Australia’s aged care sector needs to start preparing for the specific needs of the Stolen Generations as they enter the system over the next five years, the head of the Healing Foundation says.

The Healing foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body established to address the trauma resulting from the government’s past policies, in force between 1910-1972, of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families.

Richard Weston
Healing Foundation CEO Richard Weston

By 2023 an estimated 17,150 members of the Stolen Generation cohort will enter the aged care system, a recent demographic study shows.

The AIHW report, commissioned by the Healing Foundation, confirms a high level of chronic health problems, disability and social disadvantage among this generation.

Healing Foundation CEO Richard Weston says while all indigenous people face challenges in accessing and receiving culturally appropriate care the needs of the stolen generation are unique, including the prospect of their trauma being re-triggered once they enter institutional aged care.

“One of the major concerns of Stolen Generations as they age is the prospect of re-entering institutionalised care, which is what they’ve grown up with in their early years,” he told Community Care Review.

Trauma-informed resources for the aged care sector

Mr Weston says the foundation is preparing an Action Plan for Healing which will be presented to aged care minister Ken Wyatt by the end of the year and which will, among other things, canvass the development of trauma-informed resources for the aged care sector.

“How are we going to support and assist stolen generations, particularly those people who are ageing?” he said.

“How do we meet their needs for healing, their needs to get some dignity and proper care in their later years?

“What they are saying to us is they would rather stay in their homes, in their families and communities. That’s one of the things we want to have a conversation with the government about, supporting flexible approaches and models for the stolen generations.”

Indigenous Australians are able to access aged care from the age of 50 because of their complex health needs and are also eligible for the The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program, which is designed to provide culturally appropriate care close to home, mainly in rural and remote areas.

But Mr Weston says the needs of the Stolen Generations go beyond those of the general indigenous population, with a higher prevalence of mental health issues, disability and chronic and disease. There is also evidence this group has disproportionate challenges accessing even indigenous services, he says.

Mr Weston says preparation by aged care providers is the key to ensuring this vulnerable group of Australians receives proper care as it ages.

“One of the things providers can start reflecting on is what do we understand about the Stolen Generations’ story and their history,” he said.

“The system has to start thinking, how are we going to support people who are going to start coming into the aged care system now? How are we going to give them the proper recognition, the dignity the support so that they can access services like everyone else.”

Stolen Generation compared to non-removed indigenous population

  • 17,150 survivors of the Stolen Generations are living across Australia
  • 66 per cent are over 50 and all will be eligible for aged care by 2023
  • 1.6 times as likely to be in poor health
  • 1.5 times as likely to have mental health problems
  • More than two-thirds (67 per cent) live with a disability or restrictive long-term condition
  • 44 cent report chronic health conditions
  • Almost 40 per cent of Stolen Generations aged over 50 have poor mental health

Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations and descendents, AIHW

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