Migrants, refugees encouraged to 'tell their stories' to Aged Care Royal Commission

The peak body for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians says it hopes new resources will encourage more migrants and refugees to come forward with their stories in aged care.

Older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are being urged to share their experiences with aged care services.

Older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are being urged to share their experiences with aged care services. Source: Multicultural Aged Care

Older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are being encouraged to "tell their stories" to the Aged Care Royal Commission.

To facilitate this, new resources have been developed by the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA).

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It marks the first time a royal commission has boosted its language and translation resources to hear directly from these Australians.

The commission is accepting submissions until at least the end of September. 

Hopes for increased participation

FECCA chairperson Mary Patetsos said it was a move that the body secured through their consultation with the commission. 

"Previous royal commissions provided interpreters as an option, but it was a remote possibility and very difficult thing to organise. And people were not aware that they were available," she said.

"There was often difficulty in setting up the process to ensure people could use interpreters and material was not translated. So you had very low participation."

She said the extra resources recognised the demands of providing culturally-appropriate aged care arrangements for migrants.

"It is also recognising that older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, in aged care whether it be at home or in residential aged care, is a critical issue in their life.

"So I think the royal commissioners are very aware that this is an important topic for the community. So it was not something they could ignore."

'Tell their story direct'

To date, 5,258 submissions have been received with the majority of them coming from the more populous states NSW (29 per cent), Victoria (27 per cent), Queensland (22 per cent).

Ms Patetsos said overcoming the language barrier is critical in gaining the first person perspectives that will ensure the cultural and religious considerations are taken into account. 

Over 5,000 submissions have been received by the aged care royal commission.
Source: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

"The commission has done a really good job to capture the voices of older people, we're hoping to have lots of voices from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, so they can tell their story direct.

"It is one thing for me to tell it and it is another for it to be from them.

"Fundamentally it is about ensuring that people are safe and that they receive quality care."

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Challenges navigating the aged care system

She said the roundtables facilitated so far with FECCA's membership and outreach into communities has already highlighted key issues. 

Language remains the biggest challenge. Dealing with the expected increase size of migrants over 65 and 85 is another.

"We have increasing numbers, over 35 per cent of people going into [aged] care come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. So the numbers are not insignificant." 

Other issues include navigating the aged care system and ensuring the migrant employees in the sector are receiving the right support to increase the quality of care given.

"It is just really hard if you are an able-bodied, English-speaking, educated person to navigate a really complex. So older people without the language, without the knowledge, without the IT capabilities really struggle to navigate the system.

"A lot of people in the [aged care sector] workforce, especially the lower end of the workforce, themselves are people of culturally and linguistically diverse background, are often new arrivals who take jobs in nursing homes to be carers.

"So we need to care for them. We need to make sure that they understand what the rules are and what the responsibilities are as an employee in Australia."

The commission is encouraging submissions online, via email, by post or via telephone.

For those wanting to share their experiences in languages other than English, an interpreter service is available at no extra charge.

Growing numbers of older migrants

The royal commission is finishing a three-day hearing in the Victorian regional city of Mildura, with the next hearing set for five days in Brisbane, beginning on 5 August.

The commission has heard the size of the Australian population aged over 85 years old is expected to grow to more than 1.5 million people (3.7 per cent of the total population) by 2058. In 1978, that proportion was 0.6 per cent, rising to 2 per cent in 2018.

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More than a third (37 per cent) of Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas, according to the 2016 Census. More than a fifth (21 per cent) of Australians speak a language other than English.

The royal commission has also been told that "the demand for culturally appropriate services is likely to increase considerably in the future and this demand will change over time as the different ethnic populations continue to age at different rates."

More older Australian migrants in 2018-19 used home care services (accounting for 25.7 per cent of Australians using these services) compared to residential care services (19.5 per cent). 

Published 31 July 2019 at 6:45pm
By Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS News