52nd AAG Conference

The 52nd Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) was held on the 5th – 8th November 2019 in Sydney and brought together practitioners, professionals and stakeholders from all around Australia to connect with other professionals and learn about ways to improve the experience of ageing.

Building on previous AAG conferences, this year’s conference theme was ‘Coming of Age Together – New ways of acting and knowing’, which acknowledges the engagement and participation of older people in society. Older people from disadvantaged socio-economic and minority backgrounds –  including those who are poor, homeless or Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander identifying – are less able to access opportunities for advancements in older age.

Both Seniors Rights Service’s President, Margaret Duckett, and CEO, Russell Westacott, had the honour of addressing the conference. Ms Duckett presented on our work at the United Nations and our efforts to have Australia sign onto an international convention of the rights of older people.

Mr Westacott recognised the incremental reform in aged-care industries in the past decade, but called for more long-term systematic changes and increased nation and state-wide services to better serve the needs of Australia’s elderly community.

Mr Westacott made a number of recommendations for more accessible services for older people in ‘all four corners of the nation’, particularly those in regional areas. ‘It’s great to see that [the government] has provided funding to a dozen elder abuse pilot sites,’ said Mr Westacott. ‘However, it is a great pity that funding has gone to relatively small geographically-focused sites.’

Mr Westacott also urged for increased funding for community-based organisations such as Seniors Rights Service. ‘In the 2018-19 year alone demand for Seniors Rights Service legal services grew by 25% to more than 3,422 legal services being delivered across NSW. That’s a huge growth in one year and it has not been matched with additional resources,’ said Mr Westacott. ‘There seems to be an expectation by funders that community-based organisations like ours can do more and more with no real funding increase – we can’t. Rights-based agencies need to be better resourced so that we can work with older people or their representatives in the community and stop matters escalating into situations that have even worse outcomes for the older person.’