Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023



8:15 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to bring the Senate's attention to Dementia Action Week, which takes place from 18 to 24 September. It is a week of action led by Dementia Australia, and this week's theme is Act Now for a Dementia Friendly Future. There are almost 500,000 Australians living with dementia as I speak, and two-thirds of people with dementia live in communities across the country. In Tasmania it's estimated there are almost 10,300 people living with dementia.

You can become a dementia friendly activist by going to the website. Raising awareness and increasing understanding about dementia in our communities, and how that in turn can have an extraordinary impact on the day-to-day lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers, is what being a dementia friendly activist is all about. A more inclusive, respectful, compassionate and understanding community that values senior Australians is a better community, a community we can all be proud of. Staying home might feel safer and make it easier to avoid confusion or potentially embarrassing situations, but people with dementia deserve to be living amongst everyone, and we all have a duty to make them feel welcome in our communities. There is no greater gift in this world than to feel welcome and understood, to feel confident that you can keep doing the things you want to do for as long as you want.

When our communities become dementia friendly, it will lead to less fear, a greater understanding of dementia, less stigma and more inclusive support to keep people active in our communities for longer. I urge people to get involved in Dementia Action Week. You can use the range of resources available on Dementia Australia's website which include events, toolkits and tips. I thank Dementia Australia and their team for the work that they do every day to make Australia a dementia friendly country.

I'm proud to be part of the Albanese Labor government, which is putting the care of Australians and the economy at the top of the government's agenda. We went to an election saying that we would put more nurses in residential aged care and give aged-care workers more time to care for residents, and we're doing this. We have also instigated a pay increase for aged-care workers, a wonderful achievement and something I have campaigned for for many, many years. From the first full payday from 30 June this year, minimum award wages increased by 15 per cent for workers in residential aged care who are paid under the aged-care award or the nursing award.

The Albanese government cares about the care economy, which is why we have prioritised the health, aged care, disability and social services sectors to ensure Australians receive the care and respect that they deserve. I recall the words of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which stated

Dementia care should be core business for aged care services, and particularly residential aged care services.

The Albanese government wholeheartedly endorses this sentiment because people living with dementia in our communities and within residential aged care deserve to live with respect and dignity.

A dementia diagnosis does not mean the end of your life as you know it. No, it means you deserve to live in your community for as long as you want, and the community will ensure it provides a dementia friendly community to live in. We know that 70 per cent of the almost 500,000 Australians with dementia are living in the community and that 70 per cent of residential aged-care residents have moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

The only way to ensure quality care for people living with dementia is to invest in our care economy and invest in our people. There must be compulsory dementia training for aged-care workers, and this should be extended out into the community. So, if you work in a bank, in retail or in other businesses, you should have an understanding of what the journey is like for those people who have been diagnosed with dementia. We need to be more passionate and we need to be more respectful. But what we also need is that people working in aged care, whether in residential care or caring for people in their own homes, should get an additional allowance if they have dementia training. We have to incentivise people to take that next step.

Senate adjourned at 20:20