GRIEVANCE DEBATE – Forrest Electorate: Tuia Lodge

On Saturday I was privileged to open the new wing, which is the expansion of Tuia Lodge, a community-managed aged-care facility in Donnybrook in my electorate of Forrest. The Commonwealth government invested $2.76 million in this project, and the local community and the Tuia Lodge Committee have added $1.4 million to make this project a success. It is a great partnership between the committee, the community and the Commonwealth, and I congratulate all those who were a part such a wonderful project. In particular, I want to mention Mr Lui Tuia and the Donnybrook Aged Care Committee, who have been absolutely resolute and steadfast in their support, and magnificent in their actions to make this project happen. The Donnybrook Community, led by Lui and the committee, have been fundraising for the Lodge for decades.

There are two critical times in our life when we need support from the community, from family and from the government—that is, in childhood, as we grow and are educated, and when we are aged and needing care. Hubert Humphrey was a Vice President of the United States in the sixties, and he said in his final speech, words that were taken from others who went before him, like Ghandi:

The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

Those words are equally valid today, and no more so than in a small regional centre like Donnybrook. Country towns should not have to see their elderly go off to a major regional centre for care—it is not good for the resident, it is not good for the families and it is certainly not good for the community. We need to encourage families to maintain their bonds with their elderly relatives, and not simply see them go off to another major regional area, and potentially limit the amount of time that they can be in touch with their relatives. It makes it very difficult for the family.

As we know, our senior citizens are an absolute asset and we must be sure that they can be reached by us all. Keeping families close enough to be in contact is critical to the welfare of not only the elderly citizen but also all of the family members.

The other issue is that people must remember that when we go into an aged-care facility, we are actually swapping one home for another. When we go into a facility, this becomes our home. That is why having the community around to assist and care for us in that environment is so important, because most of us want to spend whatever days that we have left in the company of those that know us best—who we have perhaps grown up with, who we have lived with all our lives, and even community members who have known us throughout our lives and who are there as volunteers, as they are in this community of Donnybrook.

Tuia Lodge has so many volunteers who fundraise. Donnybrook is a shining example. The local community recognise the growing need for aged-care services and they took personal and community responsibility to provide that within their community for their people. With such passionate and wise leadership of Lui Tuia and the commitment of the Donnybrook community, they have worked tirelessly to build their capacity to support aged care within their community.

Tuia Lodge was born out of this environment. It has not been easy. It has taken an awfully long time and it has grown over the years, but this is a community that has looked after itself and its vulnerable members. It has not simply waited for somebody else or a government, for instance, to do the hard work—they have done it themselves. That is why this is such a special facility.

I congratulate Lui and his committee, and the entire community of Donnybrook who have contributed in so many different ways—whether it was buying a raffle ticket or helping out on a cake stall—this has been an outstanding outcome, and this latest expansion is just part of that. Some contributed by buying a brick in the previous expansion, and I recognised so many names there. Every dollar counts in aged care in small communities.

Of course, across Australia we have seen community managed aged-care facilities often whither, mainly because often those communities have become completely reliant on government to provide those services, and as a result most regional aged-care centres are now owned or managed by large corporations. But it does not have to be that way. Donnybrook is the beacon. This small community, this small caring community shows how such communities can manage if they are really dedicated.

What also matters to the people who live in that community are the people who look after them. I wanted to mention Keryn, the manager at Tuia Lodge. She provides so many personal touches and cares about each of those residents as if they were her own. Those of us who have loved ones in aged care want to know that those we love are being loved, and that is exactly what Keryn and her team do for the residents in Tuia Lodge. It is the most beautiful place, and it is special because of the love and care that is provided by Keryn and her staff and all of that army of volunteers who help out.

There are many different forms of aged care, and we also see right throughout the broader Donnybrook community a range of people who come in as volunteers to Tuia Lodge in so many ways. On the weekend there were so many people there for the opening, and so many people who not only had residents into Tuia Lodge, but those who for many years had worked as part of the original fundraising and management committees and those who felt a real connection or who had loved ones within Tuia Lodge. The new wing is a beautiful area that has ensuites. They have a long waiting list and their services are in great demand. But it is not just the building that is in demand; it is the level of care that is provided. That is what Tuia Lodge offers.

It is really a credit to Lui Tuia and to his team. I really want to focus on the efforts of Lui and his wife Helen. There was great tribute paid to Lui at the opening of this particular part, and people actually gave him a standing ovation which touched him and his wife very much. It is very fitting because Lui has put his heart and soul into Tui Lodge and done an extraordinary job over many years. Yes, he has had a whole raft of community members and various committee members and those who fundraise tirelessly, but one of the best things about this particular centre is that it is for the community and by the community.

I think living in small rural and regional towns, often when you get to later in life it is very difficult to find the care that you need. To be able to live in a really small community like Donnybrook and yet have access to such great quality aged care is a real tribute to the community itself. Again, it is being brought about by extraordinary leadership and there are very few people in Australia who would know more about aged care and the aged-care system and the challenges facing aged care than Lui Tuia. He is at the lodge almost on a daily basis. Whatever needs doing, he will be there to do it, along with his family and, as I said, a whole raft of amazing volunteers of all age groups.

They were there on Saturday, providing a wonderful afternoon tea for all of the visitors. They are constantly available for any help that Tuia Lodge needs. I really want to commend the whole community of Donnybrook —all of the volunteers and everyone who has done anything to support Tuia Lodge and who will continue to do so. I encourage each and every one of them to continue their efforts to make sure that what is offered at Tuia Lodge now continues to be offered into the longer term, for all of the residents and for the benefit of the whole community.