The Coalition supports greater awareness of older LGBTI Australians but it will wait for committee recommendations on whether it will support the federal government’s raft of reforms currently in Parliament.
Ageing minister Mark Butler announced the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy last December which included a number of measures to make aged care services LGBTI-friendlier, such as staff training worth $2.5 million over five years.
The strategy is part of the larger Living Longer Living Better package of general aged care law reforms that the Coalition is yet to endorse.
One of the reforms is the inclusion of LGBTI people as a special needs group in aged care that would essentially raise awareness of gay and gender/sex diverse issues within the industry.
Shadow ageing and mental health minister, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (pictured right), said LGBTI people were already recognised in this group.
“The Coalition believes that all older Australians should receive the highest possible quality and dignified care, when they need it and wherever they need it,” she told the Star Observer.
“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people have been classified as people with special needs since the unopposed passing of the Allocation Amendment (People with Special Needs) Principle in August 2012.
“Since the release of Living Longer Living Better on 20 April 2012, the Coalition has raised concerns about the increase in costs and complexity of the package. We knew the devil would be in the detail and hence, the Coalition was cautious in its response.”
Fierravanti-Wells said the Coalition remained concerned about the effect that this package would have in an already difficult aged care environment, especially in rural and regional areas.
“That is why we have referred these bills to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee to examine the full impact on how these changes will affect providers, older Australians, their families and carers.”
The committee is due to report back in June.
National LGBTI Health Alliance general manager Warren Talbot said the special needs grouping gave some reassurance to LGBTI people that they would receive equal treatment.
“The value of having LGBTI people in the [Aged Care] Act as a special needs group is that it means the aged care sector is actively encouraged to think about LGBTI people in their planning and that’s a positive thing,” he said.
“Since July 2012, LGBTI have been included in the regulations which govern the allocation of care. Inclusion in the [Aged Care] Act goes one step further and makes that a stronger measure.”
Talbot said all senators were offered the opportunity to object to the allocation amendment principle last year but there was no objection.
He said the alliance had a meeting with Fierravanti-Wells and said he believed the senator was committed to fair and reasonable treatment for LGBTI people across the range of aged care services.
Talbot added there were a large number of changes included in the proposed bill which weren’t related to the LGBTI community and would be making a submission to the Senate committee supporting the LGBTI reforms.
Fierravanti-Wells declined to comment on the Coalition’s stance on religious exemptions for some aged care providers.
But Talbot said he was encouraged by a growing number of providers who have indicated they did not want to discriminate against LGBTI people, such as UnitingCare and Anglicare Australia.