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Government seeks to explain aged care restrictive practice act amendments as concerns and objections voiced

Proposed amendments to federal aged care legislation will prevent legal challenges to residential aged care facility (RACF) providers implementing restrictive practices, where consent has been given prior.

The bill, Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response No. 2) Bill 2021, will add a new section to the Aged Care Act (1997), emphasising the need for informed consent to be sought from a resident’s next-of-kin or other legally appointed representative before use of restrictive practices on a resident who does not have the capacity to consent themselves, except in an emergency.

A spokesperson for Richard Colbeck, Minister for Senior Australians and Age Care Services, tells Aged Care News that this amendment seeks to harmonise laws across the country pertaining to deprivations of liberty, which vary from state to state.

“The immunity provision (proposed new section 54-11 of the Aged Care Act 1997) will ensure that approved providers and other relevant individuals (eg. staff members and volunteers) who may not be authorised under current state and territory laws [to use restraints], are protected from civil and criminal liability.”

Under the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Quality of Care Principles 2014, restrictive practices are deemed appropriate in limited circumstances, including management of the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) and falls prevention.

Colbeck’s office maintains that this bill is not intended to allow providers immunity where a genuine breach of consent or overreach has occurred.

“It is important to note, however, that the immunity from civil or criminal liability only applies where consent was given to the use by a person authorised to provide consent under the commonwealth laws, and the use was in alignment with all of the other requirements under the Quality of Care Principles.

“The Quality of Care Principles also require that restrictive practices must only be used as a last resort, only to the extent that is necessary, for the shortest time and in the least restrictive form, and to prevent harm to the care recipient, and therefore if restrictive practices are not used in alignment with these requirements the immunity does not apply.”

The bill, however, has received blowback from some aged care advocates.

Rodney Lewis, senior solicitor at Elderlaw legal services in Sydney, tells Aged Care News that he opposes the legislation in principle.

“I call it an astounding piece of law,” he says.

“Immunity is something that is very rare … and here we have people who at some stage or other in their aged care might be deprived of their basic legal and human rights.”

Due to Australia’s system of concurrent powers, the bill, if ratified, will override numerous legislations at the state level, including some relating to basic civil liberties.

Whilst the Federal Government is aiming to ensure those rights are maintained through the Quality of Care Principles, Lewis finds this bifurcation of civil rights to be unconstitutional.

“The vulnerable or frail aged who are subject to the bill are the only cohort subject to the removal of the civil and criminal protections which protect all other Australians,” he says.

“In the event of a person or their legal representative wishing to bring a civil claim or make a criminal charge, they will be confronted with the need to show that the Quality of Care Principles have not been complied with, an imposition not required of other litigants.”

Senior solicitor Rodney Lewis.

In a document shared with Aged Care News, Lewis identifies the various areas of the law implicated by the federal bill:


  • NSW – Criminal Procedure Act 1986 NSW Schedule 1 Table 1 s 16C (the common law offence of false imprisonment) (Indictable offences that are to be dealt with summarily unless prosecutor or person charged elects otherwise)
  • Victoria – Crimes Act 1958 Vic s 320 – maximum term of imprisonment for certain common law offences – False imprisonment 10 years maximum
  • Queensland – Criminal Code 1899 QLD s 355 – deprivation of liberty (liable to imprisonment for 3 years):
  • ACT Crimes (Offences Against Vulnerable People) Legislation Amendment Act 2020, sec. 36A (5)(b)(i)(D) – elder abuse of a vulnerable person resulting in serious harm: (D) deprive or restrict the vulnerable person’s freedom of action; imprisonment 5 years.
  • prosecutions under Workplace Health and Safety laws.


  • Habeas corpus – an ancient prerogative writ and an irreplaceable foundation to our claims to freedom;
  • Tortious claims – battery and false imprisonment; negligence;
  • Arbitration and alternate dispute resolution claims included in the care contract;
  • Australian consumer law ss 21,22 [unconscionable conduct]; s34 [misleading conduct]  s50 [no force to be used in delivery of services], s60 [due care and skill] s61 [services fit for purpose] s62 reasonable time for supply].
  • Breach of contract.

Lewis says that in practice, the bill would create a barrier to initiating claims where a suspected breach of rights has occurred; it would also greatly add to the expense of claims.  

“It’s like putting up a fog,” he says.

“I would have to say to the client: ‘look, this is a problem, because the parliament’s now passed a law that says if the provider’s done everything necessary under the regulation, such the quality of care principles, then they will have immunity: immunity from your civil claim’.

“It’s not much good me ringing the police or sending them a letter either, because they’ve got criminal immunity as well, which is an astonishing idea.”

“It will disrupt the rights of people in aged care to bring legal claims.”

Though the bill does not intend to acquit providers for breaches of consent, Lewis maintains that habeas corpus, a foundational legal and democratic principle, necessitates that the final say, in scenarios where the threat of false imprisonment is high, always remains in the hands of the courts.

“It’s just completely against [residents’] human rights and legal rights,” he says.

It is yet unclear how checks and balances will be maintained under this system, and whether the validity of provider immunity would be adjudicated via the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

Dr Sarah Russell, qualitative researcher and aged care advocate, tells Aged Care News she is concerned about the intregity of the new system.

“Why are we treating aged care residents differently to all other older people? Why one one group is allowed to sue and the other group is not able to?”

The bill, originating from and having already passed in the lower house, is now being debated in the Senate.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has declined to comment.

The federal health department has been contacted for comment.

About use of restraint in RACFs

“Restrictive practices” come in many forms, including:

  • Physical restraints: the use of physical force to prevent, restrict or subdue movement of a care recipient’s body
  • Chemical restraints: the use of medication or a chemical substance, most commonly anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and hypnotics.
  • Environmental restraints: restricting a resident’s free access to areas (and items within) their room or common areas of the facility.
  • Mechanical restraints: the use of devices prevent a resident’s movement, including bed rails, belts, harnesses, etc.
  • Seclusion: solitary confinement of a resident. This practice is considered appropriate only after all other forms of behaviour management have been exhausted.

On July 1, 2021, the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Quality of Care Principles 2014 were updated to clarify and strengthen the requirements for providers in relation to the use of restrictive practices.

Where a resident themselves cannot consciously consent to a restraint, such as someone living with dementia, only a legally appointed “substitute decision maker” can do so on their behalf.

Whilst consent can be obtained verbally or in writing, the process must be documented by providers.

Providers have a responsibility to not only seek consent, but to ensure the person providing consent on a resident’s behalf has the legal authority to do so.

Workforce representatives ‘left out’ of aged care advisory council

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has expressed its extreme disappointment that nursing and aged care workforce representatives have been left out of the Morrison Government’s new National Aged Care Advisory Council.

The ANMF and its members say they are now deeply concerned that workers will have no say in the advice the council provides, which could not only further delay the delivery of some of the Aged Care Royal Commission’s key recommendations but also, once again, see those reforms fall short of what’s actually required.

ANMF Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said the royal commission explicitly recognised the workforce as the most critical component of the aged care sector in ensuring quality and safety, and recommended that until the sector has a workforce with sufficient skills and time to care, aged care reform would not be achieved.

“Despite this recommendation from the Government’s own royal commission, it continues to refuse to include the voices of aged care nurses and workers in implementing the reforms so urgently needed to improve quality and safety in the sector,” Butler said.

“While we welcome the appointment of the new council’s members, who will have important contributions in guiding aged care reform, especially the geriatric medicine and allied health representatives, we are simply astonished that yet again, the Morrison Government has shunned frontline aged nurses and carers, and that nursing expertise has been excluded.

“This is particularly concerning when we know how desperately specialist nursing skills are needed in the sector.

Butler said without nursing experts, unions and other workforce representatives providing input into the advice, the council will provide to Government on the roll-out of the royal commission’s recommendations, the sector will once again fail.

“The Minister needs to reconsider this decision and allow for the expertise and knowledge that aged care nurses and workers can provide if the Government is serious about improving the quality and safety of the sector,” she said.

Understanding the impacts of sexual assault and reporting requirements: free webinar

An online seminar/workshop for residential aged care service providers on Monday, December 6, aims to help participants understand changes to reporting sexual assault under the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS), differentiate between Priority 1 and 2 reports, understand the physical and psychological impacts of sexual assault and access the #ReadyToListen resources.

An outstanding lineup of presenters

Experts and key sector stakeholders you’ll hear from will include:
Craig Gear – CEO of Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN)
Ann Wunsch – Executive Director Approvals, Compliance and Investigations, Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
Laura Tarzia – Associate Professor, Sexual Abuse and Family Violence program, Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne
Carolyn Worth – former Manager, South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence
Hayley Foster – CEO, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia
Yumi Lee, – Manager, Older Women’s Network NSW
Dr Catherine Barrett – Project Coordinator, Ready to Listen project
Professor Ann Wolbert Burgess – William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College

An online event, the seminar/workshop will take place from 3pm-4pm on Monday, December 6, 2021.

The seminar is part of the #ReadyToListen project, funded by the Department of Health and is being led by the Older Person’s Advocacy Network, in partnership with Celebrate Ageing and the Older Women’s Network, New South Wales.

For more information visit: opalinstitute.org/readytolisten.html

To register now, click here.

If you register but can’t make it on the day, don’t worry, we’ll send you a replay link, or you can watch it here.

Inquest told St Basil’s resident a ‘breathing skeleton’

Jakov Pucar was like a “breathing skeleton” when he was admitted to hospital after he wasn’t fed properly and contracted COVID-19 at his Melbourne aged care home, an inquest has been told.

Pucar’s daughter, Branka Lyons, broke down in tears on Wednesday as she recounted the days leading up to the deaths of her parents – both residents at St Basil’s Home for the Aged.

Lyons said her 90-year-old father could only eat pureed food, but wasn’t being fed properly when a COVID-19 outbreak swept through the Fawkner facility in July 2020.

She said staff at Northern Hospital rang her on July 27 – the day after Pucar was admitted – and said he had presented “like a breathing skeleton”. 

He died on August 11.

Her mother, 82-year-old Slavka Pucar, also died after contracting COVID-19 while living at St Basil’s.

“None of this would have occurred if St Basil’s was more competent in its COVID preparations,” Lyons told the Victorian Coroners Court.

“This should never happen again. Our elderly deserve better.”

Jakov and Slavka Pucar were two of 45 residents at the home who died from the virus after regular workers were declared close contacts and replaced by inexperienced agency staff.

Lyons added that her father was given morphine before being transferred to hospital – specifically against her wishes.

A landline phone connection to her parents’ room was also cut during outbreak.

“I’ve got my mum and dad beside me – I’m doing this for them,” Lyons said after breaking down in tears.

“They’ll get me through it.”

The inquest also heard a recorded phone conversation Lyons had with one of the replacement workers, Robert McDougall, on July 26.

“It’s a place of neglect,” McDougall, who gave permission for the call to be played, told Lyons.

“I’ve asked them to shut this place down.”

The replacement worker also said residents at St Basil’s were lying in soiled bedding and had untouched trays of food piled up in their rooms.

The hearing continues before Victorian State Coroner John Cain.


Mandatory vax info webinar for in-home and community aged care workers in WA and Tasmania

To support in-home and community aged care workers in Western Australia and Tasmania, two special live webinars are scheduled for next week on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

The webinars, which will include students on placement, volunteers and subcontractors, will assist those in this area to:

  • find out more about their state public health direction on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers and how it applies to them
  • get information about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine safety
  • find out how to access a priority COVID-19 vaccination.

The free webinars will have a live Q&A discussion to answer questions workers might have on COVID-19 vaccination and on public health directions for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for in-home and community aged care workers.

Western Australia

The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, November 30, 2021 from 1pm-2pm AWST (WA time).

Chaired by Frances Rice, Senior Nursing and Midwifery Advisor, Department of Health, panellists include:

  • Dr Clare Huppatz, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Public and Aboriginal Health Division, WA Department of Health
  • Cathy Haffner, Director, Aged Care COVID-19 Vaccine, Department of Health
  • Russell Herald, Assistant Secretary, Home Support Operations, Department of Health
  • Rebecca Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Home Care and Assessments Branch, Department of Health.
  • A union representative, yet to be announced.

To join by personal device or computer, click here:
Event number: 2650 113 5555
Event password: 9876 (9876 from phones)
To join by phone, call (02) 9338 2221 and use access code: 265 011 35555


The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday December 1, 2021 from 10am-11am AEDT (Tas time)

Chaired by Frances Rice, Senior Nursing and Midwifery Advisor, Department of Health, panellists include:

  • Dr Katarzyna Clarke, Public Health Medical Officer, Tasmanian Vaccination Emergency Operations Centre (TVEOC), Tasmanian Department of Health
  • Graeme Lodge, Communications Manager, Aged Care Emergency Operations Centre (ACEOC), Tasmanian Department of Health
  • Vivek Foot, Aged Care Coordinator, Health and Community Services Union
  • Cathy Haffner, Director, Aged Care COVID-19 Vaccine, Department of Health
  • Russell Herald, Assistant Secretary, Home Support Operations, Department of Health
  • Rebecca Richardson, Assistant Secretary, Home Care and Assessments Branch, Department of Health

To join by personal device or computer, click here:
Event number: 2654 423 5372
Event password: 9876 (9876 from phones)
To join by phone, call (02) 9338 2221 and use access code: 265 442 35372

Braeside Hospital celebrating 25 years of exceptional care in Sydney’s south west


Braeside Hospital in Sydney’s south west has been celebrated in a special ceremony, to honour a quarter of a century of providing quality palliative care, rehabilitation and older persons’ mental health to its rich and diverse local communities.

The hospital, operated by HammondCare at Prairiewood, has cared for more than 27,000 patients in the Liverpool and Fairfield areas since taking its first admission in November 1996 after an opening by then premier, Bob Carr.

HammondCare chief executive Mike Baird marked the anniversary on November 24 at a ceremony where he expressed optimism about the hospital’s future.

A master plan is in consultation with the South Western Sydney Local Health District  – expected to be unveiled next year – will drive a refurbishment program of the existing buildings and examine more services.

A $250,000 grant from the NSW Government will fund a new family lounge where relatives of palliative care patients can feel at home with work to begin in the New Year.

“At 25 years we have just got started,” Baird said.

“While we celebrate this incredible legacy, I am excited about what the next 25 years holds.”

Baird said the hospital’s biggest strength is its connection to its local community, including its active Friends of Braeside group, which he said was a great example of what’s possible for other HammondCare services.

“I think Braeside shows the power that comes as we connect to the local community and get better outcomes – not just with fundraising but as a broad network of people connected to others at their time of need,” he said.

HammondCare’s general manager of health and palliative care, Dr Andrew Montague, joined Baird and representatives of South Western Sydney Local Health District to acknowledge the 25 year milestone, held with a reward ceremony for staff.

A big gala fundraiser, The Rose Ball, will be hosted on October 14 next year by the Friends of Braeside at the Grand Paradiso.

It had been scheduled for this month but COVID-19 restrictions required the postponement.

Montague related a number of stories about the hospital’s early days, including observing that the official opening of the hospital by Carr on October 14, 1996 was more than a month before the first patients arrived.

“It was much like an episode of Yes Minister where the the best hospital is one without patients,” Montigue said.

“It was a ghost hospital.”

The 72-bed hospital with its swooping architecture was a showpiece for wheelchair accessibility without a single step.

However, this caused challenges for rehabilitation staff who needed steps to build leg strength for patients who lived in walk-up units. 

“They ended up building a set of steps in the car park,” he said, smiling.

Braeside was built at its present Prairiewood site next to Fairfield Hospital – after 90 years at Petersham – following a NSW Government invitation to then operator Hope Healthcare to bring more health services to Sydney’s south west.

Tickets to The Rose Ball dinner, dance and show planned for October 2022 can be purchased by email at braesidefriends@gmail.com or by calling 0414 507912.

Researchers are delving into smart technology and looking at just how it will impact homes for seniors

To what extent will smart technology and artificial intelligence augment aged care?

It’s a question explored by researchers from Monash University and Deakin University, in collaboration with McLean Care, in their project: Smart Homes for Seniors, Intelligent Home Solutions for Independent Living.

An award-winning project, it has recently received the IoT Australia award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Action.

The project observed 23 households across rural NSW, observing how the 33 participants, aged 73-93, responded to a variety of smart home devices, including:

  • Digital voice assistant
  • Smart lights
  • Smart kettles
  • Robotic vacuum cleaners
  • Tablet devices

Professor Sarah Pink, director of the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University, attended households in the initial stage of the study, shooting preliminary video data as part of her signature visual ethnographic method.

But she tells Aged Care News that the COVID pandemic dealt researchers a unique curveball, preventing them from returning to participants homes as planned.

“So instead, we actually used various different technologies to contact them again, but one of the key technologies we used was actually one of the new smart technologies that they’ve been using as part of the trial, which was a tablet.”

Pink says that this adaption added a new and valuable dimension to an already unique collaboration. 

“Undertaking that very unique collaboration during a pandemic enabled us to generate some important insights about how some of the technologies could support people in that kind of emergency situation of the pandemic as well.”

Monash University’s Professor Sarah Pink says a popular and useful piece of smart technology in her Smart Homes for Seniors, Intelligent Home Solutions for Independent Living project, was the smart light, which proved to be an invaluable tool for fall prevention.

The initial technology proficiency of participants varied, but most went through an individual process of learning and integrating the technology into their lives as they saw fit.

Pink notes that for everyone, not just seniors, learning to interact with artificial intelligence, such as a smart speaker, is like learning a ‘slightly different language’.

“There was there was a lot of joking with the digital voice assistants to start with, testing and probing.”

As their confidence with the technology increased, participants developed bespoke uses for the tech, such as seeking information, listening to music or ‘phoning a friend’ for that elusive answer to a crossword.

The other most popular, and perhaps most useful, piece of smart technology was the smart light, which proved to be an invaluable tool for fall prevention.

“If you want to get up in the night and it’s dark, then it’s very useful to be able to ask a light to go on in the corridor or in the next room so you can see your way ahead,” Pink says.

Principles and predictions for future integration of AI into care models

Pink says the study, with its small sample size and rich qualitative dataset, was not aiming to draw generalised conclusions about older Australians.

Rather, she says it provided “deep insights” into the nature of participants lives, from which “strong principles” can be developed for future research.

“One of the important findings for me was the idea that these technologies won’t just land in seniors’ homes and improve their lives,” Pink says.

“In most cases, it was actually the relationship between the technology, the seniors, and the people who were supporting them in using those technologies.

“So there’s this principle that actually, what we really need to look at is the relationship between the technologies to seniors and other humans.”

 “It’s so important to actually not just assume that technologies are going to help seniors in particular ways, but to actually do the research with seniors, as they learn to use those technologies to work out which ones are the most helpful for them.”

She says that the research indicates that going forward, hybrid systems of care look promising, those that include smart technologies alongside, and integrated with, existing human interventions, 

 “…where seniors might use technologies for some things, but they’re also still having people coming in to help them in their homes.”

“So it’s about actually thinking about the best way in which to fit those technologies into a kind of a complete set of relationships.”

Though the human touch is not yet rivalled by any robotic device, the COVID-pandemic has only emphasised the need for efficient and effective technological substitutions.  

 “If somebody won’t be able to come in and clean for you, or do the vacuuming, then having a robotic vacuum cleaner and maybe having the possibility to be able to use it more, during a pandemic, would be super useful,” Pink says.

Vitally, she emphasises that technological solutions for seniors must not be decided for them, but constructed around their stated preferences.

“It will be super interesting to look further at how artificial intelligence and other automated technologies can play a bigger role in seniors’ lives, but also to look at the extent to which seniors would like that to happen and where their real interests lie.”

Not only do these preferences vary between individuals, but also within individuals as they progress through their senior years.

“Some of our participants thought that the technologies weren’t really necessary for them at the moment… [but] the situations of seniors change and evolve over time.

“So that flexibility is really important,” she says.

Smart Homes for Seniors, a film directed by Pink documenting the journey of the study participants, will launch on November 25 during an online Monash Tech Talks event .

The online webinar will discuss:

  • the priorities, needs and experiences of our ageing population.
  • the dire importance of accounting for the voices of seniors when designing new technologies.
  • innovations that will support older generations to stay safe, independent and active at home.
  • the Intelligent Home Solutions project behind the film, a collaboration with McLean Care, Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab and Deakin University.

Mornington Peninsula welcomes new 5-star state-of-the-art aged care residence

Highly regarded aged care provider, Arcare opened their new five-star residence in Balnarring on Monday, November 15, bringing state-of-the-art amenities and excellence in care to Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

The newly opened Arcare Balnarring community welcomed its first residents, Edna and Mabel, and upon arrival the pair were warmly greeted by Balnarring residence manager, Likando Likando and client services manager, Helen Galileos.

Likando is a longtime-local in the Mornington Peninsula area, has been a nurse for 24 years and has been working in aged care for 11 years.

“I’m looking forward to creating relationships with the residents and team members at Arcare Balnarring,” she says.

Edna has previously lived at her home with her daughter and is now looking forward to forming relationships with other residents, attending daily activities and being a part of the Arcare community.

Mabel’s family live locally and are thrilled to be in close proximity whilst looking forward to Arcare events and happenings.

Australian owned and operated for more than 40 years, Arcare are renowned for creating stunning architecturally designed aged care residences and for their relationship-first approach to care.

Arcare Balnarring’s 75 private suites spans across one-storey and contains two communities named after the local area’s history and culture: Tulum and Noir.

Arcare CEO Colin Singh, middle, joined Arcare Balnarring residence manager, Likando Likando, right, and client services manager, Helen Galileos, left, to officially open the new aged care community.

The Arcare Balnarring residence offers permanent care, using Arcare’s award-winning Dedicated Assignment model, which places relationships between the residents, their family, and team members above all else.

Singh says Arcare’s Dedicated Assignment model was first rolled out across residences throughout 2014 and 2015 and was awarded a 2015 Better Practice Award by the Federal Government.

Our relationship-first approach to celebrating and supporting old age is not only unique to Arcare, but also considered by aged care experts globally to be at the forefront of elder-care.

“This approach is driven by Arcare’s values of relationships, uniqueness, partnerships and flexibility,” Singh says.

The Arcare Balnarring residence is a fresh take on country living.

Designed around the contemporary farmhouse aesthetic, the use of neutral tones, the abundance of natural light and sleek lines softened by timber and natural materials will enable residents to feel at home.

The foyer’s high ceiling carries natural light throughout the building and into the luxurious lounge and dining areas.

“We procure and design a space that is not only beautiful and inviting but evokes the feeling of home,” Arcare Interior Designer, Lily Vaughan says.

Not only will this new aged care community provide 5-star amenities and living to its residents, but Arcare Balnarring has also been designed and built to be environmentally conscious and sustainable.

Creating a synergy between the aged care community and its natural environment, the Arcare Balnarring community has been specifically designed and built around existing local trees of significance to ensure minimal disruption to the local environment and wildlife.

Luxurious lounge and dining areas are a feature of the new Arcare Balnarring facility. “We procure and design a space that is not only beautiful and inviting but evokes the feeling of home,” interior designer, Lily Vaughan says.

The residence’s double-glazed windows and 99kw solar panels will minimise the community’s footprint and reduce energy consumption while the 116,000L underground water tank and stormwater filtration system will retain, filter and reuse stormwater.

Along with the 75 private suites, Arcare Balnarring houses a café, wellbeing centre with hair salon, movie theatre, worship room, library, intimate dining and lounge rooms, private dining room, underground parking for visitors and team members and two large, manicured courtyards and gardens for residents and their guests to enjoy.

Residents will also be treated to rural views pending the location of their suite.

Conveniently located on the corner of Balnarring Road and Brooksby Square, Arcare Balnarring is just a short distance away from shopping amenities and a few fantastic local wineries and restaurants.

Arcare Balnarring is now open, with tours available and applications welcome.

If you’d like to find out more or book a tour, call 1300 ARCARE or visit www.arcare.com.au/book-a-tour.

Calls for re-funding of life-changing dementia-friendly communities program

The life-changing impact of Dementia Australia’s award-winning Dementia-Friendly Communities program has been highlighted with the release of a discussion paper, Support. Encourage. Empower. Leading the way towards a Dementia-Friendly Community.

The paper demonstrates the crucial role the program has had in improving dementia knowledge, facilitating inclusivity, and reducing stigma and discrimination in the community.

Speaking during a Parliamentary Friends of Dementia webinar, Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said people living with dementia report their involvement in the program has made them feel part of the community.

The program is designed to empower and support individuals and communities to undertake initiatives to increase awareness about dementia and promote social engagement.

Dementia Australia CEO, Maree McCabe

They feel valued, included and have a sense of purpose, she said.

“’Life-changing’ is the way participants have described it,” McCabe said.

“Dementia Australia is calling on the Australian Government and the opposition political parties to commit to recurring funding as an election commitment for the Dementia-Friendly Communities program, past the current June 2022 completion date.”

Established in 2016, the program has grown to support alliances, organisations and initiatives in every state and territory in varying stages of development.

“The program is designed to empower and support individuals and communities to undertake initiatives to increase awareness about dementia and promote social engagement,” McCabe said.

“The one, overarching essential element for these initiatives is for people living with dementia and carers to be meaningful participants in whatever way is possible, from inception to implementation.”

There are currently:

  • Almost 33,000 Dementia Friends
  • 56 alliances
  • 64 Dementia-Friendly organisations
  • Almost 120 Dementia Friends hosts and 40 on the waiting list
  • Almost 25 community engagement program projects.

“The program’s demonstrated success in the nationwide range, scale and diversity of dementia-friendly initiatives makes a compelling argument for continuing this funding to support the growth, development and sustainability of current and future Dementia-Friendly Communities initiatives,” McCabe said.

The alliances, Dementia Hosts and the thousands of Dementia Friends are all playing a role in challenging the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia and their carers.

Maree McCabe

Juanita Hughes who is living with dementia said she felt very strongly about the power of dementia-friendly communities.

“If people living with dementia are given the necessary support, we still have a lot to contribute,” she said. 

“The alliances, Dementia Hosts and the thousands of Dementia Friends are all playing a role in challenging the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with dementia and their carers.”

John Quinn, who is also living with dementia, said being a part of his alliance enabled him to feel empowered and a valued contributor to his community and it has given him a sense of belonging. 

“This, in turn, ensures I maintain my agency, my dignity and respect as an individual,” Quinn said.

“I believe the Government should commit to refunding the Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

“Also, for all parties to declare in their election policy platforms that the 20-minute online Dementia Friends module is mandatory training for people working in all government departments and government agencies, and all people working with politicians.

“This would demonstrate a bipartisan commitment to being dementia friendly.”

Dementia-Friendly Communities is a dynamic, unique program that aims to empower individuals, including people living with dementia, groups and businesses to come together to inspire change in their community.

Some of these groups progress to developing program-recognised alliances which develop Action Plans to meet the specific needs of their own community.

This flexible, program element, enables groups to decide for themselves what the focus should be, and it is this ownership that makes it work.

The communities are provided access to program support, guides and resources through Dementia Australia.

“With 70 per cent of people with dementia living in the community and more than two-thirds of aged care residents with a moderate to severe cognitive impairment, it is essential for everyone in the community to understand more about dementia,” McCabe said.

“There is much that can be done by all state, territory and local governments to support the implementation of dementia-friendly communities in their local areas.

“I encourage all Australians to take the first step towards creating a dementia-friendly community by visiting www.dementiafriendly.org.au, signing up as a Dementia Friend and exploring the variety of engagement opportunities for individuals, community groups and businesses.”

The dementia-friendly communities social movement started in Japan and the United Kingdom in 2010-2011.

The movement is now active globally in 56 countries and includes an estimated 19 million Dementia Friends.

Support grows for NSW assisted dying bill, vote likely today

A bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying is just nine votes short of passing the lower house in NSW, but will face an onslaught of amendments.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean and former deputy premier John Barilaro are among 38 MPs who have backed the bill during the debate.

Twenty-six MPs have spoken against the proposed changes so far, with all members afforded a conscience vote.

When it returns for debate, the bill requires 47 ayes to clear the lower house.

The bill will likely go to a vote today, when attention will then turn to debating suggested amendments.

More than 60 amendments have been tabled to the bill so far, and that number is growing, says the politician who’s spearheaded the bill, Sydney MP Alex Greenwich.

Some of the amendments are from supporters who wish to codify aspects of the bill and address concerns raised in debate, Greenwich told reporters. 

Others are from opponents trying to put in new barriers.

Nevertheless, Greenwich is optimistic the lower house debate can be finalised before parliament retires for the year tomorrow (Friday).

“It’s clear that members are organised and ready for us to have the amendments debated this year,” Greenwich said. 

“There is sufficient time to be able to resolve it and I think it’s in the parliament’s best interest to see if we can resolve it this year.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns will oppose the bill.

If it passes, it would make NSW the last state in Australia to permit voluntary assisted dying.

The proposed legislation restricts euthanasia to terminally ill people who would die in no more than 12 months.

Two doctors will have to assess applicants, and the bill makes a criminal offence of attempting to induce a person to apply for voluntary assisted dying.