The Royal Commission has delivered 148 recommendations. Kasy is Executive Director at Anglicare Australia and joins Peter Wilkinson and Liam Cox to discuss the importance of better comms to drive reform.
The findings of the Aged Care Royal Commission have been released. Prime minister, Scott Morrison described it as a harrowing process. Kasy Chambers is executive director of Anglicare Australia. Kasy, what do you make of the findings?
We don’t want to rush into this. We need the government to be taking a longer view on this. We really do need to be looking at reform and good reform is rarely done quickly.
So, our argument as communications people, and our audience is CEO directors and corporate affairs, professionals… Our argument is that if light had been shone in dark corners earlier, a lot of the pain and a lot of the dreadful stuff we saw on videos, could have been avoided.
I think you’re dead right. I mean, I think it is a difficult area to communicate about. There are complexities in the system, which make it very difficult, even for experts to get around. And I think as communicators, we need to make sure that we are not over-complicating when we talk about this, but not actually just forgetting that it’s complex. So, I think there are some of those issues. I think the other thing is that often people feel very guilty about aged care. It’s something that we seem to want to avoid, whereas actually, good, aged care can really be very good for people. So, I think there are some grudge things that makes people not want to talk about it, but I think you’re right. We were communicating openly about this. If we all went into aged care services regularly, they would probably be the better because we would all know what’s in there and we would all be working together.
So, I would argue that besides better government relations, in other words, better lobbying for more money and more staff. I’m talking historically. But stronger relationships with the media and the value journalism and journalists’ pressure brings to this would have made a lot of difference. And I think, I just wonder if that isn’t a problem that needs to be acknowledged as I suspect it won’t be found in the recommendations.
I think you’re right. If we had some human stories, human interest stories that did work in aged care, that did consider what happens in that third of people’s lives that’s after retirement, and we didn’t just lose interest at that stage, then I suspect you’re right. I think we may not have been here now. We might’ve got here a long time ago and therefore be further down the reform track now.
As you know, we look at stakeholders and so the media can be a stakeholder in this. Then there’s government, then there’s the families and the residents, and then there’s the staff. So, they’re all critical and they all require different forms of communication. The staff particularly what’s fallen down there is an understanding of the need for training.
Yeah. And I think, the other thing is that it’s not been a very valued role as valued by us, in services like Anglicare, it’s valued by all the people in the service and it’s valued by the families, but it’s not valued by the general population in terms that that value doesn’t translate into money. I think one of the biggest issues for us as we work out what’s happening with aged care, and also as we work out how to communicate about it, is the fact that we seem to have an expectation gap. So, we’ve got this expectation in Australia that this is how we’ll care for people, or this is how people should be cared for. And then we’ve got an expectation about what the taxpayer wants to pay. And somehow, we need to bring those two expectations together, more closely, and that clearly is a communications task.
Kasy, what’s the biggest challenge for you from a communications perspective in terms of your stakeholders?
Well, this is communications 101 and it does differ from which of those stakeholders, but certainly I think the biggest issue for us today, and has been for some time, is to not be defensive. And often it can sound defensive when we talk about the complexity of the system or when we talk about state and federal governments, those kinds of things. So, that’s a difficult message, but I think the biggest issue is not being defensive, not coming across as defensive and yet communicating that complexity at the same time.
So, you’re right. Not coming across as being defensive and being transparent at the same time, so that people can see the problems, and then there’s the pressure to fix it. It would seem to me to start with, and Morrison’s pointed to this, and as has the report, a change in culture. And a change in culture is really hard. It takes an understanding of the change, we’re here and we need to move to here, and then really effective communication right through all the stakeholders.
That’s right. I mean, I think what we’ve got today in terms of change management is that classic step one, which is to describe the burning deck. Here’s the issue. This is the problem. So, we’ve clearly got that. I think for the next number of months, any CEO in aged care is going to be doing a lot of talking. They’re going to be communicating, communicating, communicating, and that’s probably what the government needs to do too. We would really hope that it’s not going to go quiet after today, that there will be some chapters taken from this.
And so that when the PM was saying that he will be back on many other days, not just on release days, to talk about aged care. I think that’s going to be vital because quite frankly, there’s a lot of staff who, on seeing this report, are going to become quite demoralized. It’s been a difficult area for morale for a number of years now, particularly while we’ve had a Royal Commission. The stories, the ones that make the news, are rarely about the 99% of really mundane, but lovely interactions that go on. They’re usually about the bad stuff.
Yeah. And as well as that, some of the boards in the sector are volunteer boards and some of the directors shouldn’t be there. As you know, culture starts at the top. It’s not just about the staff.
Well, that’s right. I mean, I’ve been Royal Commission watching for a while now, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of them that doesn’t in one way or another, make the point that the fish rots from the head. The Banking Royal Commission, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, all these Royal Commissions have made this point. And I did notice that one of the immediate responses is going to be, I think some training for board members or leaders.
We’ve had over the last number of years this professionalization of governance. And that’s great, and board members need to be really professional. But sometimes that academic or that science of governments has helped people lose sight of the people that are using their services. And there are some differences between running a board that’s BHP and running a board where you’ve got vulnerable people who are your bread and butter if you like.
Certainly, our boards are all looking at managing and governing for vulnerable people. It’s been a number of years since we’ve had those very volunteer style board members. All our board members are volunteers, but they’re not as we would have thought of them 20 years ago. But I think it is a difficult one. And it’s one that boards are really going to have to look at, is to see how they are seeing what goes on, on the floor.
Well, Kasy, it’s an enormous issue. Let’s hope this Royal Commission delivers practical changes that the residents and their families and the staff need to see. We thank you very much for your time.
Thank you. And let’s hope so. I think we’ll be doing it for a good 10 years and almost the longer we take to do it, the better done it will be.
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