Highfields Manor at Port Macquarie is tackling workforce challenges with ease

On a warm and sunny morning in late winter in Port Macquarie, aged care worker Akineti Tearau prepares for a very important day. One of a cohort of 13 care workers from Kiribati, Akineti is graduating with a Certificate III Individual Support (Ageing) and will complete a four year secondment program at Highfields Manor, under the Australian Government’s Aged Care Expansion (ACE) Program.

As an approved employer of the PALM Scheme, HealthX selected and screened this inaugural cohort through the Kiribati Institute of Technology (KIT) earlier this year. The 12-week in-country training was delivered under the guidance of veteran aged care trainer Sandy O’Brien at KIT.

Kiribati is a tiny island nation with a population of 120,000 people in the Micronesia subregion of Oceania in the central Pacific Ocean, where life is very different to Australia, so part of the preparation is about cultural nuances.

“In addition to delivering the first four aged care training modules, I prepare the students for a big cultural change,” said Sandy. “While they all speak excellent English,I spend a lot of time teaching common Australian terms, cultural norms and how to live away from loved ones.

“Australia is a dream destination for them, the money that they will earn over the four years will be enough to support themselves and send back to their families, to educate their children and to secure a better life on their return.

“They have long-term goals and are willing to make personal sacrifices to achieve these.”

The 13 Kiribati workers are lucky to all be placed together at Highfields Manor, a brand new, purpose-built residential aged care home in Port Macquarie, New South Wales. Director of Nursing, Yvonne Tilley spoke to us about the challenges in getting sustainable aged care staff and the positive impact the HealthX care workers have had.

“It’s very hard to get permanent aged care support locally, about 50 per cent of our workforce comes from agencies, which is very expensive, and the lack of consistency of care is disruptive for residents”.

"Having completed the final modules of their Certificate III Individual Support online over 10 weeks while working under supervision in our facility, the HealthX PALM workers will now remain with us as full-time carers for four years.

“They are the most compassionate, beautiful people, who come from a culture where elders are highly respected and cared for. When dealing with irritable or anxious residents,I often hear them singing to them, which instantly calms the resident down. They have integrated perfectly into our team. We have a lot to learn from this culture.”

The graduation ceremony at Highfields Manor included representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Pacific Labour Facility, The Palladium Group, and HealthX.

Akineti received her certificate and together with her 12 friends and colleagues was gracious and thankful for this life changing opportunity.

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“The training with HealthX has been a great opportunity for us because we have learnt how to meet the needs of the residents,”

“I am so grateful that I have the team at HealthX as they not only have supported us to fulfil our dreams but have helped us adapt to the Australian culture.

“We now feel confident and understand the roles that we have been employed for, so we can provide the best care for our residents.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about sustainable aged care solutions, please contact Siobhan Ruri at HealthX.

Aged Care Today, Spring Edition, September 2023