Speech by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Speech at opening of Fairway Rise Aged Care, Lindisfarne, Tasmania

Thanks so much Ray, it’s wonderful to be here.

And can I just start by acknowledging a few people who I know have been important to this project, and important in the lives of many people here.

His Grace, the Most Reverend Julian Porteous, the Archbishop of Hobart.

His predecessor, Archbishop Adrian Doyle.

Bishop Newell, who is also with us.

The Honourable Ray Groom AO, the Chair of Southern Cross Care. Ray is someone who I describe as a serial contributor to community life. A distinguished former Premier, distinguished former Federal Minister, and someone who continues to make a great contribution in this State. So, great to be with you Ray.

Richard Sadek, the Chief Executive and Virginia Hancl, the Manager of Fairway Rise.

And Senator David Bushby, my great mate. Probably something I shouldn’t confess to you, but I will. For about half the year David is the first person I see every morning, and the last person I see at the end of the night.

Don’t get worried, there are two explanations for that. One is, David is my Canberra flatmate. The other is, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, one of my hats, I work very closely with David as Chief Government Whip. So David, great to be with you here.

Also, fabulous to be with Jacqui Petrusma, who is my ministerial counterpart here in the state, and also Lara Giddings, former Premier of the state.

But there are two other important groups that I want to acknowledge. First and foremost, the residents. I’m always acutely aware whenever I’m in an aged care facility or a retirement village that I’m in someone’s home. So, to the residents, can I say thank you very much for having me at your place, and for the opportunity to share in this very important day.

I also want to acknowledge the staff who are here. Because I know that for you, what you do every day, is far more than a job. That when you wake up in the morning and you’re heading to work, you know that you will be making a contribution to improving someone’s quality of life. And it’s also, I think, a great privilege to work in aged care because people put their trust in you. They have the confidence to rely on you, sometimes at a time of vulnerability in their lives. I think it’s important to stop for a moment and to reflect that to work in this sector, and in this area, is a great privilege. Whether you’re care staff, or whether you’re the Minister. So thank you to the staff for all that you do.

I think today, above and beyond anything else really, is a celebration. Obviously it’s a celebration of the completion of this magnificent project, which we see around us, and which we see as we look down the hill.

But for me it’s also a celebration of mission-based, or faith-based, organisations such as Southern Cross Care and the Knights of the Southern Cross.

There is a certain character and a certain quality which is infused through a faith-based organisation. And that also manifests itself in the way that people are cared for. So I really wanted to be here today partly as a statement of support for mission-based organisations.

Friends, today is a great day. And I really embrace the concept that we see around us. It’s so terrific to have both retirement village and aged care on the one site because that provides a continuum of support for people. People can come in when their needs are low, and as their needs get greater, as they age, they can remain in place, they can remain part of the community that they know. So I love this model, I want to see more of these models around the nation as the minister for aged care.

Ray was kind to mention the Commonwealth’s small contribution to this project. I’m someone who is always loath to mention Commonwealth contributions. I always am a little averse to mentioning dollar figures. Because when a federal minister does that, it can somehow imply that the Commonwealth’s support is something that the Federal Government benevolently bestows on an organisation or a community. It can imply that somehow it’s the Commonwealth’s money, which it’s not. Every dollar the Commonwealth has is the community’s money, which is rendered through taxation. The Commonwealth is merely the vehicle through which some good community priorities are identified.

What we see around us has overwhelmingly been built by community dollars, community effort and community fundraising. And today, above and beyond anything else, should be a celebration of this community for its capacity to see need, to get on with the job of meeting that need, and bringing a vision to reality. So to everyone who has been a part of this tremendous venture, I say to you, congratulations. And on behalf of the Federal Government, thank you for everything you have done.