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Aged Care Royal Commission takes strong stance to protect whistle-blowers

Preliminary hearing on January 18 saw Commissioners warn aged care providers not to try and deter whistle-blowers

On January 18, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety opened in Adelaide. Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs outlined how their investigation would operate – issuing strongly worded warnings to anyone attempting to interfere with any witnesses looking to come forward.

A new regulation regime and new watchdog, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission started on January 1 and will run alongside the commission.

Tracey called on the general public to make public submissions and emphasised that these could be made and lodged anonymously. The deadline is mid-year. Governance Institute of Australia’s submission can be read here.

Already 5,000 submissions to the Commission have been forwarded from the Department of Health; another 300 have been submitted since 21 December.

He did, however, state that the commission would be “gravely concerned” if aged care providers or government bodies were putting pressure on staff or any potential whistle-blowers to withhold evidence, or stop them coming forward.

“It would be unlawful for an employer to take punitive action against an employee or former employee who has assisted us,” he said.

“It is a criminal offence to injure a person who has appeared as a witness or produced a document or given information or a statement … suing someone would almost certainly fall within this prohibition against injury.”

The second hearing will take place in Adelaide on February 11.
The Commission will hand down its interim report in October 2019. The final report is due in April 2020.

Governance Institute of Australia’s submission to the Royal Commission [PDF]

Adding Value To Governance In Aged Care” [PDF]
Governance guidance for aged care organisations’ boards and senior executives


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