UNSW Ageing Futures Institute Associate Investigator, Professor Andrew Byrnes, has recently published his call for a comprehensive human rights-based approach to address the significant challenges for aged care in Australia. Professor Byrnes is a human rights lawyer and advocate from the UNSW Faculty of Law and the Australian Human Rights Institute.

In the article published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing in April, and originally delivered as the David Wallace address at the 2019 Annual Conference of the Australian Association of Gerontologists, Professor Byrnes examines several recent reports relating to older Australians and disabled persons through a human rights lens and finds them severely lacking.

In particular, Professor Byrnes analyses the Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, acknowledging that the hard-hitting report exposes significant failings of the Australian Aged Care system and makes some sound recommendations to rectify these failings. However, he puts forward a powerful argument that a more robust and demanding approach to policy development and regulation around aged care, and support for older individuals more generally, could be delivered through an explicit and comprehensive commitment to a human rights framework.

Professor Byrnes notes that the Report is also silent on ageism and suggests that, “Human rights are a potentially powerful tool to achieve the equal enjoyment by older persons of a good life in which they, like everyone else in the community, can continue to exercise autonomy and independence and enjoy full inclusion in their communities”.

Amongst other things, a human rights framework would definitively centre older people within policy development, define where duties lie and provide a foundation for critiquing the allocation of resources and analysing and measuring the actions taken.

Professor Byrnes puts forward six ideas for the next steps that can be taken towards this goal, including a comprehensive application of relevant international human rights standards in the work of both the Aged Care and Disability Royal Commissions and a bipartisan commitment to undertake human rights impact assessments of budget bills.

Importantly, Professor Byrnes suggests that powerful insights and progress could be made through interdisciplinary collaboration, most notably of human rights lawyers and gerontologists.

More information on Professor Byrnes http://research.unsw.edu.au/ageingfutures/team/professor-andrew-byrnes

Find the original article here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ajag.12800