Aunty Shirley from the Aboriginal Elders Village speaks to CEO Graham Aitken

The National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) focused in on appropriate care for First Nations Elders at their recent meeting in Adelaide on the 16th of November. Aboriginal Community Services was invited to present to the alliance whose membership is made up of over 50 organisations, all about what we do and what we strive for. Our CEO Graham Aitken was pleased to have been able to spread awareness around the unique context of providing aged care specifically for First Nations Elders, and the challenges that come with carrying out care in remote locations.

Attendees left the event with knowledge of the four key challenges and changes the industry need to overcome and implement in order to improve aged care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. These included a lack of integration of care, culturally safe care delivery and cultural competency, emphasis on social determinants, especially housing, and the simplicity of solutions.

There were also Elders who attended the event, using their voice to shape their care. Graham explained,

The Elders present advised that the Aged Care Ministers, bureaucrats and policy makers should talk to Elders where they live about the aged care reforms and issues that impact their lives.”

It was established that the integration of aged care and health provider pathways and services is lacking, which can make delivering coordinated care to Elders living remote more difficult. Graham and other members of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council explained the integral role that culturally safe care plays in the social and emotional wellbeing of Elders. This includes ensuring that housing and residential facilities properly cater for the cultural needs of First Nations Elders. It was highlighted that many challenges faced had simple solutions. For example, ensuring that there is adequate refrigeration available for medication in remote areas.

Some great news that came from this experience was that NACA announced it will now place ageing issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a regular agenda item for their future meetings.

Graham was able to shed light on how different providing care in regional and remote areas is in comparison to metro areas,

Service delivery options for Elders living in regional and remote locations are limited … Employing staff and delivering aged care services is challenging. There are funding shortages, and delivering compliant aged care services is also costly and challenging.”

He hopes that ACS’ involvement in NACA and similar events will mean policy makers are more likely to consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Elders, and those living remotely, when making decisions that impact them. Importantly, listening to Elders and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations directly to develop better outcomes.

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