A reporter’s view of the Royal Commission

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Lauren Broomham is a journalist and editor for DCM Media (DoComeMonday) – an aged care industry website. She also works across a range of media including ‘The Weekly Source’, ‘The Donaldson Sisters’ and ‘Villages.com.au’. As an aged care industry journalist, she has a special interest in this Royal Commission and has been with us every step of the way. We asked her a few questions about what it’s like to be the only journalist covering every hearing and community forum of the Aged Care Royal Commission in person.

Q. As the only journalist covering the entirety of the Royal Commission in person – what’s it been like from your unique view?

I have found the whole process fascinating. Most of us would be unaware of the logistics that go into staging a Royal Commission, but being on the ground, I see everything from the witness support officers and tech team to the security arrangements and the day-to-day business of keeping the hearings and community forums on track. It’s a big job and while the Commissioners are the face, there’s a lot of going on behind the scenes.

Q. What’s been the most interesting or surprising thing you have heard so far?

I have worked in the aged care sector for over three years now so I have a good grasp of the issues but even I was surprised by some of the information that has emerged during the hearings, in particular the Darwin and Cairns hearings on quality of life and clinical care. Take pressure injuries for example – there was one expert wound care consultant Catherine Sharp who gave evidence that tissue death can occur within half an hour, yet repositioning guidelines are that immobile residents must be moved every two hours. It gave me a new understanding of the challenges in providing care – and the difficulties staff must face daily.

Q. Has the Royal Commission lived up to your expectations?

The Commission has surpassed my expectations. I anticipated many sad stories would come out of the evidence, but what has emerged alongside these are some innovative ideas and models to improve the system and some good experiences. At the recent hearings in Melbourne, there was a witness Robyn Spicer whose daughter Jessie has a disability and is thriving in residential care. It was amazing how her story buoyed the mood in the hearing room.

Q. What feedback have you got from your readers about your Royal Commission coverage?

I receive very positive feedback on my coverage – the main comment people often make is that I provide a real picture of what being at the hearings is like, rather than just a simple summary of the issues. I am presenting the Commission from my perspective and analysing the ideas that are raised and that is very different from the other sources of information available.

Q. Is there a town or city you have been to covering the Royal Commission that stands out as significant? Why?

This will probably surprise some people, but Mildura stands out for me. The town reminded me of the country towns where I grew up, and those hearings really gave a voice to carers of older Australians who often don’t get much media attention.

Q. What do you hope this Royal Commission will achieve?

To quote Commissioner Lynelle Briggs from the first community forum held in Bankstown in Sydney’s west, I would like to see the system turned ‘upside down’. The Commissioner noted this is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity and I would agree with her assessment. As an observer, I see the issues that affect the sector, but I also see the solutions being put forward and I think there is scope for a significant re-think of how we provide aged care in this country.

Q. Anything else you would like to add about this experience?

Travelling to every capital city – and being a fan of dining out – my colleagues also joke that I could now write a restaurant guide to Australia. Perhaps when the Commission wraps up…