Australia’s first Ageing and Disability Commissioner

Article published 22 July 2019

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Australia’s first Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald, started work on 1 July 2019, tasked with protecting adults with disabilities and older people from abuse.

NSW is the first jurisdiction in which an Office of Ageing and Disability Commissioner has been established. Other states and territories would do well to follow NSW’s lead.

“The Commissioner will have the power to initiate investigations and help the community spot cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation through education and awareness programs”, NSW Minister for Seniors John Sidoti said.

The NSW Opposition and other parties moved several amendments to the Bill to give the Commissioner stronger powers. Because of these amendments the Commissioner will be fully independent from ministerial control, can hold public enquiries with powers equivalent to a Royal Commissioner and can refer matters to the Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Evidence presented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that between 2 per cent and 14 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse every year. This is an issue that is not going away. More than one fifth of the Australian population is estimated to be over the age of 65 by 2050. This number will only continue to grow as will the need for increased support for older people.

To contact the Office of the Commissioner, ring the NSW Ageing and Disability Abuse Helpline on 1800 628 221 between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.

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