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Impact of Religious Discrimination on Aged Care

by | Fri, Mar 18 2022

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Aged Care and Religious Discrimination
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The recent withdrawal of the Religious Discrimination Bill in the Senate has led to more concerns about the adverse effects on people, particularly those in aged care. Christian organisations have been providing care irrespective of religion, race and gender for many years.

But will the bill make it harder for Christian organisations to manifest care in their work space the way they want to?

Ben Boland is an Aged Care Chaplain who writes and speaks about Aged Care Ministry. He says the current trend is leaning towards more home care packages, and keeping people out of hospital and residential care.

He says aged care is not about telling people how to live their lives, it’s about supporting people to live to the best of their abilities. Nearly every facility has people from a variety of faith groups.

“Chaplaincy services were specifically Christian in those contexts,” says Ben. “There was no discrimination against people requesting and facilitating being cared for by the faith community. Providers often make a point of providing spiritual care from a Christian perspective over and above what is required from federal and state legislation.”

If we think about religion not simply as a faith space, but as a worldview, that is perhaps more inclusive. There are staff in the aged care sector who proudly wear a rainbow badge or other symbols of different world views and faiths to Christianity.

“But anybody who is being unhelpful and aggressive in how they share those things with others is going to get pulled up,” says Ben. “Generally those conversations would only be raised if someone asked questions, as opposed to a person saying you should or shouldn’t vote in a particular way.”

In terms of residents receiving care, Ben says there is no issue. The bigger question for aged care is that Christian providers might not be allowed to act in a way that aligns with their vision. That becomes really problematic.

“Christians have been motivated to care for the frail and the old since the time of the early church,” Ben says. “That is very much driven by a faith perspective. What we need in aged care is not more legislation, but more funding.”

Ben believes that silencing any providers, whether it’s the ANZ Bank or Christian Aged Care, is hugely significant. Its faith based organisations who have invested over decades in providing this care. He doesn’t want to see anybody having to worry about legislation that doesn’t actually improve care.

“Right across the industry, we desperately need more funding,” says Ben. “We want to provide better care for our older people at home and in a residential context as well. We care because Jesus cared and because Jesus loved.”

“To remove Christian providers’ ability to do the core business of loving people would make it very challenging to fulfil our mission.”



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