and difficulty they had gone through. Her husband was there with her. I really appreciate that.

Val particularly wanted me to follow up after the forum. She had really appreciated the opportunity to talk to the minister on these issues and she wanted to encourage all members of the House and the Senate to think about how they would feel if they suddenly found a loved one no longer knew who they were. If we could answer that, she feels, we would go some way to understanding the challenges that they deal with and to develop strategies for what she calls AREA—awareness, research, education and access—to support and help not only people with dementia but those who support them and love them in their families. I was really pleased they had found that a useful process and I commend them for their ongoing work on developing new local strategies, including working with the University of Wollongong through a community seminar on dementia and to ensure the community is advised of the issues. (Time expired)