In Western Australian Noongar language I say “kaya wangju” – hello and welcome.
Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which you are meeting, the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
Apologies that I cannot be with you in person today.
Your conference theme is “Advancing not retiring: Active players, a fair future”.
A message that I believe highlights the nation’s aspirations for Australians’ senior years - and certainly complements our Government’s ageing and aged care reform agenda.
A key area of focus is supporting Australians to remain active and engaged within our communities, whether in remote centres or inner cities.
We’re leading and investing in many initiatives to support this outcome – but before I touch on them, I’d like to say a few words about one of the most inspiring senior Australians I know.
In fact, she is one of the most inspiring Australians I know – full stop!
Eileen Kramer is 104 years old – and she is remains an active choreographer and dancer! She has danced for almost her entire life – and is still pursuing her passion.
Eileen is also a writer who has just launched her autobiography.
What an inspiration for all of us!
An ABC video of her story has been viewed more than 10 million times worldwide, and I saw a quote from Eileen on the ABC’s website the other day, that said:
“You do have to prepare for age, and I've prepared by always doing creative work and doing my best to ignore everything else.”
I couldn’t agree more: We must prepare for ageing – as individuals and as a nation.
Our Government’s action plan centres on the More Choices for a Longer Life package, announced in the May budget.
It is an important part of our commitment that will see investment in aged care increase by $5 billion over four years.
It’s about living life to the full – like Eileen – to 100 or more.
Changing our nation’s mindset from “growing old” to active ageing, with as many options as possible.
And it’s about an aged care journey where our seniors have certainty – and are respected, celebrated and supported.
We are backing people’s natural choice to stay in their own homes and live independently for as long as possible - so they can have better lives and stay fully engaged with their families, friends and communities.
We are helping people prepare for the future.
Soon, there will be new online health, finance and career checks available, targeted at younger age groups, beginning with a check offered at 45, then another for 65 year olds, to promote readiness for healthier, longer lives.
Through the More Choices for a Longer Life package, we’re offering financial incentives to employers to take on staff aged 50 and over.
Multimillion dollar grants to sporting groups, local government and aged care providers will deliver new and engaging national sports programs for senior Australians.
There is a record investment in mental health, and we’re helping seniors who have had physical or mental challenges to get back on their feet and live at home for as long as they can.
The number of home care packages will grow by more than 80 per cent and we will soon deliver the biggest number of new residential aged care places ever made available in an annual Aged Care Approvals Round.
Fairness is paramount, through a major revamp of the My Aged Care access system to make it easier to use, including the development of new, people-focussed aged care provider comparison system.
A new navigator network will also be trialled, including community based information hubs, with one-on-one support from specialist workers, to streamline and simplify aged care service access.
The trials will target people who have complex needs, including those facing language and technology barriers, significant financial disadvantage or social isolation.
Another critical aspect of quality ageing, is the workforce that supports you.
It’s vital that we have the right people available in our times of need, so I have just released Australia's first Aged Care Workforce Strategy.
The number of aged care workers will need to almost triple over the next 30 years, growing from 360,000 to almost one million.
A new industry reference committee has just been formed to tackle the issues identified in the strategy, and will drive major improvements in training and skills and rapidly grow the sector’s professional workforce.
Our senior Australians deserve the highest possible quality of life – and they need to have confidence this is what they are receiving.
Our reform agenda is helping to deliver this – and will continue to do so through the new and independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
It will accredit, assess and monitor aged care against new quality standards, the first upgrade of standards in two decades.
The new Quality and Safety Commission will open its doors on the first of January, with an additional $48 million to strengthen and streamline quality compliance.
While our Government’s rigorous reform program continues, we have also established the Royal Commission into the aged care sector.
The Commissioners will inquire into all forms of Commonwealth-funded aged care services, wherever they are delivered, without in any way limiting the inquiry’s scope.
Let me assure you, the Royal Commission is not about a witch-hunt.
It is about listening to the community, and examining where we have structural issues in aged care.
It will be a critical forum for Australians to tell their aged care stories, and for our nation to understand how we can meet the challenges and the opportunities of delivering sustainable aged care services.
It is about the level of reform required to guarantee that our loved ones are well cared for in the years and decades to come.
And critically, as the Prime Minister has said – a key task of the Royal Commission will be to help build a national culture of respect for ageing and older Australians.
Therein lies a key foundation for fairness for ageing Australians, into the future.
I wish you well for your conference, which is a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other, as you consider how we can help maximise the health and wellbeing of senior Australians.
I know it will be a rewarding event – and I look forward to hearing about the outcomes.