Study identifies aged care needs for Aboriginal people

Published 11 December 2008

A new report into the health and aged care needs of older Aboriginal people on the Mid North Coast has identified a severe shortage of overnight respite and short-term emergency care and the need for Aboriginal health workers.

The report, completed by Southern Cross University’s Aged Services Learning and Research Centre (ASLaRC) on behalf of Yarrawarra Aged Care Ltd (YACL), will be released today (Thursday, December 11) at the Moonee Elders’ Centre, north of Coffs Harbour.

Professor Colleen Cartwright said the scoping study looked at the health and care needs for older Aboriginal people, as well as ways of maximising the use of the Moonee Centre, which is located on the Pacific Highway north of Moonee.

The major gap identified in the study was the need for day, overnight and short-term emergency respite.

“There is a real need for an Aged Care Service Centre, operated by an Aboriginal organisation, for older Aboriginal people living in the Gumbaynggirr Nation,” Professor Cartwright said.

“Based on population estimates and planning ratios, there should be 132 Aboriginal-specific community care places. In our study area, which covers the area from south of Nambucca Heads, north to Maclean and west of Dorrigo, there are at present no Aboriginal-specific residential places and only a limited number of Aboriginal-specific Community Care Packages.

“The report also identified the importance of having Aboriginal health workers to provide some of the care and support. Currently older Aboriginal people are reluctant to access residential care. But, if they become familiar with the Centre and the workers they will feel more comfortable about going into respite.”

Professor Cartwright said the Moonee site, previously a motel, was centrally sited within the Gumbaynggirr nation and would be suitable for the staged development of aged care services.

“What is needed is the development of aged care services covering social, care and health needs and capable of being extended over time to include residential respite,” she said.

Mr Tony Perkins, chair of Yarrawarra Aged Care Ltd, said the scoping study, funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, provided a comprehensive report on all the services required.

“We are now in a position to present our urgent needs in caring for Aboriginal elders, which in turn will bridge the gap in health and care and contribute to a healthier lifestyle,” Mr Perkins said.

“Based on the findings of this study, we feel confident that we will receive the necessary government support to upgrade the Moonee Elders’ Centre premises and initiate these recommendations.”

The report ‘Seeking a way to bridge the gap – a scoping study of the health and care needs of older Aboriginal people’ will be launched at 3pm, Thursday, December 11, at the Moonee Elders’ Centre, Pacific Highway, Moonee.

Media opportunity: Professor Colleen Cartwright and Tony Perkins will be available for interviews/photo at 2pm at the Moonee Elders' Centre. Media are also invited to attend the official launch from 3pm.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.