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Seniors from diverse backgrounds need housing advocates

Older Australians from a migrant background are still not well reflected in aged care service provision and policies around ageing, a forum has heard.

In the area of housing in particular there are a lack of advocates for older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, said Dr Emma Campbell, director of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia.

Few advocates understand the “intersection of challenges” when it comes to CALD seniors and housing needs, Dr Campbell told the Council on the Ageing Australia’s National Policy Forum in Canberra last week.

She urged those designing and delivering services to try and better understand the diversity of Australia’s migrant community and ensure their needs are included.

“It is important that the CALD voice is heard in every aspect of policy around older Australians in this country,” said Dr Campbell.

Older Australians from migrant and CALD backgrounds have a number of vulnerabilities including language, which often presents barriers to accessing information and services.

They are more likely to have an increased risk of poverty, lower savings, lower superannuation, lower rates of access to services and lower rates of information technology use, she said.

“Amongst many older CALD people, there is expectation that their families will take care of them in their older age, which does not always eventuate,” Dr Campbell said.

Conversely, many older migrants do not have experience caring for their own parents in older age, which is important as that experience would often help them appreciate what their own potential future needs, she said.

“Many may not have had any interaction with government services in general before they find themselves needing housing,” Dr Campbell said.

Other challenges facing CALD seniors include discriminatory practices among landlords, she said.

“There is a perception that among many migrants they are being refused housing because of their ethnicity.”

There were additional barriers in CALD seniors accessing the diminishing supply of public housing, she said.

“Translators and interpreters are not provided free of charge in order to allow people from diverse backgrounds to have information about the public housing services available.”

Dr Campbell also highlighted research that found significant difference in the way different cohorts of communities perceived the quality of their housing.

Australian Ageing Agenda was the event’s media partner.

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