ACRC – Bringing together ‘ordinary people’

From the desk of Louise Greene.

Last Friday morning I took the opportunity, along with my Ideal Co-Director Fiona Somerville, to attend the Aged Care Royal Commission public session in Maidstone (metropolitan Melbourne). So along with 300 other people I made my way to a reception centre to hear 20 people make public submissions about their experiences of and aspirations for the aged care system. Heart wrenching stuff to listen to service users and family members talk about their experiences – the room was silent.

The need for aged care services can happen to any family at any time – it is a socially equalising experience. I had a similar feeling to when I attended jury duty where ’ordinary people’ are randomly selected from the electoral roll and brought together.

So many of the experiences described reflected my experience of the aged care system over the ten-year period in caring for my mother. The frustration of dealing with the system, constantly changing care staff, fee complexity and inefficiency of the home care package providers. The incredible shortage of staff in residential aged care and the dismissive way any issue raised was addressed.

Those who spoke were incredible. Each had a story to tell. They had five brief minutes to outline their story and make their presentation. One lady travelled 1000+km from regional Australia to describe her experience and frustration of home care in a rural and underserviced area. Families of two young people living in residential aged care shared sad stories of their experience of their simply being no other alternative.

Some presenters read speeches and some shared pictures. Some described the complexity of navigating a system and others advocated for their future needs. The session was is a very multi-cultural area however no one from a CALD community spoke. There were no representations from people who were very marginalised. One lady advocated on behalf of the needs of the aging lesbian community.

Commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO did an excellent job of ‘hosting’ the morning. She used inclusive language and encouraged those who were nervous and emotional to share their story. Commissioner Briggs came across as having a genuine interest in hearing what people where saying and provided an excellent summary at the conclusion of the session.

Being in the room is a different experience from watching or listening to the telecast or reading the daily briefings. Public hearings continue over the coming months. I would encourage all those in the sector to take the time to attend a session.