Transcript by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Doorstop interview, HammondCare, Hammondville NSW



Ladies and Gentleman Good Morning. For those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet my name is Mitch Fifield the Federal Minister for Ageing. And for those of you who live in this neighbourhood can I firstly say thank for having me on your patch. Could I acknowledge Stephen Judd, the Chief Executive of Hammondcare and thank him and his staff for having me here today. It’s also great to be with my parliamentary colleague Craig Kelly, who is a great advocate for older Australians and also people with disability.

We are excited to be here at Hammondcare today to announce that there are 54 organisations around the country who have applied under the $34 million healthy ageing grants programme and have been successful. The purpose of the healthy ageing grants programme is really to trial and look at new and innovative ways of supporting people who face some extra challenges as a result of ageing to maintain or regain their independence. And that’s important because it lets people stay at home for longer which is the option that most people really want to embrace.

We’re here at Hammondcare because the organisation has been successful in applying for a healthy ageing grant. The grants that Hammondcare have been successful in do two things: firstly a terrific programme called ‘Dementia Dogs’, where there will be 8 assistance dogs paired with 8 carers of someone with dementia. And the purpose is that those assistance dogs can assist the individual with dementia to be more independent through doing some tasks around the house, but also to help the carer be more independent. This has been trialled by Alzheimer’s Scotland, and what they’ve also found is that the presence of assistance dogs can really help to reduce the anxiety that there is in the household, so it’s a really exciting project.

The other is ‘Prescription Arts’ where it’s been recognised that everyone has a creative capacity. I’ve yet to discover mine, but apparently we all have one. And by enhancing and bringing out that creative capacity there’s a therapeutic effect and there’s also a positive effect cognitively and for people that are facing social isolation there’s also a terrific social effect for them as well. So prescription arts gives the opportunity for people who haven’t necessarily previously displayed that capacity to learn that, develop it, and again it’s a very exciting project.

As I say there are 54 projects around the country which have been successful in the healthy ageing grants programme. We do have a pretty good age care system in Australia, We’ve got the residential aged care system and the home care system. And they do a good job. But it’s important that we also look for and trial new and different ways of enhancing independence for Australians who are getting older and facing some challenges as a result. So it’s terrific to be here, I might just ask if my colleague Craig to say a few words.


Thanks Mitch it’s great to have you up from Victoria. See we’ve turned on the good Sydney weather for you, I think a far cry from what Victoria is like today.

This programme is very important not just because we are supporting aged care but because we are looking at an innovative way to do things better. It doesn’t matter what aspect of life we are doing things in, whether it’s business, government or the aged care centre. We’ve always got to be searching innovatively to try and find a way to do things better with the resources we have. And that’s exactly what these programmes do, for the guide dogs, for the art programme, innovative ways to try and see how we can tackle the issue that we have of an ageing population, to do it more effectively. So I’m really proud that the Minister’s found fit that we trial these programmes here in Hammondville. I thank him for his support, I thank him for the work that he’s doing in aged care and I wish everyone that’s involved in his project all the best, thank you.


The Healthy Ageing Grants Programme is funding 54 projects across the country, can you tell me about some of the other projects elsewhere?


Look they’re incredibly varied, one is an app to assist older Australians in aged care who don’t have English as a first language. There is also another programme to put volunteers in hospitals in regional areas to assist people with dementia. So there is an incredible variety of projects. We have a very good aged care system in Australia, in residential care and in home care. But we should always be looking for new and innovative ways of supporting people who are facing some additional challenges as a result of ageing.


As you said new and innovative, this project today, Dogs for Dementia is actually an Australian first, is it fair enough to say it is quite a ground breaking initiative?


Look it is ground breaking, it is a first for Australia. But it’s drawing on some lessons from Alzheimer’s Scotland. It’s seeking to learn some lessons and apply them here in Australia.


It might be obvious to most people, what is the importance of keeping people with Dementia living in their own home.


Well it’s several fold. Firstly we want people to have choice about where they want to live. And if you can give people supports that enable them to stay at home for longer, then you are giving them choice. They can choose whether to be in a more traditional residential setting or whether they want to remain at home. So that’s first and foremost. It’s a matter of choice for the individual that we want to support. But also we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that it’s actually more cost effective to provide aged care supports for people in their home. The most important thing is that people get the support that’s right for them whether it be in their home or whether it be in a residential setting.