Australia’s first Ageism Awareness Day, held on 1 October 2021, is an opportunity to highlight the existence of ageism and its impact in Australia. This is important now more than ever as new research from the Australian Human Rights Commission shows that ageism is the most accepted form of prejudice in Australia.

Ageism is the discrimination, stereotyping and prejudice towards others based on age. Part of the reason why ageism has become so accepted in our community is because the term ‘ageism’ is not as well understood as other forms of discrimination.  

The extent and acceptance of ageism and age-based discrimination has been documented in the UN Global Report on Ageism, as well as in the report of the UN Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons. 

Researchers from the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute recently contributed to a special issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, which further explored ageism, age-based discrimination and human rights issues in older age. 

Conjoint Professor Carmelle Peisah contributed to a number of articles* within the special issue including, The Human Right to Justice for Older Persons with Mental Health Conditions, co-authored with Emeritus Professor Andrew Byrnes, an associate of the UNSW Australian Human Rights Institute in the Faculty of Law & Justice (with their project on human rights in older age). 

This publication examines the current barriers (ageist laws, attitudes and discriminatory practices) experienced by older people with a mental health condition, when accessing justice. These barriers disadvantage and marginalise older people creating a ‘justice gap’ that urgently needs to be addressed in a systematic way. 

“These publications have been one form of weaponry for defending the rights of older people” said Conjoint Professor Carmelle Peisah. “A longstanding imperative, spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by the Ageing Futures Institute and joined by other faculties, over the last 18 months UNSW researchers and academics have made a significant impact on both the national and international stage with advocacy for the rights of older people. Our initiatives have extended across education, research, thought leadership, social responsibility and national and international partnerships with multiple stakeholders.”

The inadequacy of the existing framework and the failure to address ageism were recently addressed in a major study published by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for which Professor Byrnes acted as consultant. 

“The existing international and national human rights frameworks have failed to adequately address human rights in older age,” said Emeritus Professor Byrnes. “They underline the need for the international community to develop a new international treaty on the human rights of older persons.”  

Support the growing social movement against ageism by accessing the EveryAGE counts resources, found here


*Ayalon, l., Peisah, C., de Mendonca Lima, C., Verbeek, H., & Rabheru, K., (2021). Ageism and the state of older people with mental conditions during the pandemic and beyond: manifestations, etiology, consequences and future direction. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi: 

*Hamilton, M., Peisah, C., Rabheru, K., Ayalon, L., Verbeek, H., Stoppe, G., & de Mendonca Lima, C. (2021) Understanding Barriers to the realisation of human rights among older women with mental health conditions. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi: 

*Verbeek, H., Peisah, C., de Mondonca Lima, C., Rabheru, K., & Ayalon, L. (2021). Human rights to inclusive living and care for older people with mental health conditions. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi: 

*Peisah, C., Ayalon, L., Verbeek, H., Wiskerke, E., Rabheru, K., & Sorinmade, O. (2021). Sexuality and the human rights of persons with dementia. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi: 

*Peisah, C., Sampson. E. L., Rabheru, K., Wand, A., & Lapid, M. (2021). The human rights of older people with mental health conditions and psychosocial disability to a good death and dying well. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, doi: