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Royal Commission Final Report: Towards a rights-based system

Written by Lauranne Beernaert, Sector Support Coordinator

“A philosophical shift is required that places the people receiving care at the centre of quality and safety regulation. This means a new system empowering them and respecting their rights”

– Royal Commissioner Tony Pagone QC & Lynelle Briggs AO

The Royal Commissioners have called unanimously for a reform of the Australian aged care system, considering that the current system presents fundamental flaws. Indeed, they consider that a piecemeal approach to reform will not achieve the desired changes to provide the quality and safe care that older Australians deserve.

The recommendations derived from their enquiry present several ways to redesign the aged care system. At the core of the reform lie the rights and interests of those who need aged care.  This article will explore the different parts of this new system and how a rights-based aged care system underpins each element of the new system.

The new Aged Care System: an entitlement to care


The promotion and protection of the rights of the people is at the heart of the new system which encompasses the necessary entitlements to lead a quality life in old age. Such rights include the rights for people seeking aged care, including carers: right to equitable access to care services and right to exercise choice. It also recognises the rights of those who receive aged care and guarantees that people are free from degrading treatment or abuse, enjoy their right to liberty, right to autonomy, right to fair and equitable treatment, and right to voice opinions and complaints. Acknowledging Australia’s history marked by dispossession, cultural disruption and policies of assimilation, the new aged care system is also culturally responsive to the needs of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

These fundamental human rights drive the service delivery, policy, program administration, regulations, workforce development and provider’s internal governance and organisational culture.


The Aged Care Workforce is professionalised through changes in education, training, wages, labour conditions and career prospects to meet the various needs of the aging Australian population. Personal care workers are registered and meet minimum qualifications (Certificate III), complete ongoing training, English language proficiency, criminal history checks and commitment to a code of conduct.

The important role of volunteers in helping older people to maintain connection with the local community is recognised and supported through training, knowledge, and financial assistance where required.


Based on a restorative and preventative approach to care, the new aged care system provides long-term support and care that responds to each person’s needs. It integrates welfare support, community services, affordable and appropriate housing, and high-quality health and aged care. This integrated system would replace the current Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCP), Residential and Respite programs.


While the two Commissioners differ on the form of the institutional arrangements to govern the new aged care system, they agree that the roles of System Governor, Pricing Authority, Quality Regulator and Prudential Regulator need to be fulfilled. Guided by the views of older people, these bodies will be responsible to provide ongoing direction to the sector, sustainably fund the system, steer the system towards long-term policy outcomes, monitor performance and quality, address systemic issues and hold stakeholders accountable. Similarly, service providers would have strong governance mechanisms.


Moving away from the current legislation that focuses on service providers and the allocation of subsidies to fund services to limited people, the new Aged Care Act will put the needs and preferences of older people first. The Act would articulate, promote and enforce the rights and entitlements of the people who need aged care, and these rights would be embodied in the new system’s governance mechanisms, systems, and workforce. This rights-based approach to care and support would be similar to that of the NDIS Act 2013 and considers that older people have the same rights as other members of the Australian society to realise their potential for physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.

We have translated the Royal Commission Recommendations into an easy-to-read Roadmap.
Click here for a better view on what and when the recommendations could impact your organisation.

For the Sector Support Summary of the Final Report and how providers can proactively prepare for change, click here.