Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Petition: Aged Care
I rise today on behalf of the Bombala community, who are in desperate need of a solution and are sick of the rhetoric of this government. In February I asked the Prime Minister to take action to support Bombala after the community was told that their beloved aged-care facility, Currawarna, would close. As I stood in parliament, residents, staff and family members were in shock. They had no idea what the next steps would be. They've looked to the government for support, but they've been ignored. In last night's budget there was not a single thing for the aged-care sector: nothing to deal with staff shortages, nothing for aged-care transparency and nothing for Bombala.
The Minister for Health and Aged Care has stood in question time and denied that there was a crisis in regional aged care. He said the government had intervened to support residents, but all the government had done was tell the provider to stay open until the residents found somewhere else to go. Residents will be forced out of their homes. They had made the decision to age with dignity in a community that respected them, that remembered their best days and that would stand with them and provide comfort for them when they were in their worst days. There is no dignity, respect or choice in what has happened to these residents. Their families are doing their best to find new homes for them, but it won't be the same. Daily visits from loved ones will be a thing of the past, as the 200-kilometre round trip to the nearest aged-care facility will make this impossible.
Two weeks ago I travelled to Bombala to attend a community meeting to discuss the future of aged care in the region. Around 100 locals gathered to ask the question: 'What now?' What could they do to ensure this doesn't mean the end of aged care in their town? The devastation in the room was palpable, but the commitment from the community to do everything it can was inspiring. I was there, the local mayor was there, the state representative was there. Politics aside, this issue needs to be addressed. Despite the three requests I've made to the aged-care minister to visit Bombala, he did not attend. The minister for health said aged-care centres have opened and that more have opened than have closed over the past five years. But how many of these new centres have opened in regional areas? Currawarna is the second aged-care centre in Eden-Monaro to close in the last few months alone, and I'm not aware of a single one opening.
I have no doubt that this will keep happening, and regional communities will continue to be left behind. Mr Deputy Speaker, I have a document here and I seek to table it now. It contains a petition of the Bombala community, with 937 signatures and 242 letters written by community members urging the government to secure the future of aged care in Bombala. This shows how important the aged-care system is in Bombala. I'll be taking a copy directly to the minister following this. He may have refused to come to Bombala, but he cannot keep ignoring this community. The government cannot sweep aged care under the rug. Regional Australians deserve to be able to age with dignity in communities they know and love. (Time expired)