Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Vietnamese Aged Care Services – Earth Turning Ceremony for new aged care home

Location: Smithfield


Can I start with a little Vietnamese “kinh-chow-qui-vi” – good morning ladies and gentlemen. Quang Luu whom I have known for so many years, I still haven’t mastered it despite my visit to Vietnam many years ago!

Can I too add my acknowledgement of country.

I also acknowledge my Federal parliamentary colleagues Jason Clare and Chris Hayes; my state colleagues Andrew Rohan and Nick Lalich; Mayor Carbone and the many councillors here today; our Liberal candidate for Cabramatta Maria Diep; David Tang, President of AVACS and your committee members; your many many community leaders here today; Quang Luu, other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

As the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, it’s my great honour to be here today to represent the Minister for Social Services, the Honourable Scott Morrison MP.

Today is a ground-breaking occasion for the Vietnamese Australian community in Sydney, in every sense of the word. The home that will rise here will provide care, comfort and understanding the older people of your community deserve.

Like many nations, our rapidly ageing population represents a challenge, but the Australian Government also believes older Australians are a valuable asset.

We want them to age well. We want to give them more choice about how to live active lives and how they can stay connected to their communities.

Residential aged care homes provide the kind of professional care our community’s treasured advisers, grandparents, carers and leaders need when they become elderly.

Therefore, the Australian Government is grateful for the good works by its partners in such communities, like AVACS, the Australian Vietnamese Aged Care Services.

57% of federally supported residential aged care operators like you are not for profit organisations.

Some help us listen to the needs of culturally diverse people — like your older Vietnamese Australians.

Older Australians are an important demographic – ABS figures show that just over one in every three (36%) Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas.[i]

More than 32,000 or about one in five people in Australian Government aged subsidised care were born in non English speaking countries.

Nearly 12,000 people are being cared for in New South Wales aged care facilities.

In fact, 38% of all aged care residents in the South West Sydney aged care planning region were born in non English speaking lands, which is a very large proportion.

As the daughter of Italian migrants who are both in aged care, I can say from first hand experience that the language needs of our loved ones need to be catered for — both in aged care facilities and at home.

As we grow older many of us lose the ability to speak English. Indeed, my father who has advanced dementia has now lost not just his English, his Italian but he has reverted to the dialect of his birth.

And so therefore, I want to congratulate AVACS on its vision and determination to care well and to care culturally for your older people with your future bilingual workforce.

This was backed up by a zero real interest loan of $12 million provided under the Australian Government’s Aged Care Approvals Round in 2012 13 to build the 68 beds needed here.

To this we added a capital grant of $2.95 million from last year’s round.

We are guided in making such investments by a formal strategy to create special services for ageing and aged care for culturally diverse older Australians.[ii]

With the help of Australian Government funding, AVACS will provide the kind of social services that help make us one of the most diverse and culturally tolerant nations on earth as we can see here today.

We are proud of this. We support diversity. Our policies are to assist our older migrants.

Can I conclude by saying that at age 23, I was a founding board director of a nursing home in Wollongong. So I do understand the challenges that you face today.

So I want to thank you for taking up this great challenge.

Can I thank the Vietnamese Australian community for also embracing the challenges and for your generous contributions.

We congratulate you and send our best wishes to all the residents who will make this new residential aged care facility a real home.

Thank you.