Call for government action on human rights for older people

A new advocacy network is calling on the Australian Government to support a United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.

A new advocacy network is calling on the Australian Government to support a United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.

Called the Rights of Older Persons Australia – and comprising of advocacy groups such as the National Older Women’s Network, Older Persons Advocacy Network and the Senior Rights Service – the organisation aims to campaign for stronger human rights protections for older people in Australia, and globally.

While UN human rights treaties exist for children, women and people with disability, international protections for older people are lacking.

Bill Mitchell

ROPA member Bill Mitchell from Townsville Community Law says Australia should continue its tradition of standing up for human rights on the world stage by actively supporting and participating in the work of the UN in developing a new convention and ratifying and implementing the treaty in Australian law.

So far, input from the Australian Government’s representatives to the UN has been minimal. 

“We call on the Australian Government to maintain that proud tradition by establishing a multi-stakeholder group in Australia, comprising older Australians from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, as well as civil society groups and frontline workers, to inform Australia’s leadership in upholding our rights as we age,” said Mr Mitchell.

Among other rights, a treaty would give older people the right to:

  • fully participate
  • be independent and autonomous
  • be free from neglect and abuse
  • be able to access necessary services.

“There should be no use by date on human rights.”

A UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing has over the past decade or so met to explore stakeholders’ demands as global calls for human rights for older persons gather momentum. ROPA would now like to see “the fullest potential expression” of those rights in a treaty.

Meeting for the 13th year in April 2023, the OEWGA will continue its consideration of a treaty. The UN Human Rights Council is also considering the issue. “Australia should be a clear voice in the United Nations, taking an active role in developing, negotiating and implementing a treaty,” says ROPA on its website.

Beverley Baker

The case for a specific UN Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons has long been compelling, but the Covid pandemic has given it a greater urgency by unleashing “unchecked ageism”, said ROPA member Beverley Baker from the National Older Women’s Network.

“Existing patterns of discrimination towards older people have been exacerbated and excused. Ageism directed against older people weakens their access to rights and protections,” said Ms Baker. “There should be no use by date on human rights.”

Follow Community Care Review on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and sign up to our newsletter.

Tags: Beverley Baker, Bill Mitchell, human rights, National Older Women's Network, Older Persons Advocacy Network, Rights of Older Persons Australia, senior rights service, United nations,

Leave a Reply

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