At last year’s inaugural national conference of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association, its newly appointed chief executive officer Tom Symondson sensed the sector lacked self-confidence.
“Self-confidence, by the way, you absolutely deserve to have, but potentially had lost track of,” he told delegates in Adelaide on Thursday during a key note speech. “Fast-forward 12 months and I feel something quite different. I feel like that sense of self-confidence and pride in being part of this sector is something that again we can talk about.”
Speaking in the main hall of the Adelaide Convention Centre on day two of ACCPA’s annual event – the biggest gathering of aged care providers in the country – Mr Symondson added: “One of the reasons I think that sense of self-confidence has grown is because we’ve started to look a little bit more objectively and a little less subjectively at ourselves and have acknowledged the things we do well.”
Whilst the sector was “very far from perfect”, people in the industry are entitled to feel pride in themselves and what they do, he said.
The sector, Mr Symondson told delegates, had had an incredible year. A year “better than many in our recent past.”
The May budget, he said, “was the best the sector has had in years.” Mr Symondson noted the government had raised the indexation rate by 5.7 per cent. “Who knew that was even possible? Who knew that the Treasury’s calculator even went that high anymore? Investing in our sector has started, to be quite frank, to be a vote winner not a vote loser.”
Mr Symondson also acknowledged the Fair Work Commission’s decision to award the direct care workforce a 15 per cent pay rise – “and then the government funded it. We got that as a sector for our workforce.”
Addressing those workers left out of the wage deal, Mr Symondson said: “I hope very much that it delivers a pay rise to the 45 per cent of our staff who did not get one. I’m sure you all agree with me that they add just as much value as our nurses and our care workers because without our kitchen staff, our cleaners, our gardeners, our administrative staff, our carers couldn’t do what they do.”
Mr Symondson spoke of his many visits to aged care homes across the country. “I’ve seen innovations everywhere I’ve gone. Every single one of you could name an innovative thing that your teams are doing. This is an innovative sector. It is a resilient sector,” he said.
Mr Symondson told delegates, during his visits, he had seen firsthand how much people genuinely cared about what they did. “And you care in a very meaningful and deep way about the job you are here to do for our elders.”
Caring for elders is the most important job in society, he said in closing. “It is the demonstration of our society being a caring, compassionate, grown-up and sophisticated society. Because we are here to enable our elders to live the lives of their choosing and to have the best quality ageing they can possibly have.”
Below, Tom Symondson talks to CCR from the fringes of the conference.
Main image: ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson addresses delegates in Adelaide