Do we have to talk about religion?
Members will likely know the very many ways we equip you to engage with each person’s spirituality beyond simplistic ‘tick a box for religion’. You will also have heard us say that for some people, religion is an expression of their spirituality, and indeed just ticking the box for religion is not enough in those contexts, either.
One of our most popular resources is the Multifaith Practices: Guidelines for Community and Residential Aged Care. This is testament to our members and affiliates commitment to truly person-centred care that is not ‘put off’ by a person’s religion but rather, seeks to understand and engage with each person’s deeper sources of hope and resilience. This approach keeps in step with the revised Aged Care Quality Standards that look at diversity of faith and culture as a central aspect of quality of care.
Australia is an amazingly multi-cultural society, and an ageing society. Over a third of people over 65 were born overseas, in particular Europe.
Year of arrival
Many overseas-born older Australians migrated to Australia in their youth or middle age: 28% arrived before 1960, 65% in the 4 decades between 1960 and 1999, and only 6.9% since 2000*
Many of these people have gone on to have children, which is part of our multicultural story as new traditions are woven with the threads brought by parents, combined with experiences of growing up in Australia.
The key findings from the most recent census 2021 on Religion indicates:
- Christianity decreased by more than 1 million people but is still Australia’s most common religion.
- Other religions continue to increase.
- Australia is becoming more religiously diverse.
- Almost 10 million Australians reported having no religion.
In 2021, over 2.5 million people reported an affiliation with Other religions. This was an increase of over 600 thousand (617,800) since 2016. In the past 25 years the proportion of people reporting an affiliation with Other religions has increased from 3.5% in 1996 to 10% of the population in 2021. This growth has particularly accelerated since 2006.**
We don’t have to tell you that the aged care workforce is also very diverse, with over 32% of the direct care workforce in residential care, and 23% in community care, being born outside of Australia.
The number of direct care workers who identify as being from a CALD background in 2020 was 13,192, representing 21 per cent of the total direct care workforce. PCWs account for 91 per cent of all CALD direct care workers with 65 per cent of these, working for providers with a higher CALD base.***
What does all this mean for care services?
If we are truly committed to helping people live and die well this means understanding each person in a way that honours who they have been, who they are now and who they are becoming. Lists of statistics on their own will not help us with this, but it can be useful to see the amazing mix of backgrounds brought by both the workforce and the older people they are supporting.
We need to be prepared to have the conversations and take the actions that matter most to each person. This means that if someone does identify with a particular religion, or indeed would like to explore a particular religion, that we give this all the space it deserves.
Religious practices can speak to the deepest parts of our identity and offer a unique kind of support that cannot be otherwise accessed. They can be a place of profound solace, encouragement and hope even when we can no longer speak for ourselves. It is our responsibility to make our best efforts to facilitate this for each person and their loved ones. You don’t have to be religious yourself – you just need to be genuine and willing to learn.
Our guide provides a solid foundation for beginning the conversation. Worried about getting it wrong? Let the person know. Together, you can create a partnership that honours what you both bring.
*Revised and updated for Australia based on the original text by the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging in Canada.
You can purchase a hard copy or download for free as a member of Meaningful Ageing Australia here: Multifaith Practices: Guidelines for Community and Residential Aged Care – Meaningful Ageing Australia
* Older Australians, Culturally and linguistically diverse older people – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au)
**ABS 2021 Census data Religious affiliation in Australia | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)
***Dept of Health 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census Report (health.gov.au)
You might also like:
- The Little Things – The Little Things: ready-to-use training resources that deliver evidence-based training to develop personal carers’ skills to relate as they provide care to older Australians in aged care settings. These resources are based on authentic interactions between personal care assistants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and older people in aged care homes. Produced with input from best practice carers, older people, and industry experts, The Little Things will help develop intercultural communication skills for personal carers working in aged care.
- Watch the Youtube video of The Multifaith Practices Guide launch video that provides an overview of Meaningful Ageing Australia’s resource, Multifaith Practices: Guidelines for Community and Residential Aged Care. Presented by Ilsa Hampton, former CEO of MAA and Majiben Ahmad, one of our good friends and Workshop Facilitators.