Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

28th Feb 2019

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was established on 8 October 2018 by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC.

The Commission was established following allegations of horrific elder abuse in aged care facilities throughout Australia and the Commission, among other things, recognises that ‘older Australians deserve high-quality care in a safe environment that protects their wellbeing and dignity’.

Investigation by the Commission into the aged care sector is likely to include careful scrutiny of the following issues: hygiene conditions, abuse, neglect, use of restraints (chemical and physical) on the elderly, levels of staffing and poor care.

The Commission began its proceedings in Adelaide on 18 January 2019 and will move across the country in the coming months.

The Commissioners

Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Lynelle Briggs AO have been appointed as the Commissioners of this inquiry.

Mr Tracey previously served as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia for 12 years and has been the president of the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal and Judge Advocate General for the Australian Defence Force.

Ms Briggs was previously CEO of Medicare Australia and served as the Australian Public Service Commissioner for five years.

Terms of Reference

The Commission has been authorised and is required to look into a broad range of issues relating to aged care. The Letters Patent sets out the terms of reference to guide the Commissioners in their investigative role. The Terms of Reference were put together after receiving more that 5,000 public submissions – including from families of elderly Australians, aged care consumers, aged care workers, health professionals and aged care providers.

The Terms of Reference are:

  1. the quality of aged care services provided to Australians, the extent to which those services meet the needs of the people accessing them, the extent of substandard care being provided, including mistreatment and all forms of abuse, the causes of any systemic failures, and any actions that should be taken in response;
  2. how best to deliver aged care services to:
    1. people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities, including younger people; and
    2. the increasing number of Australians living with dementia, having regard to the importance of dementia care for the future of aged care services;
  3. the future challenges and opportunities for delivering accessible, affordable and high quality aged care services in Australia, including:
    1. in the context of changing demographics and preferences, in particular people's desire to remain living at home as they age; and
    2. in remote, rural and regional Australia;
  4. what the Australian Government, aged care industry, Australian families and the wider community can do to strengthen the system of aged care services to ensure that the services provided are of high quality and safe;
  5. how to ensure that aged care services are person‑centred, including through allowing people to exercise greater choice, control and independence in relation to their care, and improving engagement with families and carers on care‑related matters;
  6. how best to deliver aged care services in a sustainable way, including through innovative models of care, increased use of technology, and investment in the aged care workforce and capital infrastructure;
  7. any matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) or that [the Commissioners] believe is reasonably relevant to the inquiry.

While the Commission has been directed to investigate past and existing standards of care in the aged care sector, the Prime Minister, as well as the Commissioners, have made it clear that a significant focus of the inquiry will be on what can be improved going forward.

What is the timeline?

The Royal Commission is set to run for approximately 18 months. The Commissioners are required to provide their interim report by 31 October 2019, and their final report no later than 30 April 2020.

For more information, you can view live webcasts of the Commission’s hearings or read the transcripts.


Sam Vasaiwalla is a recent graduate currently completing her traineeship at Zaparas Lawyers.
The views in this article are the writer's own and do not reflect the views of Zaparas Lawyers.


The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

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