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Older Aboriginal people are forced to live away from home due to lack of aged care services

Photo: Australia neglects elders despite wealth
Aboriginal Elder Mildred Numamurdirdi is forced to live in Darwin, 800km from her home and family in Numbulwar, because of a lack of aged care services.

Australia is a wealthy nation after 28 years of sustained economic growth but has failed to look after its most vulnerable group, older Aboriginal people, the Royal Commission into Aged Care heard.

Indigenous people who had grown up affected by the Stolen Generations were being separated from their families as elders to live in nursing care hundreds of kilometres from their homes, the commission heard in Darwin.

A dominant view is that it's too expensive for the federal government - which is responsible in the NT - to provide such care to remote communities, where kidney failure and diabetes are the biggest problems.
That view was rejected by several speakers at the Royal Commission, who said money was being wasted or deliberately misused.

In Brisbane it was discovered some aged care providers were being funded but services denied to Aboriginal clients, with a lack of "checks and balances" and information sharing due to privacy laws, according to Dr John Boffa of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.

"We have had 28 years of sustained economic growth and we can't even make sure that old people can be cared for close to home in communities of very considerable size," Dr Boffa said on Monday.

Mildred Numamurdirdi, an Aboriginal Elder from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory, was flown 800km to Royal Darwin hospital with serious health problems in March last year and has not returned home since.

She appeared in person in a portable hospital bed at the Royal Commission on Monday and later called for aged care beds in communities on behalf of older Aboriginal Australians around the nation.

"I make them sad and I am myself sad far away from my family, my heart is crying, we can hardly stand to be away from our children and grandchildren," Mrs Numamurdirdi said outside the commission.

"If I pass away here, it is far for me to get to my spirit, my culture, my ceremony."

Mrs Numamurdirdi said she wanted to return to Numbulwar but could not do so until aged care services were provided.

Almost one in five people who might need aged care services in the NT are Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Royal Commission continues in Darwin on Tuesday.


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