Although it’s not uncommon for older people to be looked upon as the leaders in their community, Aboriginal Elders are deemed responsible for traditions that have been passed down across multiple generations.

As custodians of both knowledge and lore in their communities, Elders provide a gateway to younger Aboriginals who are looking to feel a positive connection to their history, their land, and to Dreamtime.

Feeling connected to culture is important to the majority of indigenous people, and this makes having culturally-specific aged care options vitally important to ensuring the wellbeing of Aboriginal Elders.

Booraja Home Care is an award-winning, Aboriginal-run home care service that began in 2017 through a collaborative partnership between the IRT Foundation and the Walbanga community in the Eurobodalla region of NSW.

Booraja Home Care currently employs 7 Aboriginal people and cares for 29 older Aboriginal people living in Batemans Bay and surrounding towns.

The program was established thanks to a $1.4 million Commonwealth grant from the Dementia and Aged Care Services Innovation Funding Round, but with funding running out, it appeared as though Booraja would have to close its doors in December.

Thankfully, Booraja Home Care Manager and Walbanga Elder Bunja Smith announced this week that the program has managed to secure funding for another five months, but he hopes that the government will continue funding the program until they can establish enough regular clients to become self-sufficient. 

“It’s a real weight off our shoulders knowing we have gained another five months of funding to keep Booraja open and that we can keep caring for the people who have come to depend on us,” Mr Smith said.

“The funding also gives us the opportunity to continue moving the program towards self-sufficiency as we serve more people in the community and employ more carers over the next five months.”

IRT Foundation secured funding in 2017 to research and increase the engagement of older Aboriginal Australians with home care services.

As part of this research, Booraja Home Care was formed to address the key barriers identified by the research those being a lack of culturally competent care, trust in government services, health literacy and employment pathways for Aboriginal people.

Having a home care program for Aboriginal elders that is managed and staffed by Aboriginal people ensures that the services are culturally appropriate, and it also provides employment to young aboriginals and allows them to connect with the figureheads of their local community.

IRT Foundation Manager Toby Dawson believes with the right level of support the model can become financially self-sustaining and rolled out across Indigenous communities nationally.

 “Our research finds overall Aboriginal people have low participation rates in the current mainstream model of home care,” Mr. Dawson said.

 “Booraja rethinks the existing approach by recognising how important kinship and culture are to Aboriginal people and aims to provide appropriate home care that enables older Aboriginal people to stay connected to kin and country,” he said.

 Representations to secure funding to ensure the long-term future of Booraja have been made to the Department of Health, Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck, Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt.

 Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips MP has also championed the success of Booraja to the Australian government and appealed for transitional funding to ensure its future.

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