The first day hosted a panel of experts who created the Diversity Framework, which did not receive a warm reception from aged care peak bodies.
The Commission heard that the Diversity Framework was adopted by the Department of Health, but was not made mandatory in the aged care accreditation standards.
The panel consisted of Samantha Edmonds, Policy and Research Manager, National LGBTI Health Alliance; Noeleen Tunny, Acting Director, Policy and Advocacy Unit, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and Mary Patetsos, Chairperson, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)
The Diversity Framework had push back from industry peak bodies and was not considered in the new accreditation standards, instead, becoming “guidance material” for providers.
Ms Edmond explained to the Commission that they had interviewed numerous people, providers and organisations to create the Diversity Framework, but the consultation group was surprised when they received reasonable pushback from industry peak bodies.
She says that while peak bodies were supportive of diversity in aged care, they didn’t want it to be mandatory in the sector because it would create “additional red tape” on top of what aged care providers already have to meet.
Ms Patetsos adds, “I assumed that the peak representative of the bodies’ main purpose was to make sure that the industry did its job and did it as well as it could to support the community that it served.
“That was my interpretation. You didn’t think that they were a watchdog for impost. I didn’t think that their role was to protect the industry from possible burden of care.”
“I think that it’s critical to understand that caring for people in the way that meets their absolute needs honestly is not an impost. It’s not red tape. It is not an additional thing they need to do. We are not trying to burden them. We are trying to ensure that they do what they promise that they will do, when people are in their care.”
Some of the framework statements include people receiving equity of access, empowerment, inclusion, equality, capacity and responsiveness in order to meet care standards.
Person-centred care needs to include culturally safe environments
Person-centred care has become a hot topic in the industry on whether providers are providing this type of care to their residents.
Aged care providers are required to take everyone and not discriminate against those with diverse backgrounds, however, while some providers are making the effort to educate themselves around diversity, other providers are not.
Ms Edmund explains that when aged care providers say they “treat everyone the same” no matter their diverse background, they automatically are not delivering person-centred care.
“I think what we see happen quite a lot is people see person-centred care as the only thing that needs to be done,” Ms Edmonds explains.
“What that fails to recognise is that you can have the best care plan in the world but if your organisation isn’t culturally safe then that care plan isn’t going to be sufficient to meet that person’s needs.”
Ms Tunny agrees, saying, “I think from a historical perspective the human rights of Aboriginal people have been largely ignored, certainly before 1967 when they were part of the Flora and Fauna Act rather than citizens of this country.
“Subsequently, we see widespread intergenerational trauma across communities that has emerged from the colonisation process.
“It’s absolutely essential that the human rights of Aboriginal people are aligned with the services that they receive; that those human rights are fully acknowledged and embedded in the services, embedded in the recognition that services which are enjoyed by the rest of the general population should actually meet the needs of Aboriginal people as well...
“It’s actually impossible to provide person-centred care to Aboriginal people without embedding a focus on cultural safety for Aboriginal people.”
Ms Patetsos says one big problem in aged care involves poor communication with residents with a culturally diverse background.
Particularly among individuals affected by dementia, with the disease impacting their capacity to retain the language they learnt later in life.
“Communication is critical. So, without resolving that issue, anything else we do falls short. So, we continue to say the obvious, that people’s communications needs need to be met in full where that communication requires formal communication,” says Ms Patetsos.
“The critical nature of language is there because without language not only are you left with less information, but you’re also in a position where you’re socially isolated.”
The Royal Commission is running between October 7-11, covering different aspects of diversity in aged care.