Council on the Ageing (COTA) ACT recently asked all political parties running in the 2020 ACT Election to respond to our ACT Election Submission outlining the needs, concerns, and interests of the large and growing number of older people in our territory. You can read the full submission by clicking on the COTA ACT 2020 ACT Election Submission link.
The following statements were provided to COTA ACT by the Labor Party, Liberal Party, Belo Party and Sustainable Australia Party.
ACT Labor Party
I am writing to you ahead of the ACT election to let you and your members know about what ACT Labor has committed to over the next term of Government. Our older Canberrans are an asset for our city. We can all learn from their knowledge and experience, and they also make enormous contributions through caring for family and friends, volunteering and in advisory roles. In turn, we need to make sure older Canberrans are acknowledged and cared for, and that we adapt our services to suit their needs as their journey through life continues.
The heart of ACT Labor’s plan for Seniors is to deliver the Age Friendly City Plan. This plan was developed in consultation with older Canberrans and the organisations that support them. It builds on the Age Friendly Vision I launched in 2019. The plan focusses on tangible actions to improve the lives of seniors across Canberra from a strengths-based approach.
As part of this, Labor has committed to:
- working with the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions to develop a national register of powers of attorney documents and to improve consistency of power of attorney legislation
- strengthening the powers of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in providing remedies and redress for the misuse of powers of attorney, and guardianship/financial management appointment
- running a broad inclusion and diversity social media awareness campaign including a focus on age discrimination
- making ACT Government Shopfronts dementia friendly spaces
- increasing the number of intergenerational playgroups across Canberra
- piloting a targeted campaign of local businesses to provide employment opportunities to older Canberrans; implementing strategies for the attraction and retention of older Canberrans in the ACT Public Service
- increasing promotion of the Home Library Service to older Canberrans
- undertaking a feasibility study to explore options for developing regional community hubs that have an intergenerational focus
- developing and implementing a strategy to support the mental health and wellbeing of older Canberrans
- undertaking a review of community transport services to better support community needs, including those of older Canberrans
- continuing the roll-out of the Age Friendly Suburbs Program, including feedback and evaluation of its impact for Canberrans, and
- undertaking a review of the Mobility Parking Permit Scheme and investigating parking provision requirements to inform future Government parking policy and management.
In addition to this, Labor has also committed to digitising the ACT Seniors Card, so that older Canberrans have a choice of a digital or a plastic seniors card. We have also committed to making all ACT Libraries dementia friendly spaces.
These commitments follow on from a term in Government where I have been working hard as Minister for Seniors to improve the lives of older Canberrans. During these last four years I have created Australia’s first criminal offence of Elder Abuse; I have doubled the amount of grant funding available to organisations that support our seniors; I have delivered our first Age Friendly City Plan.
Should Labor be fortunate enough to be re-elected on 17 October, I will continue to work hard to ensure Canberra continues to develop as an Age Friendly City. Where we respect all contribute to the ongoing development of Canberra as an inclusive city that values the contributions, involvement and needs of older Canberrans.
For more information, visit the ACT Labor Party website.
Gordon Ramsay – ACT Labor Party
ACT Liberal Party
The Canberra Liberals are committed to making Canberra the best place to live, work and raise a family.
The Canberra Liberals realise that a growing city also means an older city. We have a plan to transform Canberra into an inclusive and inviting city for our ageing population.
A Canberra Liberals Government will take the pressure off many seniors by relieving cost of living pressures by saving Canberra households $1,800 per year. We will:
- Freeze rates for four years, meaning that rates will not increase and older Canberrans will receive much-needed relief to household budgets;
- Put downward pressure on rent;
- Provide cheaper vehicle registration, saving $100 per year, per car;
- Provide utilities concessions to Canberrans who have a Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card, Centrelink Low Income Health Card, Department of Veterans Affairs Pensioner Concession Card, or Gold Card;
- Continue the existing rebate for Life Support, Medical Heating and Cooling and Home Haemodialysis; and
- Provide more gap-free GPs.
We will also provide stability and security for older Canberrans by improving employment opportunities. This will include exploring measures that assist in reskilling (especially in areas of significant disruption), more flexible working conditions, transitional assistance and the provision of automatic workplace injury insurance for workers aged over 65.
A Canberra Liberals Government will ensure that our ageing population is cared for. Canberra now has the longest hospital and elective surgery wait times in the country, with patients sometimes waiting years for necessary treatments. To future-proof our healthcare system, a Canberra Liberals Government will:
- Support a world-leading residential dementia care village with home-like environment to foster a sense of community, belonging and connectedness for residents;
- Increase education about Advance Care Planning through senior’ seminars and other awareness activities in the community;
- Improve access to strength training for older Canberrans by working with COTA to deliver the programs at community health centres;
- Provide a hydrotherapy pool in the South of Canberra;
- Develop an action plan to prevent elder abuse in the ACT;
- Fund the Hip and Knee osteoporosis program;
- Improve transitions of care for older Canberrans, enhancing quality of life for seniors; and
- Establish a world-leading residential dementia care facility, which will offer a range of supports for residents.
Transport for our older Canberrans is an essential aspect of our plan for Canberra. The Canberra Liberals will reinstate bus stops that were removed, prioritising those outside aged care facilities and retirement villages, and improve the number and frequency of services. We will also introduce improved connections to hospitals and connections with light rail services.
A Canberra Liberals Government will ensure that our bus stops are more accommodating and inclusive for older Canberrans. We will review and improve seating at bus stops, especially in areas where high numbers of older Canberrans are seeking to access public transport. We will ensure that seats have arms to assist users to stand and will be made from recycled materials.
We will provide better parking at and near Seniors Centres. This will improve accessibility to these facilities and reduce barriers to isolation and loneliness. We will identify areas that have a high demand for accessible parking and increase the number of available spaces.
The Canberra Liberals believe that access to community is fundamental when it comes to the quality of life for older Canberrans. We will improve access to community for older by:
- Improving pathways from the end of full-time work into volunteering and encouraging older Canberrans to use their skills and experiences in the community post-retirement;
- Exploring ways of improving access to outdoor exercise equipment that is appropriate for older Canberrans;
- Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older Canberrans by working with community organisations such as Winnunga Nimmityjah and OATSIA to identify and establish services that are appropriate for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander seniors;
- Working with local Men’s Sheds representatives to identify gaps and opportunities for new sheds;
- Improving maintenance of community facilities essential for meetings, activities and the delivery of non-profit services;
- Introducing Grandparents Day to celebrate the important role of grandparents; and
- Creating an age-friendly events checklist and resources for event organisers to improve accessibility for older Canberrans and increase patronage at events.
The Canberra Liberals understand that local services must be better for our older Canberrans. We will provide bulky waste collection twice per year to bring the ACT in line with other parts of Australia.
The Canberra Liberals will also ensure that older Canberrans receive appropriate tenancy support services. The cost of living in Canberra puts additional housing pressures on older Canberrans who then turn to community groups and other providers for assistance. The Canberra Liberals will ensure that support services are appropriately funded to provide the necessary assistance.
If you would like to stay up to date, you can follow the Canberra Liberals Facebook page.
Our policies will also be publicly available on our website after they are announced. Visit the ACT Liberal Party website for more information.
Nicole Lawder – ACT Liberal Party
Thank you for writing to us about your election priorities. The Greens have released a number of initiatives that are relevant to older people, including our Home for All, Supporting the Community Sector , which establishes a Community Recovery Cabinet and a range of other initiatives, and Energy Efficiency and Just Transition to a zero emissions future. Our Older Persons Package will also be released within the next few days.
Funding and support to increase the connectedness of older Canberrans – through digital literacy, targeted news, relevant information and enhanced intergenerational community connections.
The Greens will commit to reviewing the targeted assistance strategy during the next Assembly, to ensure that assistance is going where it is needed most. The ACT Greens will commit to the provision of technology and assistance to those who need it, including older people. We recognise that many older people experience technology exclusion and experience isolation and loneliness as a result. The COVID pandmeic has highlighted the value of technology in times when we cannot physically associate and it is important that older people are not left behind.
We note that there are some positive new programs that have been implemented through the COVID-19 period, such as the wellbeing call service, operating through Red Cross. We support the ACT Government supporting these types of services, noting they are particularly useful for older people who are socially isolated and may struggle to find information or access the services they need.
Commitment and funding for new ways of providing information and assistance to older Canberrans, including outreach of information and support especially for those with transport, health, physical, generational, linguistic or financial barriers to accessing current service models.
Again, we note the comments above regarding the ACT Greens commitment to looking at ways of improving information provision and assistance to older Canberrans.
In relation to specific assistance, the ACT Greens support for rates deferral for older Canberrans, and as Climate Minister, Shane Rattenbury worked to increase utilities concessions over the last Assembly – we will also look at further utilities concessions increases through the review of the targeted assistance strategy. During the last Assembly, ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur worked hard to get ACT Government to expand the criteria for the rates deferral scheme as well as better promoting the deferral option to all Canberran ratepayers, to ensure that older Canberrans are not disproportionately affected by increasing rates which has had an unfair impact on those with fixed incomes, living in established homes in established suburbs.
Support and funding for targeted, evidence-based physical activity programs for seniors in our community, along with a commitment to their health, mental health and physical wellbeing.
When he had both the Ageing portfolio and the Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) portfolio in the last Assembly, Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury initiated the age friendly suburbs program, and the Greens strongly support its expansion. We support 20% of the roads and parking budget being allocated to walking and cycling, meaning a minimum of $20 million for active transport each year, including for footpaths and lighting. These will enable seniors to safely get out more in their community. More information can be found in our Walking and Cycling initiatives.
As Minister for Mental Health, Minister Rattenbury also instructed the Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing to undertake a review of older persons’ mental health and wellbeing. A summary of the key stakeholder feedback and recommendations from the consultation process formed the ‘Re-envisioning Older Persons Mental Health and Wellbeing’ paper.
This document will guide the future work to address gaps in services for older persons mental health, improve continuity of care between different systems and guide the development of ACT Government programs and services for older persons mental health and wellbeing.
This process has determined that older people are more at risk of social isolation and loneliness. As part of the Greens Health Package, we want to see a government commitment to greater exploration of ‘social prescribing’. This mechanism has demonstrated particular successes in engaging older people in activities to address loneliness such as arts and dance programs for example.
Development and implementation of a co-ordinated seniors housing and homelessness strategy with reference and input from both those with lived experiences and the organisations that support them.
Seniors housing is part of the Greens $450m Home for All package , announced in July. The Greens are aware that older women in particular are at greatest risk of homelessness and we will ensure that older people are considered as prospective tenants in the roll out of social and community housing. Additional funding will be provided to specialist housing and homelessness services , including embedding specialist workers, to ensure that the services can meet the demand for assistance.
Attention and funding be allocated urgently to repair, upgrade and maintain community spaces (such as the Hughes Community Centre), particularly those in established areas with high passing traffic like shopping centres and village).
Our Neighbourhood Democracy program will give neighborhoods funds to allocate within their suburbs for facilities and upgrades that the community feels needs attention. Additionally, we have pledged to upgrade a number of community spaces. We are well aware that so many of our community buildings in Canberra are ageing and in urgent need of repairs and energy efficiency work to reduce heating and cooling bills, as well as meet the needs of a zero emission future. We will soon be announcing a fund for energy efficiency upgrades for community buildings managed by Property Group, which would include the Hughes Community Centre.
In addition, our initiatives for older people will include expanding the Official Visitor scheme to aged care, introducing strengthened witnessing provisions for the signing of Enduring Powers of Attorney, improving end of life care services and increasing resourcing for the Human Rights Commission and the Public Trustee and Guardian to respond to increasing numbers of allegations of elder abuse as a result of the amendments to the Crimes Act to include abuse of vulnerable adults, which will be announced in coming days.
Thank you for the opportunity to expand on our plans for older people in the ACT.
Please visit our election initiatives announced to date for more information.
Clancy Barnard, Campaign Manager – on behalf of the ACT Greens
Sustainable Australia Party
Sustainable Australia Party is an independent community party from the political centre. We believe in an evidence-based approach to policy – not a left or right ideology.
In the 2020 ACT election, Sustainable Australia Party is campaigning to protect our environment, stop over development and stop corruption. In particular, this can be achieved through more a democratic and community-focused planning system and more transparency around the relationships between politicians and lobbyists.
Sustainable Australia Party also has a clear policy on ‘Ageing’, which advocates for all Australians and governments to better respect and celebrate our senior citizens. This includes plans to:
- Better facilitate and celebrate the unpaid community contributions of all citizens, particularly older citizens, who make a significant contribution to national wealth and wellbeing; and
- Develop better quality aged, community and home care facilities and standards.
You can find all of our policies including Ageing on the Sustainable Australia website.
Specifically, on behalf of all Sustainable Australia candidates, I can confirm that we support all of COTA’s five key election requests. Priorities for older Canberrans such as increasing connectedness, assistance, physical activity, housing and homelessness support, and public space maintenance are vital goals.
If elected, we commit to working with COTA ACT to ensure the implementation of its election requests as soon as possible. We are running in all five electorates and ask that you vote 1 and 2 for Sustainable Australia candidates, then allocate preferences to other candidates in the order that you prefer.
John Haydon – Sustainable Australia Party
The Belco Party is delighted to offer its support to COTA ACT’s sensible and reasonable aims.
Bill Stefaniak and a number of Belco Party members (including our candidate Chic Henry) are seniors. Outlined below are some commitments we would like to make to seniors, if voted into the Legislative Assembly.
- Recently Bill Stefaniak was briefed on a seniors’ recreational playground that will be set up in the Botanical Gardens. The Belco Party is very supportive of this project.
- The Belco Party supports the merging lanes of traffic to be more seniors friendly. We would like to see merging closer to 90 degrees instead of at an acute angle as presently happens. It is hard for seniors to turn around and look to their right when driving.
- It does grieve us that the current Chief Minister publicly said he does not tend to have too much regard to the views of people over 40. How silly, as our older citizens have so much life and experience to offer and these days 70 is the old 60.
- The Belco Party worries about older people, especially older women who don’t have a secure home and face the ever present threat of homelessness.
- The elderly have built this country into the great country it is today. We have so much to offer the young. We have raised families, lived through, in the case of our very elderly WW2, droughts, fires, the cold war and other challenges. Australia should value a lot more than it does the elderly. Other cultures do.
- There are a lot of other areas in the ACT where money is wasted and some of this waste can be redirected to helping our senior citizens because by doing so we will be investing in the future wellbeing of all Canberrans.
Keep up the good work COTA ACT. The Belco Party is right behind you and commits itself to doing all we can to recognise and value the huge and continuing contribution our senior citizens make to the ACT.
Bill Stefaniak – Belco Party