University of Tasmania
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In safe hands : a history of aged care in Tasmania

posted on 2023-05-26, 01:34 authored by Crisp, EP
Aged care is one of the more controversial and problematic areas of healthcare in Australia in the 21st century. Whilst most people today accept that residential care is an essential service for those who can no longer cope on their own in the community, few people want to end up in a nursing home, and few nurses aspire to work there. But was this always the case? This diachronic study integrates archival research and oral history interviews to explore the history of aged care in one state of Australia, Tasmania. Tasmania began its white history as Van Diemen's Land, a penal settlement on a remote island intended to be the 'gaol for the entire British Empire'. The high number of convicts transported to the colony and the resulting large emancipist population, many of whom were both impoverished and without family to help them as they aged, meant that the colonial administration was forced to make official arrangements for their care from almost the first days of the state's existence. These arrangements bore some similarities to those in other Australian states and in the mother country, but the peculiarities of life on the edge of civilization brought their own unique solutions in that century, and the next. This thesis follows the development of Tasmanian aged care from the early colonial charitable institutions, to the early 20th century period of 'making do', to the ennursement of aged care in the middle of that century, and finally to developments in the 1980s that led to today's highly regulated and businesslike aged care sector. It illuminates the changes and continuities in conditions and practices within homes for the aged, and the shifting attitudes of Tasmanian society towards the elderly and those that cared for them. Official records paint an almost uniformly positive picture of aged care. In contrast, public opinion is almost equally negative. This study provides a more balanced story, in the hope that an understanding of the successes and failures of the past will provide some guidance for the future to assist our aging population in the 21st century.


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