Older Shepparton residents from culturally diverse backgrounds feel left out when it comes to healthcare

 Attilio Borzillo Community health organisation Cohealth is attending a hearing with the Victorian Government that started this week as part of an inquiry into how to improve healthcare for older Victorians from culturally diverse backgrounds.


Attilio Borzillo, 87, arrived in Australia from Italy in the 1960s and is a long-time resident of Shepparton, as well as an advocate for the healthcare needs of older residents. Mr Borzillo said locals in Shepparton were treated like “second-class people” due to a lack of funding by the Victorian Government.

“When coming to this country, we worked hard like everyone else, we do our best, so I can’t understand why we shouldn’t get the same service (as people in metropolitan areas),” he said. He is currently taking care of his wife Andrea Borzillo, 79, at home, which has put a “weight on his shoulders”, as he is not physically able to do the same duties as a professional health care worker.

“When you love someone you’re always worried about them,” Mr Borzillo said. He hears about people he knows in Melbourne who receive social and healthcare support after having surgeries, but it is an option unavailable to him.

“Having professional nurses at least once a week will help her get a lot better quicker,” Mr Borzillo said. “We cannot rely on our family, they’re gone, they have their own family.”

He says he is “not the only one”, and there are “thousands” locally who have been in similar situations. One of the recommendations that is being discussed includes investing in support roles to help older people from migrant and refugee backgrounds find and access the health and social support services they need.

Cohealth is also calling on the Victorian Government to increase investment in interpreting and translation services, as well as developing a workplace plan to increase bicultural and bilingual workers.

“We want to see significantly more investment in roles that assist older people from migrant and refugee backgrounds find and access health and social support services,” Cohealth acting chief executive Christopher Turner said.

Shepparton Ethnic Council manager Chris Hazelman said it was important not to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.

“It’s important that we focus on identifying the needs in that section of the community and not just assuming, and also recognising it’s not a one size fits all,” he said.

He said it was an area where “government can throw a lot of money and not get much return”.

Mr Hazelman said one of the biggest barriers to healthcare participation for migrants and refugees was language and health literacy.

“Someone’s language skills should not be a barrier to the participation or accessing services,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing said: “Seniors from multicultural backgrounds have made important contributions to our diverse and vibrant state, and we are investing across the state to support their health and wellbeing.

“The Victorian Government has funded the Ethnic Council of Shepparton to support seniors to access health information, and five community organisations in Shepparton have been funded to provide emergency food relief to multicultural communities and support seniors.

“We are also supporting the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council to provide a regular multilingual news service, which includes One FM in Shepparton, which broadcasts in six languages. Additionally, approximately $1 million has been invested in initiatives supporting carers in Shepparton.”

The Committee of the Support for Older People from Migrant and Refugee Backgrounds is due to report on the findings of the inquiry on June 30

 Attilio Borzillo
Attilio Borzillo is currently taking care of his wife Andrea Borzillo, 79, at home, which has put a “weight on his shoulders”, as he is not physically able to do the same duties as a professional health care worker.

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