At the federal level there have been a number of developments in relation to disability rights and elder rights. First, two Senate reports in the past year have highlighted issues of violence, abuse and neglect of people with disabilities in residential and care settings, as well as the poor state of education for people with disabilities. The first report made some very clear comments on the root causes of violence, abuse and neglect, noting it ‘begins with the de-valuing of people with disability … [which] permeates the attitudes of individual disability workers, service delivery organisations and most disturbingly, government systems designed to protect the rights of individuals’. Both reports are now available on the Parliamentary website.
Second, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (‘NDIS’) has begun to roll out, an initiative that was championed by both sides of politics as well as disability groups. In addition, Alastair McEwin was recently appointed as the new Disability Discrimination Commissioner. He was formerly the president of the Deaf Society and chairman of the Disability Council of NSW. He has been appointed in a full time capacity — a welcome restoration of this important role at the Australian Human Rights Commission (the last full time Commissioner was Graeme Innes, whose term ended in 2014).
Finally, the Australian Law Reform Commission is conducting an inquiry ‘Protecting the Rights of Older Australians from Abuse’ or Elder Abuse. The inquiry is to specifically consider best practice laws, and legal frameworks including the NDIS. The Commission is currently taking submissions. Public consultations will be held in late 2016, and the final report is expected in May 2017. The inquiry is a step forward for elder rights in Australia.
CAITLIN McINNES is a Project Officer at the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University.