Mark Coulton MP, Federal Member for Parkes

Meals on Wheels

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (20:19): by leave, I move:

That the motion be amended to read—That the House:

(1) acknowledges the significant community contribution Meals on Wheels Australia has made to the most vulnerable in our society for nearly 60 years;

(2) values the many Meals on Wheels Australia volunteers that selflessly dedicate their time to ensure that our local communities' most vulnerable members receive warm and nutritious meals;

(3) recognises that Meals on Wheels Australia allows elderly people to maintain their independence and provides them with regular social contact;

(4) acknowledges that nearly one-third of frail patients admitted to hospital are malnourished and that a further 60 per cent are at risk of malnutrition; and

(5) calls on the Government to:

(a) consider the Meals on Wheels Australia's initiative to research new ways to improve the nutritional status of elderly Australians; and

(b) recognise that this initiative to improve nutrition has the potential to change the health, happiness and well-being of elderly Australians.

It is a well known fact that there are over 80,000 volunteers and workers at over 750 branches of Meals on Wheels across Australia who every year selflessly dedicate their time and effort to ensure that close to 15 million meals are delivered to our aged residents and people with disabilities. Since its inception 55 years ago, providing meals to only eight people, the service has grown to become one of Australia's most vital volunteer institutions. I might add that the Meals on Wheels was actually started by a lady delivering meals on a tricycle.

What I would like to focus on tonight is the Meals on Wheels Australia's initiative to research new ways to improve the nutritional status of elderly Australians. They had a very good promotion. A very good program that we are seeking funding for. The total cost over three years was $890,000. The Meals on Wheels had secured $464,000 with $426,000 to be funded over three years. On average, $142,000 per year. It already received funding from the Balnaves Foundation and Nestle, and in-kind support from both the universities and Meals on Wheels South Australia. The potential benefits to Australia are massive.

But, unfortunately, the Balnaves funding was subject to federal government funding. Where the Meals on Wheels Association were trying to go is that the statistics that show that 60 per cent of elderly Australians admitted to hospital are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Considering that Meals on Wheels were in that space of delivering 50 million per year, they felt that a nutrition study to clearly identify the nutritional status and needs of elderly Australians would be of great benefit to the Australian people. For the Australian government—that is us—and the taxpayers of Australia to have this organisation filling that gap, largely through voluntary contributions is great. Obviously the government does fund a large part of the meals, but they are delivered on a voluntary basis. It is a huge cost that is removed from the Australian taxpayers.

I think that as our population ages and we clearly are heading to the peak in our population bubble with the baby-boomers reaching that need of high care in the year 2030 and beyond, a clear indication of the nutritional needs of elderly Australians is clearly in order.

I would like to finally acknowledge the great work that Meals on Wheels Australia does; the great work that the 80,000 volunteers do and the need that they have—and I would hope that this House would see its way fit to support them in their endeavours in the future.

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