As part of the International Care Experienced History Month 2022, the National Aged and Community Care Roundtable for Forgotten Australians (National Roundtable) hosted the Enabling Better Aged and Community Care for Forgotten Australians National Forum on 4 April 2022. This event was in a hybrid format allowing people to attend in person in Brisbane, Australia as well as join online via Zoom and watch the forum live.
The National Forum brought together Forgotten Australians, care providers, and peak industry bodies to showcase what the future could hold with a more responsive and appropriate aged and community care sector for older Forgotten Australians. The National Forum highlighted the need to codesign new models of care as well as the need for skilled and informed workforces across all types of care.
The National Forum showcased presentations from individuals with lived experience. A key point raised was the need for alternative models of care for individuals with lived experience of trauma and abuse from their childhood. A Forgotten Australian bravely shared with the audience she “would rather end her life, than enter aged care”, a common thought for Forgotten Australians. An example provided was about incontinence issues – as a child in institutional ‘care’, carers would often bully and humiliate individuals who wet the bed. This is an issue for older people (caused by accidents or aging), incontinence is a potential health issue and the trauma from childhood creates fear in how this situation would be dealt with within aged and community care. This indicates the need to find alternative and trauma-informed models of care that give Forgotten Australians and Care Leavers the opportunity to choose their medical services (carers, doctors, etc.).
A presentation from Professor Elizabeth Fernandez outlined the results of her study on Forgotten Australians, Child Migrants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The implications of the study recommend that Forgotten Australians should be recognised as a special needs group and require specialised ongoing services unique to Forgotten Australians. Professor Fernandez recommended that social, aged care and health care workers receive trauma-informed training. It was also noted that drawing on resilience-oriented approaches had the highest effect in therapy-based services.
The Facilitating Better Aged Care session raised the idea of a new home care system being designed that is in the form of small home models allowing them to be less institutionalised. This topic was received quite positively by Forgotten Australians who attended in person. During this session many Forgotten Australians in the room at the National Forum bringing up points relating to the inspections for aged and community care. Although an inspector general for aged care is being designed, Forgotten Australians who attended brought up that trust needs to be rebuilt as inspections that occurred while they were in ‘care’ as children were often not a true representation of the conditions and staff would often lie to the inspectors.
The National Roundtable session that featured representation from each Australian State and Territory brought up many key issues for Forgotten Australians. The Northern Territory raised the point that there is a shortage of services for aged care in regional, rural, and remote areas. This is especially an issue in the Northern Territory as it has the highest growth of the 65+ populations per year. Another important point was to ensure that culturally sensitive trauma-informed care is developed.
Western Australia focussed on the issues surrounding the Redress payment. It was stated that Redress payments are identified as an asset during aged care asset testing and having the payment taken away for support expenses is unacceptable as redress is not a taxable income. Forgotten Australians who attended in person, spoke up on the day saying that “Redress doesn’t pay back what was lost, and what is the point of receiving the payment if we must lose it once we enter aged care”. This presentation has been picked up by the Department of Health and Aged Care to address some of the issues surrounding the redress payment, a positive outcome of this event.
South Australians discussed the importance of a codesign framework to ensure Forgotten Australians are part of the decision-making process to allow for better care the second time around.
Tasmania raised why current residential and community aged care is not considered an appropriate model of care. It was discussed how hospital care is a trigger for Care Leavers with issues such as hospital staff not being attentive and the dormitory setup can be triggering, emphasising that institutions need to listen to what their patients prefer and put that into practice.
Another key issue raised was from the group from Victoria, is a lack of data collection on Forgotten Australians mainly because the opportunity to identify as a Forgotten Australian is not a question listed on the National Census. This is unfortunate as there are over half a million Forgotten Australians and a severe lack of information. Forgotten Australians who attended the National Forum in person brought up that Care Leavers feel well and truly forgotten. As the majority of the general population is also unaware whi Forgotten Australians are or that they exist.
New South Wales provided an overview of the Care Navigators project and the need to ensure that Forgotten Australians and Care Leavers are aware of the opportunities and resources available to them.
Finally, Queensland focussed on encouraging healthcare staff to receive training and knowledge on childhood trauma. It was suggested that a good question to ask someone is to identify if they are a Forgotten Australian whilst being direct, but no direct enough to be a trigger. For example, “Were you ever away from your family as a child?”.
Key points that were raised more than once from the National Forum were that providing trauma-informed care is at the forefront of enabling better aged and community care for Forgotten Australians. Another common topic raised was the need to ensure that Forgotten Australians are provided with choices in the services and care they receive and that an alternative design to institutional care is essential. Finally, it is crucial to address the issues relating to the National Redress Scheme. The fundamental problem is that the redress payment recognises the impact of institutional childhood sexual abuse, however, the payment is being taken away when entering residential care or community care packages. In response to the issue highlighted at the forum, the Department of Health and Aged Care will review the Assets Testing Section of the Aged Care Act 1999 to alleviate this issue.
An important video was presented at this National Forum titled “State and Territories – What are the issues for Forgotten Australians in aged and community care?”. This video showcases the key issues Forgotten Australians face across the entire nation.
To watch videos from the National Forum please see the links below.
State and Territories, What are the key issues for Forgotten Australians Presentation: https://youtu.be/_svbc9_QWyw
Enabling Better Aged and Community Care for Forgotten Australians National Forum Documentary: https://youtu.be/qRLBCWgrIoU
Enabling Better Aged and Community Care for Forgotten Australians National Forum Short Documentary: https://youtu.be/yi8KHLz5Z0A