Oct 23, 2014

Constituency Statement – Multicultural Services

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:48): Recently, I was contacted by Sydney Multicultural Community Services about an important issue: the shortage of services to help older people from non-English speaking backgrounds remain in their homes. Like so many of the dedicated non-for-profit associations who support ethnic communities in this country, this organisation has a long and proud record of serving and advocating for migrant communities.

My electorate of Grayndler is, in many ways, the heart of multicultural Australia. Generations of migrants have come from Greece, Italy, Portugal, Vietnam, China, Lebanon, Syria and every continent on earth to make the inner west of Sydney their home. Together we have built a tolerant, harmonious and vibrant community. That is why it is so important that the people who built our nation are not forced out of their homes because of a lack of support.

In-home services for older people with limited English work best when they are provided by someone who can speak their language and understands their culture. The relationship between aged-care workers and their clients is built on trust, and rapport can only be established through communication and understanding. The sad truth is that, in Grayndler and across the country, when older migrants cannot access culturally appropriate services they often cannot access any services at all. While it is acknowledged by all that the population is ageing, we need to ensure that older Australians from multicultural communities are properly catered for. As people age, they are more inclined to use the language of their birth and lose their second language. It is important to acknowledge that there is a genuine need for home-care services to be available to people whose first language is not English. The waiting lists for home-care assistance are growing. For those from multicultural communities the need is even greater. Simply put, without appropriate care the health of these people is compromised. Governments should do all they can to make sure that the citizens who have given so much to Australia are not isolated in their homes or institutionalised and separated from their families and communities unnecessarily‚ÄĒespecially not when there are dedicated, professional and reputable organisations already working in local communities and wanting to expand their operations.

In government, Labor made aged-care more accessible and fairer, and more sustainable into the future. We understood the challenges of an ageing population and the impact that that would have on aged care. The government should commit to increasing home-care packages to multicultural-specific aged-care.

In the inner west of Sydney there is now a severe shortage of packages for Italian, Spanish and Portuguese speakers in particular, and only a small number of packages allocated for other languages. As I have said, many people in my electorate from non-English-speaking backgrounds have contributed a great deal to this nation and to our community. I call on the government to do the right thing by them and commit more funds to multicultural home care.