Home Care Packages

By Emma McBride MP

25 May 2021

This crisis, as others have said, is largely of the government’s own doing. The Prime Minister was Treasurer when the government cut $1.7 billion from aged care. Now there are close to 97,000 older Australians waiting for a home-care package during COVID, when many people and families are afraid of entering residential care. Those needing more support while waiting for level 4 packages are often waiting more than a year for the help that they and their families and carers so desperately need. Over 28,000 older Australians have died while waiting for a home-care package. They’re not a rate, Minister; they’re not a percentage to compare to the wider population. These are people; these are mums and dads and grandparents; these are people who matter. And you have reduced them to a rate or a percentage; that is a disgrace. In my community, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, one in five people are aged over 65 and there are currently 1,109 people waiting for a home-care package—people like Enid, who, at 96, was told she would have to wait 12 months for a level 4 home-care package. It’s not good enough.

Growing old is not easy. As the interim report observed—and I think it is important that this be read onto the record—’we avoid thinking and talking about it, leading to an apparent indifference where, left out of sight and out of mind, these important services are left floundering’. I know of people, some living with dementia, who, after a fall or a hospital stay, have ended up in residential care after their families and carers have become exhausted trying to keep them at home. I was with my Dad when, after an exhausting battery of tests, he was finally diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s dementia. He said to me: ‘You will never leave me dribbling in a nursing home.’ This is a very real fear for many people living with dementia, and I am determined to keep my promise to my mum, Barbie, that it will be better for other families. But kind words and good intentions won’t help people like my dad’s friend Steve, who was moved into residential care during COVID. It has to be better; it’s urgent. What the government have done so far suggests that they don’t care and don’t know that it matters.

Speech To International Day Of Mourning - Centr...

28 April 2021

Acknowledgement of Country

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Darkinjung people, and to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

Acknowledgement of Dignitaries

Yasmin Catley, Deputy Leader NSW Labor
David Mehan MP State Member for The Entrance
Former Mayor Bob Graham, who was central to this memorial being founded in 2006
Maree Stokes, Vice President Asbestos Diseases Foundation Australia
Leianna Simms, Lisarow High School
Safe Work NSW
Anne Charlton, The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association

COVID19

On this international day of mourning commemorating those who have lost their lives at work or those who didn’t make it safely home, we must remember the at least 17,000 health workers who have died worldwide from COVID19.

That’s one health worker every 30 minutes.

In the US 3507 health workers have died, in Mexico 3371, Brazil 1143, Russia 1131 and the UK 931.

This is believed to be a conservative estimate given the under reporting in many parts of the world and is largely attributed to unsafe work conditions and lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

Many health workers such as hospital cleaners or community health workers have been excluded from protection because of the narrow definition of health workers, and in some countries were dismissed or arrested after demanding PPE.

And, tens of thousands of health workers are yet to be vaccinated. In fact, half the world’s vaccines have been administered in just ten rich countries. Not a single health worker has been vaccinated in more than 100 countries.

Gig Economy

And in Australia we haven’t escaped the workplace inequities of the pandemic.

The narrow definition of aged care worker has meant cleaners and cooks and personal care workers have missed out on the retention bonus - just as at risk, but more exposed.

And, in November last year, we saw the very real risks of the gig economy came into sharp focus when five delivery riders working for apps including Uber Eats, Door Dash and Hungry Panada were killed on the job in just two months. Of the five men killed, two were riding bicycles, two were riding motorcycles and one was riding a scooter.

Food delivery riders are classified are contractors and lack many of the rights of and protections of other workers. Often, they are on temporary visas and these workers were excluded from the pandemic safety nets JobKeeper and JobSeeker leaving them little option but to take on low-paid, insecure and risky gig jobs to survive.

Their earnings after costs are estimated to be just over $10 an hour.

They struggle to pay bills and buy food.

They deserve better.

Mental Health

I am increasingly concerned as protective factors like JobKeeper, JobSeeker and rental moratoriums are rolled back or removed.

A major mental health crisis has emerged nationally with suicide rates steadily climbing since 2000.

  • Nine Australians die every day by suicide.
  • 75% of those who take their own life are male.
  • In 2019, 3,318 Australians took their own life.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.
  • People in rural populations are 2 times more likely to die by suicide.

Today, as we remember those who lost their lives through workplace incidents and occupational diseases, mental health must be our focus.

Workplace related suicides may be triggered by:

  • being investigated over a work matter
  • performance pressures and long hours
  • fear of retrenchment or actual retrenchment

As a former mental health worker, I am relieved we have come a long way in talking about mental health in the workplace.

But we have a long way to go to remove stigma, and to make workplaces safe for everyone.

We do speak more freely about mental health.

We’ve made many gains in workplace conditions, but some have been lost.

As soon as someone’s work is insecure, it has an impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

On this day, we need to be mindful of mental health in the workplace.

Problems are often invisible, until someone is in crisis.

As well as our families and friends, we must all watch out for our fellow workers. Are they safe in their workplace? Is there something more we can do?

Thank you.