Radio Interview - Senate Inquiry into the future of Australia’s aged care sector workforce


LEON COMPTON: There is a Senate Inquiry into the future needs of the aged care workforce that’s on at the moment. Labor Senator Helen Polley is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for that area and is looking into the issue. Senator Polley Good morning.


COMPTON: How many people do we know Tasmania will need in the aged care sector in the next decade?

POLLEY: In less than a decade, in the next four years we need to ensure that we have an additional five thousand people who are prepared to work in aged care - whether that’s in residential care or whether it’s assisting people to stay in their homes.

COMPTON: That’s an additional five thousand in Tasmania?

POLLEY: Absolutely and when you think about it Leon, with the disability services that are now being provided, the aged care sector is competing with those who want to help people live at home who have a disability. It is an enormous challenge that is ahead of us and unfortunately since the current Abbott/Turnbull Government has been in over the last two years they’ve done nothing at all. I’ve been out talking to the sector, because we need to be working with the sector. We need to have submissions coming in from the sector, from those people representing the workers in the sector and indeed from individuals who feel strongly about ensuring that we have the best possible staffing arrangements as we age.

COMPTON: What does the Government have a role in doing in this? We’re talking about people with private needs. Much of the aged care sector is run by the private sector, there are opportunities. Why aren’t people just moving in to take advantage of those jobs?

POLLEY: Unfortunately though when you look at what we’re faced with, it’s not uncommon to have not-for-profit organisations particularly in Tasmania and other rural and regional areas. Private investors are invested in aged care in the big cities because they get a good return on their investment. What we have is an enormous challenge when it comes to rural and regional Australia. Talking about Tasmania in particular, the problem that we have, and it’s reflected around the country is that the workforce is currently ageing. We need to have people skilled up and we need to have the right people who have compassion and who actually want the opportunity to work with our ageing community.

COMPTON: This sector is not a particularly sexy place for young people to think about going to work and in fact, most of the work in aged care could be considered quite grim. Why and how are we hoping to attract young people do decide on careers in this sector.

POLLEY: I think it’s actually a very rewarding sector to work in. One of the problems we have is that of those people working in this sector are predominately women, and once again receive very low remuneration for the work that they’re doing. So we need to not only recruit people, we need to have the right people, we need to continue to train them and we also need career paths and opportunities. There are young people that are coming into the sector, but we need to change the way we talk about ageing and we need to talk about aged care in a more positive manner because there are people currently working in aged care who love the work they are doing and get a lot of reward from it.

COMPTON: Tasmania’s State Government has a population policy and we’re expecting this year for them to start actually acting on that and bring more people to live in the state. What about bringing people from overseas or interstate to take up jobs in this sector? It seems there’s an opportunity there. Do you see that opportunity?

POLLEY: There’s already 457 visas being used in the aged care sector, but I believe there are enormous opportunities for young Australians here in Tasmania, to actually create themselves an opportunity in the private enterprise by being inventive and by giving something back to the community. These are the things that Government needs to lead on and we have offered to work with the Government over the last two years. We don’t have a Minister for Ageing we have a Minister now responsible for Health and Aged Care. We have to look at this issue holistically right across Government policies. We’ll be looking also at State and Territory Government’s policies and how that impacts on the ageing of our population. It’s a huge Inquiry and one that I’m really keen to get as much information from the sector as possible. We’re asking people to get submissions in by 4 March with a reporting date of the 30th June. What we need to do is address workforce issues and that means working with the sector, the workers and the unions. The Government has a role in bringing this together but they’ve just been dragging the chain over the last two years and it’s very disappointing.

COMPTON: Appreciate you talking to us this morning.

POLLEY: Thank you Leon.