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Elder Abuse Action Australia

Response to the Royal Commission’s Final Report

Leading elder abuse prevention organisation highlights why focus must be on human rights underpinning aged care reforms

Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA) acknowledges the important work undertaken by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the many individuals who shared their stories. The Commission has exposed extensive and appalling treatment of older Australians in residential care, but we know this abuse is not confined to residential care and is also experienced by older people living at home in the community. A stronger and better aged care system must be urgently implemented to protect older people, and as a society, we must all do better; but it is imperative the government takes the lead.

In principle, EAAA supports some of the key themes underpinning the Commissioners’ recommendations (outlined on page 3). However, EAAA believes older people experience distinct human rights violations and have human rights needs which are not currently respected, articulated in public discourse or addressed adequately by existing social, cultural, political and legal institutions, services and processes.

“Elderly Australians are too often overlooked and ignored in our society, which has traditionally had more of a youth-based focus. Yet how to appropriately and respectfully care for our elder population are questions that countries across the globe are facing,” states Russell Westacott, Co-chair, EAAA.

“As of 2020, the World Health Organisation noted that people aged 60 and over outnumbered children aged 5 and below, so the imperative is absolutely upon us. And with predictions by the UN of growth only continuing in older populations with one in six people being aged 65 years or over by 2050, we feel it is of utmost importance that the Australian Government positively engages in the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons”.

It is crucial that reforms centre on the language of human rights, not consumer rights. A consumer rights style protection framework is entirely inadequate to prevent the kinds of violations identified by the Commission, including:

threats to the right to life and bodily integrity/security of person;

  • acts that can be characterised as torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
  • inadequate standards of living;
  • inequality and discrimination;
  • restriction of liberty and freedom of movement, freedom of expression and participation in public life;
  • prevention of access to health and social protections and services; and
  • neglect.

In order to effectively protect older Australians, human rights must underpin aged care reforms and must be fully embraced by the Australian Government. Human rights based aged care legislation should state explicitly that rights are inherent in older people regardless of living arrangements and care settings. This would support aged care provision that is nondiscriminatory.

According to Westacott, “Key legislative reforms should absolutely enshrine the process. And while urgent government and legal processes get underway, society can also help shine a light onto this process with media leading the charge by ensuring that the voice of elderly Australians becomes commonplace in public discourse. And they shouldn’t only be stories on negativity or sadness, and likewise, focusing only on ones that are outstanding or surprising. To effectively change societal perceptions, a full spectrum of realities and experiences need showcasing.

“We would like to see legislative reforms as a matter of urgency.”

The Legislative reforms should look to protect the following rights:

  • Equality and protection from discrimination;
  • A life free from neglect, violence, abuse, degrading or inhumane treatment;
  • Autonomy and independence;
  • Cultural rights and self-determination;
  • Accessibility, infrastructure and habitat (housing, transport and access); • Health and access to health services;
  • Participation in public life and in decision making processes;
  • Social inclusion;
  • Family and the need to reflect the family of choice;
  • Privacy;
  • Social protection and social security (including social protection floors);
  • Economic security;
  • To work and have access to the labour market;
  • Access to justice and the legal system;
  • Long term and palliative care;
  • Education, training, life-long learning and capacity building; and
  • Contribution to sustainable development.


Response to the Royal Commission’s Final Report