The Aged Care Royal Commission has continued its inquiry, making its way to Broome for this week's hearing of issues affecting Indigenous seniors and access to care in First Nations communities.
Yesterday, the Commissioners heard from the senior supervisor of the Bidgyadang Community Centre; a resident from Bidyadanga; a former aged care worker; UnitingCare QLD and Australian Rural and Remote Community Service; and a Professor of Geriatric Medicine.
So far, all witnesses have said Indigenous Australians desire for a connection to their land and culture as most residential aged care facilities are based in towns rather than in remote communities.
“Her spirit went really down”
A woman from a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia's Kimberley region has called for better aged care respite services, saying her family responsibilities leave her constantly exhausted.
Bidyadanga resident Madeleine Jadai, 55-years-old, told the inquiry of her sister Betty, 62, who suffers from dementia. Ms Jadai said Betty can no longer look after herself following the death of their mother.
Ms Jadai also looks after the children of her other sister, who died in a car accident a few years ago, as well as her own children and grandchildren.
"Being a carer takes up all my time," she told the commission. "Looking after so many people means I'm really tired all the time. There are other things that I would like to do but I can't."
Ms Jadai told the hearing she only gets a break when her sister visits the local Home and Community Care centre.
Respite care is never available, explained Ms Jadai, being around 190 kilometres away in Broome.
"I have asked whether or not Betty can get respite care in Broome, but I'm told that it is full.
"Having more access to respite care would make a big difference to me."
Ms Jadai said she once had to take Betty on a more than 1000km journey to a desert funeral because she could not secure respite care, and her sister got sick on the trip.
Professor Leon Flicker also gave evidence at yesterday's hearing, telling the commission that older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally tend to be more highly represented in community-based care programs, such as Home Support and Home Care, compared with residential aged care services.
Prof Flicker said cultural safety and culturally appropriate services is a major reason why Indigenous people prefer community care.
“They have an intimate attachment for the country they’re living in because of that, moving off country is a big deal for them,” he said.
Professor Flicker said the provision of culturally appropriate aged care facilities comes down to staff understanding Indigenous history.
The Geriatric Medicine professor from the University of Western Australia was also highly critical of the government’s service My Aged Care, which helps the elderly and their family access services and information.
“It’s torturous for literate middle-class Melbournians: it’s impossible for a remote Kimberley Aboriginal person,” he said.
“They might not be literate, they might not even own a computer or a landline or a mobile phone that can wait 35 minutes. The idea that this is a system that is navigable by the average client is basically absurd.”
This week’s hearing in Broome will conclude on Wednesday. A community gathering will be held in Broome after the hearing for anyone who didn’t have a chance to provide their evidence. Mr Bolster has urged the community to attend.
“This royal commission is not a court. This royal commission is not the government. We’re here to hear your voice, hear your stories and hear from you,” he said.