Page 2951 - Week 08 - Thursday, 17 August 2017

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The ACT government is committed to building a city in which senior Canberrans are able to lead active, healthy and rewarding lives. An ageing population brings an increased responsibility to protect and support those seniors who have become vulnerable. It also provides a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on one of the largest, most educated generations of social innovators in our nation’s history. Initiatives focusing on veterans and seniors are spread throughout the budget, in multiple portfolios. This is reflective of the fact that the government is considering these issues in all areas of its work, looking to improve the lives of those who have served and those in the later stages of life. I would like to draw your attention to just a few of these initiatives today.

This work includes improving access to transport so that senior Canberrans can better retain their independence and stay actively involved in the community. In 2017-18, free off-peak bus travel for seniors and certain concession card holders will continue, allowing them to travel at no cost between 9 am and 4.30 pm and after 6 pm on weekdays, as well as all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. In 2017-18 the flexible bus services trial will be expanded to include the inner north, with an investment of over $1 million in this community transport initiative. This will increase the transport options for those inner north residents who might otherwise struggle to access other forms of transport.

The ACT government is also continuing to increase opportunities for access to employment for mature age workers. The 2017-18 budget includes an investment of $1 million to assist mature age workers to upskill or to re-skill to take advantage of new employment opportunities. This measure is designed to help contribute to people remaining active, valued and independent as they age, should they wish to remain in employment. This initiative will also benefit the ACT economy, as mature age workers are enabled to find new ways to contribute their valuable skills and experience to the workforce.

In this budget we will strengthen targeted health services, increasing Canberrans’ access to specialised care as they age. We are expanding the older persons’ community mental health team to provide expert community health services for people over 65. Additionally, a scoping study will be conducted to guide a major investment in broadening the current hospital in the home program to service a wider range of patients. We are also refurbishing and upgrading the acute aged care ward at the Canberra Hospital to improve the quality of inpatient services for our older Canberrans.

The government also has a strong commitment to honouring and supporting those in our community who have served our country in the Australian Defence Force. I will continue to work to ensure that the ACT is a place that is not only welcoming to our veterans but also supportive of them and their families. Employment is known to be a protective factor for veterans against a range of risks, including suicide. In this area, the ACT government is working to put in place measures to enable veterans to take up employment opportunities in the ACT government and the private sector in the ACT.

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