This project applies the processes of found poetry to the publicly available dataset of submissions to Australia’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, and is one the first to treat policy submissions in this way: to transform often lengthy and detail-heavy written submissions into condensed, vivid and powerful poetry. While the Royal Commission submission transcripts detail deeply emotional accounts, the medium through which they are written and shared does not do justice to their stories, or offer the potential for broader community engagement in the same way that poetry does.
Although the submissions are in the public domain, the community would need to navigate a complex RC website and review 100s of pages of text to come into contact with their contents. Over the course of the 28 months between 8 October 2018 to 1 March 2021, the RC held 23 public hearings involving 641 witnesses, and received 10,574 public submissions.
This page includes a depository of poems produced for this project, which represent different perspectives including: aged care residents, their families, and the workforce, and use a combination of found poetry methods including concrete poetry and the use of other methods for visualising poetry e.g. collage.
An anthology of poems selected poems created prior to October 2023 were compiled into a hard-copy zine. You can view an online version by clicking the image (right):
What is Found Poetry?
While most contemporary poetry is free-verse, found poetry draws its content from found texts, and is “the imaginative appropriation and reconstruction of already-existing texts” (Prendergast, 2006). Found poetry is usually created from language and text whose original intent is generally not literary, including overhead conversations, graffiti, Tweets, interview transcripts, newspapers, product packaging, and court transcripts or policy documents.Poems (or poem-like prose) are subsequently created from this source text; the writing process generally entails curation, deletion and selection of the text — sometimes even reordering of phrases or words. In a research context, found poetry is alternatively termed poetic inquiry, poetic transcription or research poetry.
You can print this out as an A5 zine/booklet to use when running your own Found Poetry workshops.
‘A Shocking Tale of Neglect’
That was the description chosen to summarise the findings outlined in the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The findings from the Royal Commission revealed a sad and shocking system which not only fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens but is often unkind and uncaring towards older people. From the various hearings, community forums, and submissions we heard about the physical and sexual abuse that occurs at the hands of staff members, and also other residents. We learned off the frequent and inappropriate use of unsafe and inhumane restrictive practices , the high rates of mental health issues and malnutrition, and a range of other issues.
The ‘Care’ in Aged Care is
gone forgotten missing
While there are instances of abuse, neglect, and exploitation that do occur in the aged care service environment by staff, much of the issues surrounding neglect stem from systemic issues related to understaffing and a focus on task-based care rather than person-centred care. While many aged care staff would like to provide a better level of care, many are trying their best while dealing with excessive work demands and extreme constraints on their time and resources. For many this means that they are overworked, rushed, and under pressure, which often results in ‘missed care’. Missed care not only has serious implications for the health and safety of residents, but also means that people’s social and emotional needs are not met, with oversights such as placing a cup of tea just out of reach, or call bells unanswered, which can have a tremendous impact on a person’s mental health.
Aged Care Workers Perspectives
Frontline care workers urgently need policy and workforce reform measures to ensure that they receive the support, training and job security they need and deserve to provide quality care to aged care residents – our most vulnerable citizens.
The average personal aged care worker in Australia is a woman, earns A$23/hour, overseas-born, lacks job security, and faces physical and psychological risks daily. Aged care workers operate in a high-stress environment, typified by chronic understaffing, casualisation, low rates of pay and high staff turnover. A recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, called in response to documented care failures, further highlighted the challenges facing the workforce: extensive casualisation, rates of pay which lag behind retail workers, and barriers to professionalisation.
While personal care workers comprise 60% of the aged care workforce, their experiences and recommendations are rarely heard in policy reform. This project amplifies their unique voices, applying the unconventional arts-informed research method of research poetry.
Visualising Poetry: Using collage & concrete poetry techniques to create visual found poetry
The following is a selection of found poetry created as part of a ‘pop-up’ found poetry workshop at the ‘Time to Listen’ exhibition. In this workshop, exhibition attendees were invited to create found poetry using a selection of words selected from three separate submissions (AWF.001.05431_0001, AWF.001.05520_0001, AWF.250.03492_0001) to the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
These words were collated on a single A4 page (right) for people to cut out and arrange into a poem, taking into consideration techniques of concrete poetry (otherwise known as ‘shape poetry’) in which the meaning of a poem is conveyed through visual means–often through the creation of patterns of shapes using words, letters, and other typographical devices, as depicted in I was/I am, which used two sides of the paper to demonstrate the changing perspective of someone before and after experiencing aged care services. We Need Voices, demonstrates the argument for needing diverse voices in conversations about aged care by scattering disparate perspectives and concepts around the core message.
A variety of magazines were provided to allow people to draw on existing imagery to assist in conveying the meaning of their found poem. In some instances, these were presented as an assemblage of various imagery (also known as collage) as seen in I am not dementia, whereas some used a singular image (Theatrics is Not Enough).
While others were created using a combination of different techniques, including the use of illustration (Spend on Me & Systemic Failure creates regular Neglect), and also the use of tape as seen in the example above (The System is Broken) which demonstrates a fragmented and broken system through the use of a singular piece of paper, ripped apart, and held back together using the tape. In this example, the transparent quality of the tape is useful for symbolising the gaps in the system. This visual style is then applied to the words and images which each have been cut in half and held together, albeit still fragmented, by tape.
Other examples: (click on image to expand)