Senior woman and adult daughter

Aboriginal people visiting Perth for healthcare forced to rely on aged care system, inquiry told

Published: 6 June 2022

Aboriginal people from regional Western Australia visiting Perth for medical care are at risk of homelessness and relying on aged care facilities for accommodation in the city, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.

During the recent inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services in Western Australia, Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Corporation told the panel chaired by Liberal MLC Peter Collier there was a “terrible increase” in individuals and families facing homelessness.

Moorditj Koort deputy chief executive Annie Young said at least one in every 10 clients was at risk of or already of homeless.

“We have people with other issues including justice issues, they are involved with the Department of Child Protection, there are compounding issues as well,” she said.

Ms Young said rental stress was acute for those accessing Centrelink and on low incomes.

She encouraged the inquiry to also examine overcrowding and its impact on health of residents.

A WA Government spokesperson said the government had increased the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme accommodation subsidy by 66 per cent and expanded eligibility to enable vulnerable patients to travel with a support person.

“Separate to this, the government also continues to fund the Country Age Pension Fuel Card subsidy, which is worth $575 per annum for eligible recipients,” the spokesperson said.

“In order to support more vulnerable patients, there are also safety nets in place above and beyond financial support provided through the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.

“Country Health Connect, for example, provides transport assistance for Aboriginal patients coming to the metropolitan area for healthcare.”

The spokesperson said where accommodation support was required culturally secure Aboriginal accommodation was used where possible.

She added that the State Government had committed funding to develop three new Aboriginal short stay accommodation facilities in WA, including in Perth.

Moorditj Koort board secretariat officer Robyn Withnell told the inquiry she had seen a “terrible increase” in Aboriginal people facing homelessness.

“I have been working with Aboriginal people since 1981, both in remote communities and the Perth metropolitan area,” she said.

“There is a terribly desperate situation out there with people who are homeless and families who are suicidal, who don’t know where to do.”

Ms Young said finding last-minute housing, public housing waitlists and dialysis care compounded issues facing the service.