Rainbow Report on Discrimination in Aged Care


The government is proposing to make changes to anti-discrimination law, but they have baulked at tackling the ‘religious exemptions’ that mean the law doesn’t apply to ‘religious-run’ organisations. Except in one area:

“Religious providers of aged care will no longer be permitted to discriminate against their elderly residents, including persons of alternative sexual identities and sexual orientation. The fact that, currently, such providers can still deny the aged GLBTI community basic fairness and decency is a disgrace.” [Moira Clarke: OnlineOpinion]

Why should we care if ‘religious-run’ aged care providers discriminate against gays and lesbians, whether in residential homes or in-home services? The submission by Anneke Deutsch of the Matrix Guild, who joins us tonight, demonstrates why the law needs to change. Because not-for-profits, including religious-run providers, are the major providers of aged care in Australia.

Anglicare Sydney, whose aged care arm, Chesalon, receives around $25m of government money to care for seniors, wants the ‘religious exemptions’ that allow them to deny the aged GLBTI community basic fairness and decency to stay, saying that the new laws would lead to conflicts in aged care residential communities.

 “Once a person or couples are accepted into such a community, there is the potential for conflict where the person or couples are in fundamental disagreement with the religious ethos of the service provider or where the service provider has objections to the lifestyle or behaviours of the new resident(s).” [Senate submission]

Other aged care providers take a very different view. Anglicare Melbourne does not directly own an aged care business, but there is a closely-related Anglican aged-care service provider, Benetas. We speak to their Research and Development Manager, Alan Gruner.

One of the largest providers of aged care is Uniting Care, affiliated with the Uniting Church, and their submission couldn’t be more different to Anglicare Sydney: Uniting Care Ageing has claimed an industry first with the appointment of a specific project officer Kellie Shields to reach out to older people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities and help the organisation better meet their needs. [Submission] We’ll speak to the director of Uniting Care Ageing, Steve Teulan.

UPDATE Uniting care would like your input into a survey they are conducting to develop an understanding and knowledge of the needs of the LGBTI community in order to cater to their community and care needs. If you wish to obtain more information about UnitingCare NSW.ACT or its work for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/ or intersex community, please  contact the LGBTI Project Officer Kellie Shields on kellie@caroona.org.au or 0410 619 103.

I mentioned earlier that not-for-profits, including religious-run providers, are the major providers of aged care in Australia. By contrast, the largest for-profit private aged-care provider, BUPA, has only 2.5% of the market.

Lisa Meyer, General Manager of the BUPA aged-care home in Windsor, will be in the studio to tell us what life is like in her facility for GLBTI residents.

Tonight’s cohost is Rod Swift. Be ready to email, sms 0427 JOY 949, or use the free smartphone app to listen and join in. Or listen live online right around Australia & the world.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)