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COTA

Why Speak Out

Barbara Spriggs, Senior South Australian of the Year 2018

Barbara Spriggs, Senior South Australian of the year joined us at our event Understanding the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in December last year; we were privileged to hear Barbara talk about why you should speak out. If you have concerns, Barbara wants to encourage you to speak about them and she's given us permission to share the transcript of her talk here.

Thank you for your warm welcome.

Purpose

I am not used to public speaking, but I am here today because I want to encourage people - to encourage you - to speak out if you have concerns about the treatment you have experienced or seen.

I hope you will take the opportunity that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Standards gives you to have your say.

Backstory

I know speaking out is not an easy thing to do.

Bob, my husband of 42 years, was in Oakden for two short periods in 2016. While there, he was physically, emotionally and medically mistreated. His ‘care' was disgraceful.

I haven't got the time to tell you the whole story - some of you may have heard bits and pieces from the media.

Why I didn't speak out at first

Why didn't I speak out immediately?

At the time, I felt the facility and care was bad.

  • But I wanted to believe the explanations and reassurances that the staff gave me, and that they would be doing their best for my very sick husband. After all, I was told that this was the best place in South Australia for Bob.
  • I am not usually the sort of person who complains. I'd rather compliment than criticise.
  • I was also stressed and trying to do my best for Bob.
  • And anyway, I'm an ordinary everyday person, without any formal education or qualifications. How would anything I say make a difference?

Why I Spoke Out

But when things went from bad to worse, I did speak out, and I kept speaking out.

  • How could I let others go through what Bob and I, and our family, were enduring? I wanted answers.
  • I knew that it was too late to change Bob's experience. 
  • But I knew that Bob would not want others to go through what he did. 
  • I also knew, that if the situation had been reversed, he would have spoken out.

Results of Speaking Out

It took about 6 months of constant pushing before I was really listened to, but when they did start listening, things moved quickly.

To this day I am blown away by what the results have been.

  • Oakden has been closed, residents have been moved to a much better facility, and a new purpose-built facility has been planned. 
  • Perhaps even more importantly, it lifted the lid on a problem which was much wider than just the way Bob had been treated. 
  • It has lifted the lid for those who have no-one to speak for them or whose families felt unable to speak.

Personal Cost

I do want to repeat that it is not always easy to speak out. I had to push hard and long to be heard. It took all my courage and will.

My speaking out has come at great personal cost to me and to my family.

I am still finding it hard, even today.

But I know that my speaking out made a difference and I'm glad that I did so.

Final Message to Audience

So, my message to you is that if you feel that something is not right, don't tell yourself that you can't make a difference or, you're not good enough, or, they won't listen to me.

You can, no matter who you are, how old or young, how rich or poor, or how educated you are. You have the right and freedom in Australia to speak out and keep speaking out till you are heard.

The Royal Commission is an opportunity for you to have your say. You will know that your submission will be read and taken seriously.

It may not, as in my case, save the person you love from poor care. But it will be one of the building blocks that could save people in the future.

I urge you to speak.

Please, if you have something to say, say it.

If you have a friend with something to say, help them to say it.

Believe that you can make a difference!

Thank you