Federal Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler met with 40 representatives from LGBTI community groups this week to discuss improving aged care for LGBTI seniors.

Participants at the National LGBTI Ageing Roundtable held in Sydney called for diversity training for aged-care providers, national LGBTI-inclusive accreditation standards, and for LGBTI ageing issues to be considered in a federal Government strategic plan.

“LGBTI people can face unique challenges throughout their lives as a result of discrimination and social exclusion,” Butler said.

“Sadly, many LGBTI people are concerned that their sexuality or gender identity may affect the quality of aged-care service provided to them.

“All older Australians, no matter what their background, gender, and sexuality, have the right to be safe, respected and free of discrimination.”

The meeting follows the August release of the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians report which detailed the concerns of LGBTI seniors, including fear of discrimination in aged-care services.

Butler said the meeting will help the Government develop its response to the report.

The roundtable was hosted by the National LGBTI Health Alliance and ACON.

Alliance chair Paul Martin said the event was a step forward for discussions on LGBTI aged care.

“There are up to 500,000 Australians over the age of 55 who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex and their specific health and cultural needs are not being adequately addressed in our current aged-care system,” Martin said.

“The minister acknowledged the issues and committed to continue speaking with the LGBTI sector as he considers the suggestions put forward by roundtable delegates.”

ACON president Mark Orr called for more funding for LGBTI aged-care initiatives to provide the aged-care sector with sensitivity training.

“Research shows that many older LGBTI people fear discrimination and insensitive treatment within the aged-care system, either from other residents or from aged-care service providers,” he said.

“People from our community are understandably anxious about how they will be treated by these service providers and an explicit mention of our communities in standards and accreditation systems would give them reassurance in seeking services.

“What we need is a system which guarantees appropriate and sensitive services for all.”

ACON is currently developing a federally funded pilot training program for LGBTI-sensitivity for aged-care providers in New South Wales.

At the meeting, outgoing Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Corey Irlam was presented with a medallion from Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia for his advocacy work on intersex issues.

Gerontologist and LGBTI ageing expert Dr Jo Harrison said the roundtable was a ‘milestone’ in the push for LGBTI seniors to be recognised.

“That the Minister was receptive to our community’s concerns, including those conveyed by our elders, is extremely encouraging,” Harrison said.

“We look forward to a continuing dialogue and to hearing the outcome of the Minister’s deliberations regarding the Productivity Commission recommendation, endorsed by the roundtable, for a National GLBTI Aged Care Strategic Plan.”

PHOTO: (left to right) ACON president Mark Orr, Alliance chair Paul Martin, Gerontologist Dr Jo Harrison, ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill, Ageing Minister Mark Butler, Alliance executive officer Warren Talbot and
Roundtable convenor Corey Irlam.

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