Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2014 Contents Such a view fed in to the overarching mentality of the time
that people had to be self-reliant: "You couldn't count on other
people; it wasn't seen as society's role to provide you with a
safety net. Everyone lauded those who were successful, whereas
other people were discarded."
She recalls Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of
Canterbury, who "strongly disagreed with society's belief that
there are disposable people who are of no account."
"I agree with Rowan Williams. There are no disposable people
in our world, but somehow our society accepts this view. I was
seeing that coming through in the 1980s and, to be honest, I see
it here now in this country," she says, bringing us back to the
asylum seeker issue.
Her disappointment with the current debate is
compounded by the fact that Australia's "fairer sense of
society" was what enticed her to emigrate here with her
husband and two young sons in the late 1980s. That coupled
with what she saw as a "greater opportunity to make a
difference and influence", obviously appealing to her passion
for social justice.
In a post on her blog in August, Dr Morris wrote: "At
Baptistcare we support the end to detention of asylum seekers.
As I look across our nation at the plight of vulnerable people, this
group deserves as much attention and support as do our elderly
I ask if she sees any similarities between the asylum seeker
debate and how we view and talk about ageing.
"Yes. I do. Our society is fixated on image, and older people are
dismissed because of their age. They're seen as 'the other', useless
and a cost to society. All the impacts [of the ageing population]
are viewed in a negative light. Society is not set up to value and
engage productively with older people and their experiences and
opinions. Our society is diminished because of it."
She says while community discussion is focussed on the
negatives, "we miss the opportunity to look at innovative ways
we could respond to the demands of the ageing population."
ROAD TO REFORM
Will the unfolding reforms in aged care lead us towards some of
those innovative ways? Dr Morris thinks not. In fact, while she
says reform was absolutely necessary ("the sector could not
continue as it was before") she is critical of its current form and
how it was developed.
"The demand that has been put on providers has been
unconscionable, in terms of the speed and the lack of capacity
to engage, comment and critique. It is a debate that has been
captured and controlled by a few, simply because the resources
and the time have not allowed for a much broader way of
thinking and engagement. It's the best that our sector can
manage at this time but it does feel deliberate," she says.
She expressed similar views at the Senate inquiry into the
Living Longer Living Better legislation last year, when she
said West Australian providers had been disadvantaged in the
When I ask about these comments, Dr Morris says that providers
based in the Kimberley, for example, must undertake a three-day
round trip in order to attend a meeting on the east coast.
What's more problematic is that those who do make the
journey often find they aren't welcome, she says. "Because the
voices that are raised in dissent or in critique report feeling
excluded and ignored. The meetings aren't set up in a way that
allows different voices to be heard; we end up with the same
voices that are frequently heard."
With regards to the content of the reform, Dr Morris has
concerns that many providers will struggle to undertake the
massive system overhaul that consumer directed care will require.
"I'm talking to providers, particularly the smaller ones who do
not have the flexibility, governance arrangements and capacity to
turn their back-end systems upside down."
Consumer directed care is brilliant in principle, but flawed in
practice, she says. "There's a gap in the rhetoric. People don't
understand that you can't have whatever you want, whenever
you want it, however you want it. I see this not just in aged care
but in all community services ... From a provider perspective the
implications are enormous."
She warns the current all or nothing timeframe will "kill some
organisations." Government has a duty to provide the necessary
policy settings that facilitate a broader capacity for different
models and not just one size fits all, she adds.
ROOM FOR DEBATE
Beyond greater nuance in our policies, Dr Morris also wants
to see greater nuance in our public discourse. She laments
the community's aversion to discussion of complex issues and
considerations, preferring instead simplistic positions and
arguments; the proverbial sound bite.
"The capacity for people like me to critique and advocate is
diminished; we're marginalised and disparaged and the room for
debate is really narrow. We look for things on the surface."
She believes people have lost the art of listening and
conversing. "We head for our position; we go down into the
bunkers and stop listening, rather than being open to influence
and hearing other views."
She longs for discussion where we "accept the ambiguity and
the shades of grey," because rarely are important social issues, be
it asylum seekers or aged care, black and white.
"Often it comes down to relationships and how we view the
'other'. Our willingness to listen to the stories so we understand
their uniqueness and the contribution that they make, is
critical" she says. n
DR MORRIS ON:
HER EARLY CAREER IN JOURNALISM
I went straight into journalism after I graduated, working on
a local community newspaper. It was vigorous, exciting and
interesting. I was a reporter at the time Margaret Thatcher was
PM and she was taking on the print unions and the journalism
establishment. It was in that transition time between computers
coming in and the old ways of producing a newspaper. We had
a young family; two babies at that point. My husband pointed
out to me that the money I was bringing in wasn't covering the
childcare costs; it was sending us broke! I was there for just
over a year, and I had a ball, to be honest.
WHAT AGEING LEARNS FROM
The conversations between the two sectors should have
happened sooner. Moving ageing into the Department of
Social Services [alongside disability] has been an interesting
development. It could be positive, if it gives everybody a jolt
to look at ageing as something that happens to social human
beings rather than predominantly being seen as a medical
condition. Getting older is not solely about health, getting older
is a human condition. It's offering a different way of thinking
about people and how we provide services.
HER FAITH, HAVING BEING RECENTLY
ORDAINED A DEACON IN THE
I deliberately chose to work in a faith-based organisation. I
want to be able to have conversations about the uniqueness
and preciousness of individual human beings created in the
image of God. I want to work in the space and have policies
and service models that go that extra mile; that are about
inclusion, diversity, and not going down the profit line for
the sake of the profit. I want to show it is possible to lead an
organisation where you can make decisions based on values
that come out of our faith. It's a really interesting struggle; and
I don't always get it right.
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