Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Panel Discussion on the Thematic Study on the Realisation

of the Right to Health of Older Persons

16 September

Australia thanks Special Rapporteur Grover for his thematic study on the realisation of the right to health of older persons. The study draws international attention to a demographic shift reflected in Australia’s own 2010 Intergenerational Report which projects that by 2050:
- the number of people aged 65 years and over will more than double; and
- the number of people aged 85 and over is expected to more than quadruple.

Australia agrees that the promotion and protection of the human rights of older people should support not only active and dignified ageing, but also the continued participation of older people in social, economic, cultural and civic life.

Australia recognises the importance of older people living active and independent lives. An Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians has been established to advise on how the Australian Government, individuals, businesses and communities can best plan for, and support, the continuing participation of people as they age. Critical to this is attitudinal change to remove all forms of discrimination.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Rudd has recently underlined the priority we place on upholding the rights of older people. Our ongoing efforts in ageing include: maintaining a Minister within the Australian Government with specific aged care and ageing responsibilities since 1988; appointing Australia’s first Ambassador for Ageing in 2008; supporting organisations such as National Seniors Australia and the Council on the Ageing 50+ to facilitate participation in the policy development processes of government; and participating in the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in New York in April and August 2011.

The Council of Australian Governments’ health reforms in 2008 and 2010 included significant investments in preventive health directed at, among other things, reducing the prevalence of chronic disease, which can be a debilitating feature of ageing. It also included investment in subacute care delivered to states and territories through National Partnership Agreements. Palliative care is one of the four main types of subacute care to receive funding through these arrangements. Under the National Partnership Agreement on Hospital and Health Workforce Reform, $500 million is being provided for subacute care for the period 2009-10 to 2012-13 inclusive. From 1 July 2010, a further $1.63 billion is being provided for an estimated 1,316 new sub-acute beds by 2013-14 – including in residential services and community-based settings. The focus within Australia’s health care community and the Australian Government is on maintaining the quality of life for people with a life limiting illness.

Regarding the study’s recommendation (i), we would be interested to learn from the Panel how best to protect older people's rights to informed consent to treatment, especially older people from culturally diverse backgrounds.