The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety is underway, with victims of abuse and neglect, and their families, being asked to come forward with their stories.
The hearings began, however, with numerous families of elder abuse victims being denied entry into the main courtroom in Adelaide where the inquiry has begun.
Most had to settle for a live steam of the proceedings into an overflow courtroom.
In her opening statement, Commissioner Lynelle Briggs described a “rising torrent of concern” that the aged care sector was not functioning as it should.
“We will look at the expectations of Australians,” she said.
“A key feature of our task is a focus on the future and what the aged care system in Australia should be – a world-class caring system in which those receiving aged care and their loved ones can have confidence.
“A system which has services that are compassionate, fit for purpose, customised to individual needs, and of the highest standards in terms of quality and safety.”
In his remarks, Commissioner Richard Tracey QC warned nursing home bosses not instruct their staff against giving evidence to the Royal Commission.
“It would be unlawful for an employer to take punitive action against an employee or former employee who has assisted us,” he said.
“The hallmark of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable people — and our elderly are often among the most physically, emotionally and financially vulnerable.
“Frail and elderly members of our community deserve to, and should be, looked after in the best possible way.”
Witnesses will begin giving evidence next month in Adelaide before the Commission moves around Australia for further hearings.
The inquiry was established by the Federal Government in response to numerous cases of appalling neglect and abuse at some aged care facilities coming to light – the most disturbing being at the Oakden facility in Adelaide, which was exposed in 2017.
The Commission was announced in September 2018, with Commissioners required to deliver an interim report to the Government by October 31 this year and a final report by April 30 next year.
There is speculation, however, that the inquiry could be extended.