There are two women in Rudd’s new ministry with similar names: Julie Collins from Tasmania, and Jacinta Collins from Victoria.
Yesterday I wrote about the concerns over the Victorian Collins with the Victorian values taking over Mental Health and Ageing. She is a counterintuitive choice: so much so that I wonder if the message appointing her was somehow addressed to the wrong J Collins.
Because Jacinta is a strongly opinionated traditional Catholic from Joe De Bruyn’s Shoppies Union, who has expressed disdain for ‘urban elites’ and ‘intellectuals’, calling on the party to focus instead on its traditional working class supporter base.
This makes her a surprising choice, to say the least, to be in charge of funding for programs addressing the needs of LGBTI homeless youth, for example, most of whom are there because they have been thrown out of home by parents with views like hers.
Her predecessor Mark Butler put a lot of work and money into initiatives around LGBTI youth homelessness and mental health, but he also gave a huge boost to the care of LGBTI seniors. He worked closely with the LGBTI Health Alliance to develop the National LGBTI Ageing & Age Care Strategy.
Just before the changeover, Butler announced a raft of LGBTI age care initiatives under the strategy.
“We are predicting a large increase in the demand for aged care by LGBTI Australians and we need to be in a position to respond to their needs,” Mr Butler said.
Initiatives announced today include:
- The National LGBTI Health Alliance will receive funding to support implementation of the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy.
- The Gender Centre Incorporated will employ a Transgender Aged Care Specialist Support Officer to provide support to individuals and train aged care services to be more aware of the needs of older transgender Australians.
- The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities will help form LGBTI Ageing Action Groups and provide open access to LGBTI awareness training to aged care services.
- Living Positive Australia will train and support highly skilled team of older Australians living with HIV in Victoria as speakers dedicated to raising awareness about the needs of people with HIV with aged care providers.
- ACH Group will build the skills and knowledge of staff and volunteers in Victoria and South Australia to deliver inclusive services for older LGBTI people.
- The Aged Care Rights Service will reach out to LGBTI people across NSW with education about their rights.
- Latrobe University in Melbourne will be funded to provide workshops to aged care services, coaching them through the steps involved in developing and LGBTI inclusive service.
This builds on funding announced previously, including a review the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP) guidelines and ensuring the Aged Care Complaints Scheme addresses LGBTI inclusion in its public and internal materials.
Now it may well be that Senator Collins will continue to support and fund these initiatives, and maintain Butler’s close working relationship with the sector, but she will have her work cut out to gain their trust.
I call on her to make a public statement confirming all that Butler has done, without delay. Care for the vulnerable, the young and the elderly is, after all, a core Christian value.
But given her stated attitudes towards gay issues to date, the situation is worrying. The sooner she publicly demonstrates her care and compassion for LGBTI youth and seniors, the better.
Tune into PM on ABC radio tonight from 5pm, where she may be making a statement.