Robert Fitzgerald AM appointed as NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner

With the passing of the NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill through Parliament in late June, Robert Fitzgerald AM has been appointed as the first NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner. From 1 July, the Commissioner will receive and investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation in both the aged and disability sectors with a focus on incidents occurring within families and the community. The Ageing and Disability Commissioner Bill 2019 gives the Commissioner wide-ranging powers to investigate abuse, including the ability to seek warrants, and refer cases to the Director of Public Prosecution and the police.The Bill also requires the Commissioner to refer matters to other bodies where appropriate, such as the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission.Mr Fitzgerald is well known to the Disability Sector in New South Wales, having been the NSW Community and Disability Services Commissioner and Deputy Ombudsman in the past. Mr Fitzgerald was also one of six commissioners to oversee the five-year Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and conducted numerous inquiries on his role as commissioner on the Productivity Commission. Whilst the focus of the Ageing and Disability Commissioner is on incidents of abuse and neglect occurring in community and family settings, providers play a key role in both raising concerns about the abuse and neglect of people with a disability and supporting people with a disability to make complaints. The report released by the NSW Ombudsman Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Adults in NSW in October last year noted that disability providers accounted for almost half of all matters included in the report. The NSW Budget provided $4.1 million to establish the Commissioner, who will also oversee the Official Community Visitors Scheme and provide support to victims.

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