02 February 2023

Parliament of Australia

President of the Senate

Senator the Honourable Sue Lines








I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Land upon which we are holding this Launch Ceremony today, and to acknowledge Elders past, present and emerging.


I would especially like to acknowledge the Directors of the Winjan Aboriginal Corporation, and the Elders of the Bindjareb Region. I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the Directors of Gnaarla Karla Boodja Regional Aboriginal Corporation.


The Aboriginal Community of the Bindjareb Region must be feeling a great sense of pride today.


Shortly, the Aboriginal Flag will be raised to signify the opening of the first Aboriginal Aged Care Centre anywhere throughout the Greater Perth metropolitan area.


This Centre is managed by an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation to service and support the home-and-community-care needs of Aboriginal Elders.


Some of you may know that I have spent my working life before becoming a Senator as an organiser and official of the United Voice Union, here in Western Australia.


Among the many and varied workers, I had the privilege to assist through our industrial campaigns were Aged Care workers, many of who were casualised and under-valued.


So for me, it is a pleasure to be with you here today knowing that this Aged Care Centre will also be the source of employment and training for a new cohort of skilled, accredited Aboriginal Aged Care workers.


The location of this Aboriginal Aged Care Centre in Mandurah as the hub of the services and supports to First Nations Elders in the Bindjareb Region has a personal resonance for me.


Mandurah is where my father, Jim Lines, retired to after a lifetime of hard work, having been brought to Australia as a young boy under the UK child migration scheme, and placed in Fairbridge Farm.


I am aware that this Aboriginal Aged Care Centre is long overdue, and I congratulate the South West Aboriginal Medical Service for its success in this pioneering initiative.


This success has been made possible because the Albanese Labor Government has begun the reform of the privatised Aged Care System put in place by John Howard in 1997.


Parliament has already made changes to the 1997 Aged Care Act. In fact, that new legislation was the first that I signed as President. And further changes are coming to make the aged care system more accountable.


Reforms have been made to residential aged care, designed to improve the quality of care, including nursing care.


$2.0 million has been provided to start the transition of Aboriginal Medical Services to become approved providers of aged care services, starting in WA with SWAMS.


A further $2.0 million has been provided so these new Aboriginal aged care providers can deliver home-and-community care services to Elders.


Mandurah and the Bindjareb Region is going to benefit from these investments, through this Aged Care Centre.


But this is just the start of the Albanese Government’s implementation of the recommendations for comprehensive aged care reform which came out of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.


The Royal Commission’s Recommendation Number 47 was historic, because, for the first time, a national policy call was issued to develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific “pathway” within the framework of the Aged Care System.


This “pathway” will address barriers to access into the aged care system. It will allow for culturally appropriate assessments of Elders’ needs. Just as importantly, it will facilitate delivery of aged care services by Aboriginal organisations employing Aboriginal workers.


Research published by the National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care in 2020/2021 reported that First Nations Elders in the Perth area had the worst access rates into the aged care system of any capital city in Australia.


Less than 9% of Elders living in the Perth area access aged care services, which compares with the national average of 27% for non-Indigenous Australians.


This research showed that only 9 First Nations Elders throughout the whole of the Perth area were receiving their aged care services from an Aboriginal organisation.


We know that the June 2021 Census confirms that there are more than 7,700 Elders living in the Perth area, so we also know that there is a serious challenge ahead of us before we can say that aged care services are being delivered on an equitable basis to First Nations Elders in Perth and Peel.


Local and regional control of services by Aboriginal organisations are very important. There is now bi-partisan agreement in the Parliament that solutions to complex issues require leadership in design and implementation coming from Aboriginal organisations. This approach allows the right voices to be heard when decisions are made. It is for the same reason that we are having a referendum on getting a guaranteed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. The best people to know what First Nations people need, are First Nations people.


It makes sense that organisations such as SWAMS, founded on principles of self-determination and empowerment, are uniquely placed to design and implement programs and individual care which are relevant, culturally sensitive and used with confidence. 

The Launch today of this first ever Aboriginal Aged Care Centre here in Mandurah is further evidence that success is more likely when there is partnership between Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations and the Government.


I am lucky enough to have seen the accomplishments of SWAMS in a wide variety of healthcare related areas.


I have every confidence that the Aboriginal Aged Care Service is going to be a great success and I look forward to receiving ongoing reports as home and community care services progress.


I commend SWAMS, the City of Mandurah, and the Elders who have collaborated to bring us to this stage.


Thank you.