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National Award Indigenous Home Care Program under threat

A home care program tailored to meet the unique needs of older Indigenous Australians was declared a winner at this year’s innovAGEING National Awards in July. Funding for the program ended on 30 September and is set to expire in December. IRT Foundation is seeking $500,000 per year for the next three years to continue the program and make it self reliant however Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Greg Hunt, Health Minister Greg Hunt have not come through with the required funding. Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips MP, is calling on the Liberal-National Government to step in to provide funding for the program.

“The Minister for Aged Care, Senator Colbeck, must provide urgent transitional funding to keep this service open,”

“This program has been a huge success, winning an innovAGEING National Award earlier this year for promoting and supporting older Australians to remain independent and in their homes,”   

“With everything we have seen come out of the Aged Care Royal Commission, our community cannot afford to lose vital services aimed at supporting disadvantaged older Australians,” Mrs Phillips said.

The program also helps to provide employment to local Aboriginal people, with the project leadership team and home care roles all staffed by Aboriginal workers.

“These are vital aged care services and it is shameful that the Morrison Government has allowed this to happen given it knows there are 120,000 older Australians assessed and waiting for their approved home care package,” Mrs Phillips said.

“The Liberals have been asleep at the wheel for six years, with four Ministers and billions of dollars ripped out while Australia’s aged care system has lurched from one crisis to another,”

“The pilot program has the potential to be applied to other Aboriginal communities across Australia and I urge the Minister to stop this program from closing,” Mrs Phillips said.

The innovative home care program called Booraja was developed by IRT Group's IRT Foundation in close collaboration with the Walbanga community in the Eurobodalla region.

Booraja won the Realising Wellness and Re-Ablement Award for promoting the independence of older Australians and supporting them to remain in their own homes and communities.

IRT Foundation Manager, Toby Dawson said of the national recognition that it was a great honour though more needs to be done to ensure Aboriginal Elders are better supported to age well.

“Our research shows that there are major barriers preventing many Aboriginal people from accessing and benefiting from government-funded home care services. These include a deep lack of trust in government systems, low levels of health literacy and no culturally appropriate workforce or service models,” Mr Dawson said.

“In developing and delivering the Booraja program, our goal is to help older Indigenous Australians overcome these barriers by providing culturally appropriate home care that enables them to stay connected to kin and country.”

Recognising that Indigenous seniors prefer to be cared for at home by other Indigenous people, a key part of the program is focused on training Aboriginal job seekers to provide culturally sensitive aged care at home. The leadership team and all care positions within the Booraja program are held by Aboriginal professionals.

To date, the Booraja program is delivering home care services to 15 older Indigenous people. Of these, 75% had no prior knowledge of home care services available. Fifty per cent of the Booraja care workers have completed their Certificate III in Individual Support via IRT Academy and a further 20% will have completed this certificate by the end of September.

Booraja is funded by a $1.4 million grant from the Dementia and Aged Care Services Innovation Funding Round awarded to IRT Group in 2017. IRT has used these funds to research the effectiveness of Consumer Directed Care in Home Care Packages in Aboriginal Communities, and develop and deliver the model for Booraja in close consultation with Bateman’s Bay Aboriginal community.

The annual innovAGEING National Awards program was set in place to celebrate innovation in the age services industry. The national innovAGEING network includes providers, suppliers, researchers, consumer groups, investors and public sector agencies working together to accelerate innovation, translate ideas into action and deliver better outcomes for older Australians.

Image : IRT

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