Close Search
Opinion  |  Social AffairsGender and LGBTIQ

Want to help women? Pay more for aged care

21 April 2021 at 4:20 pm
Tracey Burton
One of the most obvious manifestations of our poor attitudes to women is the continued undervaluing of our aged care system, writes Tracey Burton, chief executive of Uniting NSW.ACT.

Tracey Burton | 21 April 2021 at 4:20 pm


Want to help women? Pay more for aged care
21 April 2021 at 4:20 pm

One of the most obvious manifestations of our poor attitudes to women is the continued undervaluing of our aged care system, writes Tracey Burton, chief executive of Uniting NSW.ACT.

Remember the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety? After many years of toil and incredibly disturbing evidence, it released 148 recommendations for a complete overhaul of our aged care system.

That report was delivered in March. In the short time since, much to the dismay of those in the sector, the chronic issues with our aged care system have all but disappeared from our TV screens and newspapers. 

Instead, the news has mainly been on the government’s “women problem”. That problem is characterised by yet more dismaying stories, ranging from casual sexism and discrimination, to sexual assault and rape – right at the centre of political power in this country.

But guess what? One of the most obvious manifestations of our poor attitudes to women is the continued undervaluing of our aged care system. The sexism and ageism stories are essentially the same. 

Let’s look at the numbers. 

Compare this to the award pay for male-dominated professions. The entry level in construction, for example is $22.65 an hour, increasing to $29.02. In mining, it’s $21.41 to $29.49.

It is no exaggeration to say that the aged care sector has survived mainly on the backs of undervalued and underpaid women who have been going above and beyond their job descriptions to plug the gaps in the system. 

The saying “boys will be boys” is often used as an excuse for sexist or inappropriate behaviour. The flip side of that is “women’s work is never done”. We expect women to do the work of caring, the work of loving and we expect them to do it for free.

Look at the situation for unpaid carers. Seven out of 10 primary unpaid carers are women and their average age is 54. Again, the discretionary efforts of older women go without financial reward. Sexism and ageism going hand in hand.

It could also be argued that if we valued older women more, we would care more about what happens to them as they age. The royal commission heard claims there are up to 50 sexual assaults in aged care every week, yet the government is yet to act on the recommendations to tackle this national disgrace.

So, let’s imagine that we do care about aged care and we are happy to spend the money required to bring the sector up to the standards we expect. Where does the money come from?

Yes, the minimum wage for aged care workers, men and women, must be increased. And the federal government needs to boost funding so we can employ and train more workers. The $12 per hour currently funded for 24/7 care, accommodation, food, laundry, nursing, administration and everything in between is clearly insufficient.

But consumers who can afford it should also contribute more. Unfortunately, this tricky subject was not tackled sufficiently by the royal commission. The commissioners rightly focused on a universal right to care, but failed to note that this does not rule out people paying more when they can. People with high net worth estates could surely help to fund their care and use their wealth, not leave the burden to the diminishing taxpayer base of the younger generation.

We need a funding model that goes where the wealth is now: the family home, super and so on and also a plan for where the wealth will be with the post baby-boomer generations, which could look very different.

The government can use the May budget to announce a Productivity Commission process to create the long-term financial model while also immediately funding the major changes needed to kick start reform.  

That could include: a rigorous reform implementation body, the wage increases we need now, the home care waitlist cleared, the cost of good care study, more hours for caring, transparency, navigation systems, prevention and reablement. 

If we truly care about our elders and our women let’s start showing it. Getting aged care right will make an enormous difference to women – young and old.

Tracey Burton  |  @ProBonoNews

Tracey Burton is the chief executive of Uniting NSW.ACT.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


Webinar Value Packs

Get more stories like this


One comment

  • P Krause says:

    TAXES DO NOT PAY for Federal Government spending… rather the Federal Government must spend as the monopoly issuer of the AUD via the Reserve Bank of Australia Act of 1959, before anyone has AUD to pay TAXES.

    Underfunding, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of services, inadequate healthcare & education are a POLITICAL choice, not an affordability issue… and certainly NOT a Taxpayer issue.

    We are not going to get out of the economic doldrums as long as we continue to be obsessed with the unreasoned ideological goal of reducing the so-called deficit. The “deficit” is not an economic sin but an economic necessity.” ~ William Vickery Nobel Laureate. Vickrey was awarded the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

    Based on defintion of sovereign currency and the role of the RBA, apply some simple logic with basic accounting knowledge, and legislation which you can look up and it is clear that the taxpayers money narrative is one huge myth.

    a) Australia is a sovereign money nation… What that means is the AUD is unique to Australia.

    Sovereign money is legal tender issued by a monetary authority, in most cases by a nation-state’s “independent” central bank. In Australian that is the RBA.

    b) Central Bank (The RBA) is an integral part of the financial and economic system. They are usually owned by the government (in Australia’s case by the Commonwealth of Australia) and they are given certain functions by legislation raised by the Federal Government to fulfil. These include printing/creating money (which primarily occurs via key strokes in a computer every time they spend), operating monetary policy, lender of last resort (to the commercial banking system) and ensuring the stability of financial system. Ever hear of “supply bills”, those are the instructions from parliament to the RBA to fund spending by creation of money.

    Based on this information it is clear that the monopoly creator of the AUD is the Federal Government via the Reserve Bank of Australia. Making state and local Governments along with everyone else money users.

    And we know this because if anyone else tried to create the AUD they’d end up in prison for counterfeiting.

    So from an understanding of sovereign money and the central bank, we know that logically Australia along with other sovereign money nations must be a spend then tax economy… the Federal Government spends money into existence. From an accounting prospective that creates a Liability for Government, and an asset for whomever the recipient of that Government spending is. As the Government is the source of money and the creation of money creates a Liability for the Government, we then know when people pay taxes it simply reduces that initial liability. Thus basic Accounting General Journal Ledger principles clearly show it is impossible for taxation to fund Federal Government spending. Note: Banks create credit not currency which they do under Government licence and we already know due to the function of the Central Bank that they underwrite that “credit”… lender of last resort.

    The mathematical equation of the above is Sectoral Balances which state:
    (G – T) = (S – I) – (X – M)
    The above linear equation states that government spending (G) minus taxation (T) will equal savings (S) minus investment (I) minus exports (X) minus imports (M). In general terms, whatever the federal government spends minus taxation, that exact amount will be deposited in and distributed between the domestic private sector and the external sector as income. We can now aggregate (put together) the right side of the equation using brackets and define two sectors:

    (G – T) = [(S – I) – (X – M)]

    In other words…
    The Federal government sector = The non-federal government sector
    OR quite simply put: The Federal government sector’s deficit is the non- federal government sector’s income.

    The Government’s red ink IS the Private sectors black ink.

    A Government surplus = Private sector debt.

    AND as the Federal Government is the monopoly issuer of the AUD they have no affordability issues as money is infinite. The restriction is real resources including labour to produce or do the work.

    Dr Steven Hail….

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


More than rainbows: Recognising IDAHOBIT day’s dark history

Nevena Spirovska

Monday, 9th May 2022 at 4:49 pm

How will LGBTQI+ communities be treated this election?

Nevena Spirovska

Monday, 11th April 2022 at 4:33 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook