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The mother and father of all injustices - we must fix this national disgrace now


After decades of decline and dozens of reports and inquiries, Australia’s treatment of its oldest and most deserving citizens is a disgrace. The time for excuses and  avoidance is gone,  writes Rebecca Levingston

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Is it really that complicated? To care for Australia’s parents and grandparents…

Does it really require another 1000-page report and 148 recommendations?

There have been twenty investigations into aged care in Australia in the last twenty years.
Every Government has failed to fix the places that our parents go to die. Shame. Shame on them. Shame on us.

Maybe we need to scrap the name aged care.

Maggie Beer once chastised me when I used the phrase aged care facility.

“Home, it’s a home Rebecca,” she said.

Maggie was sitting opposite me enthusiastically explaining why the smell of fresh bread should be in every aged care home. Butter, real butter she said should be used. Home cooked, simple, nourishing food was cheap and easy to prepare. Why don’t we feed our parents what they fed us?

Maybe if we call it Mum and Dad’s house, it’ll change the way politicians and CEOs on six-figure pay packets talk about “the system”.

Is profit the problem? If you can make money off Mum and Dad as they live out their final years, isn’t that just good business? We don’t have enough continence pads for Mum. Dad’s getting slop for dinner. But shareholders are making big bucks. Thanks Mum and Dad.

Fifteen years ago when I was producing for Madonna King on ABC radio, I tried to keep up as she doggedly pursued transparency in the accreditation of aged care homes. Shocking allegations of substandard care were made about a broken system where the homes got told ahead of time that inspectors were coming.

I now host the same show Madonna once commanded, and today, more than a decade later, an aged care worker told me that homes still get a heads-up. It’s like cheating on a test. Mum and Dad would be so proud.

A nurse called me this morning and said when she finished her shift in an aged care home, she’d sit in her car and cry. Another told me the workload is impossible, the nurse to resident ratios ridiculous. A veteran nursing educator said more staff has always been the answer. It’s a lot harder to abuse Mum and Dad when you have another carer present.

This Royal Commission report is like removing a dressing from a festering wound. A national disgrace.

One in three older Australian’s are receiving substandard care. Up to 50% of residents are malnourished.
One in five Mums and Dads are physically or sexually assaulted.

The interim report was titled “Neglect.”

The final report was titled “Care, Dignity and Respect.”

Wonder what the next report will be called?

Lawyer Josh Bornstein tweeted an idea that stood out to me amongst all the handwringing, sorrow and despair. As Scott Morrison was holding the report saying “It’ll test my government, it’ll test the budget,” Josh had a test too.

“I think public policy would benefit enormously from the federal cabinet staying in an aged care facility for one week”

The first MP who’s willing to stay, should be the next Prime Minister.

I’d take it a step further. The Ministers should spend a week working as assistants to aged care nurses. Run down the corridors, run out of incontinence pads.

Stop writing reports.

Fix it.

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