The Inspector-General of Aged Care Bill 2023 is an important step in addressing systemic issues in the aged-care sector. I'm proud to be part of a Labor government that is leading its implementation. This office will have strong investigative powers and will be able to review the implementation of the royal commission's recommendations, which will be integral to undoing the negligence faced by the sector under the previous government.
For too long, this sector has been chronically underfunded and overwhelmed by demand. For too long, people have suffered substandard care. For too long, older Australians have been robbed of dignified and meaningful living. Let's not forget the consequences of this neglect on some of Australia's most vulnerable during the height of the pandemic. In 2020, some three-quarters of deaths from COVID-19 in Australia were in aged-care homes. Under the opposition, Australia had one of the highest rates of death in residential care in the world.
For nearly a decade, those opposite have failed to appropriately care for and value older Australians. The need for a strong, resilient aged-care system could not be more urgent. Right now, some 80 per cent of Australians use an aged-care program at some stage before their death. Within a decade, our nation will have more people aged over 65 than under 18. More significantly, by 2050 about 3½ million Australians will need access to aged-care services like residential aged care each year.
This bill and the creation of the Inspector-General of Aged Care office would not only play a pivotal role in righting some of the wrongs under the previous government but will also enable us to build a more resilient system for the future. It would drive improvement across the aged-care system by monitoring the government's administration of the aged-care system, calling out systemic issues, recommending improvements and providing a much-needed increase in accountability and transparency through reporting to parliament, including on the progress of implementation of the recommendations made by the royal commission.
I'm happy to support this bill, which is one of the many investments that our government is making into the aged-care sector. We're delivering a record 15 per cent pay increase for aged-care workers across Australia, establishing a new aged-care task force to review aged-care funding arrangements and develop options to make the system fair and equitable for all Australians, putting older people at the centre of residential aged care, assigning care places to people, introducing new initiatives for GPs to provide care to residents through MyMedicare, improving access to high-quality aged care for First Nations elders and boosting provider support and worker training to build care capacity.
This final initiative includes $2.547 million in funding to establish a peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged care and ageing. This is in response to one of the other key findings of the royal commission into aged care, which is that the current system is largely failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The final report notes:
After a lifetime of experiencing marginalisation, discrimination, disadvantage and racism, the Elders and the older people descendent of the first inhabitants of this ancient land deserve better than this.
I couldn't agree more. It is a sad indictment of the system that the care needs of our ageing First Peoples are not being met.
Older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly underrepresented in residential aged-care services, at under one per cent, but overrepresented in Commonwealth Home Support Program services and level 2 home-care packages. These trends are worrying, considering older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience at least twice the burden of disease of other Australians. First Nations peoples faces social, economic and cultural barriers which prevent access to a mainstream aged-care services. These issues with access are made worse by our elders' additional vulnerability from higher rates of disability, comorbidities, homelessness and dementia. This also leads to a majority of our elders having a strong preference for culturally appropriate aged and disability care provided by Aboriginal services.
Recently I met with James Atkinson, CEO of the Aboriginal Community Elders Service, on this very subject. ACES is a not-for-profit Aboriginal community controlled organisation based in East Brunswick in Victoria. It provides residential aged-care facilities, programs and innovative and flexible, planned activity group programs which are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders. James and I spoke about the diverse indicators of a culturally appropriate service, such as having buildings suited to cultural activities and ceremonies, providing access to bushland gardens, including the local community in aged-care planning, respecting cultural traditions such as men's and women's business, employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to provide care, which is particularly important as close to 10 per cent of Indigenous peoples in residential aged care speak preferred languages other than English, including First Nations languages.
Our communities know our issues. They have grown up in these areas for thousands of years. These are their homes and culture, and they should be genuinely engaged to provide culturally appropriate care. Given the anticipated increase in the demand for aged-care services from First Nations peoples, there is an urgent need for culturally safe services, particularly in regional settings. In response to this need, the Albanese government recently launched the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, NATSIAACC. The council will lead reform priorities for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, embedding Closing the Gap targets in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged care. It will ensure access to support and care that is culturally safe, trauma aware and healing informed and that recognises the importance of our personal connections to community and country. It will develop ageing and aged-care policies which respond effectively to the needs of our elders and will facilitate access and participation at equitable rates. It will advocate for improvements in the ageing and aged-care sector which will benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander providers and elders. To sum it up, it will play a key part in closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Increasing health outcomes and life expectancy is not only a health issue but also a human rights issue. It is central to the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The creation of entities like the Inspector-General of Aged Care and the council reinforces this government's commitment to ensuring elders and older Australians can live a meaningful life with dignity and respect. Really it is about treating others how we want ourselves and our loved ones to be supported as we age. Aged-care service providers have a duty to provide high-quality and safe care in a compassionate way that maintains the wellbeing of older people. For far too long, the system has neglected this duty and it has been left to the whims of the market, which has failed to produce good outcomes in the residential aged-care sector. But our government is committed to transforming the system from the mess that we've inherited, whether it is by boosting the aged-care workforce, increasing transparency or increasing the quality of care for those who need it most. We're committed to independent monitoring, investigations and reporting of the aged-care system under the Inspector-General of Aged Care Bill.
Finally, we're committed to ensuring that elders ageing on country are front and centre of the government's response to the royal commission's recommendations. For too long, the aged-care sector and the workers who are integral to it were neglected and left behind by the former government. We have sought to end the crisis, and, since coming to government, we have not wasted a day. The Albanese government recognises your commitment to our country's most vulnerable, and we make a commitment to you that you won't be left behind again. Thank you for all that you do.
Long debate text truncated.
Date and time: 12:32 PM on 2023-08-08
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 40
Total number of "no" votes: 19
Total number of abstentions: 17
Related bill: Inspector-General of Aged Care Bill 2023
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au