Speech by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Sod-turning for Opal Aged Care and Stockland’s joint aged care and retirement village project

[Greetings omitted]

Can I also single out for special mention two very important groups of people here. Firstly, those who are here who work in aged care. You know that when you get up each day you are making an important contribution to the quality of life of someone else. It’s a very privileged role that you have – that people, who are often at a vulnerable point in their lives, trust you enough to open themselves to you and your support. So thank you for all that you do.

And also, can I acknowledge the residents here from this village. We are really here in your home – so thank you for having us at your place. I’m always very keenly aware when I visit an aged care facility or a retirement village that I’ve been invited into the place where someone lives. So thank you.

I think today really is a celebration, not just of the partnership that there is between Opal and Stockland. Today is also a celebration of the fact that, as a community, we’re living longer and we’re living healthier. What a fabulous thing. We have in Australia today about 3,000 centenarians. By 2050 there’ll be 50,000 centenarians. What an indicator that is of the fact that we’re living longer and living better. It’s something that we as a community have been working towards for generations. And if you’re going to have a challenge as a community, this is the best possible challenge you can have.

As the minister for ageing, it’s part of my responsibility to plan for that. And there are two things that I’m absolutely passionate about as the minister for ageing. One is that we have a continuum of care for people as they get older. That through the ages and stages of their life, the accommodation and care that they have is seamless. And the other thing that I’m passionate about is the role and the right of the individual. The individual having the maximum possible choice and control over their circumstances.

And we’ve made some small steps in that direction. From the 1st of July this year in Home Care, we’ll have what’s called Consumer-Directed Care, or CDC. Where for the first time, people will have an account each month. They’ll know what’s being spend on the elements of their care. How much money has yet to be expended. So they will have that visibility.

But that only takes us part of the way there. That’s transparency without real power.

Which is why, in the Budget, we announced that from February 2017, we will have a situation where Home Care packages attach to the individual. At the moment they attach to a provider. And the individual, once they’re assessed, has to try to find a provider with a package firstly, and then secondly, try to find a provider with a package at the level that they’ve been assessed for. That’s clunky from the point of view of the consumer. And it’s clunky from the point of view of the provider.

And what that will do is to open up great opportunities for retirement villages. It will be easier for people to go into retirement village settings with a Home Care package if that’s what they need.

And down the track, I’m very keen to look to see in residential aged care if we can further empower the individual. If we can in some way attach the Government’s support to the individual rather than to the provider.

Gary touched briefly on another Budget announcement we made, which is increasing the number of restorative care places. So you could have someone living in the retirement village part of this setting, who might have an issue and might go into hospital. They might need a bit of intensive support when they come out of hospital. They could have that restorative care support in the Opal facility here, and then move back into their residence in the retirement village.

So we want to make it easier for consumers. We want consumers at the centre and in charge. And we want to see that continuum of care and support.

Can I congratulate Stockland, and can I congratulate Opal for taking some big steps together to make sure that continuum of care is more of a reality for Australians who need that support.

And can I also say what a good thing it is that a significant Australian in Cardinal Freeman continues to be recognised in the name. An important Australian who spent much of his life in and around this part of Sydney.

So congratulations to everyone here on this magnificent joint venture.