Oct 29, 2019

Background paper dampens expectations ahead of royal commission’s interim report


The royal commission has released its latest background paper, a comprehensive summary of the many reports and inquiries of the aged care sector that have been completed over the last twenty years. 

The paper casts a long, question-marked shadow over the highly anticipated interim report, which is due out later this week, that will outline the commissioners’ thinking at the mid-way point of their investigations. 

The paper outlines 18 reviews and inquiries of the aged care sector that have been conducted since 1997, and how the government has responded to each.

Not only is it clear that the very same issues the royal commission is turning over today have been examined many times before, but, even more depressingly, simply working out how, or if, the government has responded, so opaque are its mechanisms, has been difficult.

“It is often difficult to determine the Australian Government response to previous reviews and Inquiries,” the authors of the paper say. 

“Responses often come years after the review and recount what has been done in an almost tangential way to the actual recommendations. Even when responses are provided, they can be opaque, rendering it near impossible to even determine whether the Government intends to implement the recommendation in the form proposed by the reviewer. 

“Changes committed to are often slow to eventuate or fall away prior to implementation,” the paper states.

Why, the paper asks, after “all these reviews”, does the aged care system still “fail to support an appropriate quality (of) life for the most frail and vulnerable members of our community?”

Perhaps it is this question the royal commission needs to answer to ensure its recommendations are implemented?

Problems the same over two decades

“Despite all of these reviews, and all of the Government responses, the underlying problems remain,” the report states.

We take a look at the some of the key issues to come out of the royal commission that have been canvassed in other enquiries previously – workforce issues, young people in residential aged care, complaints handling, and dementia care.


Low pay, long hours, not enough time to spend with residents, staff shortages, contract staff, lack of regulation and poor training have all been key themes to emerge from royal commission hearings. 

Indeed, staff and workforce problems are probably the most prevailing issue to come out of royal commission. 

On 15 October, counsel assisting the royal commission, Peter Rozen QC, explained that the royal commission had at that point received 6,631 submissions and more than half of those had raised concerns about the workforce. 

Of the 296 witnesses that had given evidence at that time, 85 per cent had commented on the workforce. 

Only a couple of weeks ago, John Pollaers told the royal commission he was disappointed the government had failed to properly respond to his Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce recommendations.

And yet, almost every review over the last 20 years has touched on workforce issues, whether it be the shortage of appropriately skilled and qualified nursing and personal care workers, poor training, or lack of regulation, the same problems remain.

Young people living in residential aged care

The royal commission heard harrowing accounts of young people living in residential aged care. Dr Bronwyn Morkham, National Director, Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance, said there is an “express route” of younger people into residential aged care because there is an absence of alternatives.

The appropriateness of residential aged care for young people was looked into by senate affairs committees in 2005, 2014 and 2015 – and yet the problem still exists.

Complaints handling

The royal commission has seen evidence of an industry resistant to complaints, hearing that complaints to management often resulted in retaliation, and complaints made through the official government channels were often not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The royal commission heard the tragic case of Clarence Hausler, whose abuse was uncovered when his family installed a camera secretly in his room. When the family confronted management with evidence of abuse, they were told what they were doing was illegal and accused her of stalking staff. Mr Hausler’s family eventually took the matter to police.

Poor complaints procedures have also been the subject of several earlier reviews, including the Senate Community Affairs Committee in 2005, the Productivity Commission in 2011, and the Carnell-Paterson report in 2017.

Dementia care

The royal commission spent two weeks in May looking specifically at the issues surrounding dementia care, a concern also raised in past reports. 

The royal commission heard of the inappropriate use of physical and chemical restraint, of violent attacks by residents living with dementia, and Professor Brodaty talked about the importance of person-centered care for those living with dementia.

Poor care of people living with dementia and a lack of preparedness for the expected rise in the number of people living with dementia was identified in the paper as one of the recurring issues examined by most inquiries over the last 20 years.

“Is this inquiry going to be the same?”

On 11 October, Uncle Brian Campbell asked the commissioners if this enquiry would be any different to others that had come before it.

“I’ve sat with the Royal Commission into deaths in custody.  I’ve sat with the Bringing Them Home hearing; right? And out of all of them, hardly anything gets done, and is this one going to be the same?” he asked.

Commissioner Pagone replied, “Well, I certainly hope this is one that does get something done. That’s our intention, that something gets done, and that’s why we are gathering your stories and the stories of others.”

Despite Commissioner Pagone’s reassurance, the truth is, no one knows what the outcomes of the royal commission will be. With all the goodwill in the world, even if every story of neglect is tabled, every problem countered with a practical solution, the royal commission’s recommendations will only be implemented if the wheels of government turn with them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. The Aged are not respected, as far as politicians (etal) care, we are a ‘drain’ on society, we don’t vote, we have ‘nothing’ to contribute…

    The ‘for profit’ sector should NEVER have been allowed in. Taxpayers money is redirected straight into investors pockets, and lining the pockets of management.

    The politicians do not ‘give a s…’ .

    1. You are so right in what you say. The elderly are only seen ( they are invisible to most) as a $$$$. The world we live in seems to be in a mad rush to line their’s and their families pockets. Armageddon seems to be what is driving this greed and looking after myself mentality. It scares me that people must feel they need to prepare for what seems to be the classic saying, “every man for himself”. Why don’t we do what the environmentalists are doing and block the streets for months to get the “other ” important issues out there! Like fighting for the future of our elderly citizens and the ones that will be there as well one day. Why don’t we fight for every home to build an extention onto old and new homes so we can live together as a family and have our governments pay for the the right people to live with the families as carers. Young university students could live there for nothing but be compensated for the time they assist with the cares the elderly in question need. It would stop the sharks from taking everything they worked so hard and long and families could stay together. Or do what they do in Sweden and every tax payer will be taxed high to pay for Aged Care, schooling, and health. All free! At least we would know that everyone will be looked after from birth to death. Look it up!

    2. Well said, a profit based system will always put profit first, less time for quality care means less wages,but higher profit,that’s just how its shamefully been set up. I don’t understand why the RC isn’t questioning this system. Thank you.

  2. Unfortunately the two biggest stakeholders in Aged Care at not well represented.
    They are the Consumers [including their carers and families] and the Taxpayers.

    It is clear that the Government Departments are excessively influenced by the lobbyists for the service providers, and neither of them prioritise consumers and taxpayers.

    The Politicians prioritise the interests of the benefactors of their own political party and they seem to be incapable of strategic planning and long term commitment to genuine reform.

    The best hope for the future is in:
    1. exposing the Aged Care sector to the full impact of current consumer law in their dealings with residents and their families;
    2. exposing the Aged Care sector to the full impact of the criminal law for assaults and mistreatment of consumers; and,
    3. we need to allow individuals access to a dignified pain free exit from life when their quality of life has gone for ever.

  3. Another drain in the aged care sector is the over employment of Indian and Nepalese visa holders. They are often too young and inexperienced to work in this sector and have no understanding of the care they should be providing. They are very often seen as impatient with the elderly and don’t know how to talk with compassion and understanding when some of these elderly need exactly that. They take sick days often and due to their religious culture they all leave at the same time when attending cultural celebrations. This causes a dreadful lack of staff and not enough staff to look after our residents. We have been up to 9 staff short every day for the last month because of this. We have what is left of the staff working double shifts every day and some working 13 and more days straight to cover for these people and their traditions. What if every Christian took Christmas and Easter off? Would management allow this to happen? Why not? Why do these people get preference over Christian’s? Well this is what is happening in this age of “Multiculturalism. Our elderly again have yet another problem with the care they so often don’t receive .This is the reality in our neglected Aged Care system guys. There’s the elephant in the room and nobody has the guts to explore yet another problem in the aged care system!

Banner Banner
Banner Banner

Blue Care: “We Apologise for the Quality Failures Identified at Pioneer”

Blue Care’s Bundaberg facility is already under fire for issues found in a recent spot check. In December, a spot inspection by The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) uncovered revealed 19 issues – including failing to respond to a resident’s cries for help and failing to feed or underfeeding residents. Now Blue Care have... Read More

25% of aged care shifts going unfilled yet the government says there is ‘no crisis’

There is an alarming disconnect between the government’s reassurances there is no crisis in aged care and voices from within the sector telling us that short staffing, a lack of PPE and RATs, and a scarcity of accurate information are contributing to a “grim” situation. Who should we believe? Read More

Growing reliance on temporary visas means aged care workers are vulnerable

A high proportion of aged care workers has always come from overseas, but a growing reliance on temporary rather than permanent migrants is “concerning,” experts say. Read More
Banner Banner