A landmark legal action has been launched in the federal court in a bid to give First Nations men earlier access to the aged care pension.
Wakka Wakka elder, Uncle Denis, is suing the commonwealth arguing that because Indigenous men tend to die earlier than their non-Indigenous peers, they should be allowed to access their pensions earlier.
In July this year the point of eligibility for the age pension increased from 65 to 66 years and six months and is due to increase to 67 in mid-2023.
But Uncle Denis told NITV it should be even earlier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men because of their lower life expectancy.
“I’ve seen it over and over. I see it no matter what city I go through in this country. You see a lot of it – that your people are still suffering. So we need to look at the history of this, and bring the age group down.”
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre argued that applying the same pension age to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people was inequitable and in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Meena Singh, a Yorta Yorta woman and adviser at The Human Rights Law Centre told the Guardian ‘First Nations people should be eligible for the age pension three years earlier, given the size of the life expectancy gap’.
She says if the case succeeds, it will be a win for the entire community.
“How do we think differently about fairness? It’s not just one thing to apply the same rule to everyone and expect the same outcome.
We have to think that Aboriginal people come to this law of what age you can get the pension very differently – we’ve had very different life experiences. So we’re taking about equity of outcome – what’s the life outcome for an Aboriginal person here?”