New NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner warns retirement village operators they will be held responsible for elder abuse in villages

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In a strong speech at the Retirement Living Council’s annual NSW conference last week, the new NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM (pictured above) explained that elder abuse occurs in every community, including retirement communities. 

Operators under law have a responsibility to prevent it. And operators will have to demonstrate that they are taking positive initiatives to prevent it.

He bluntly told village operators “you show us we can trust you” when it comes to elder abuse.

“To believe this is a lilywhite industry is ridiculous,” he added.

Mr Fitzgerald gave the example of a village resident being told by a plumber he had been warned by the village manager that she was a ‘troublemaker’ – an act he termed psychological abuse.

His new office will be employing 60 ‘aged crime prevention officers’ – with seven already hired.

His powers are equal to a Royal Commission. He can demand operators to produce any documents – from emails to Post It notes – and provide access to any premises.

Mr Fitzgerald also has real experience – he sat on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2013 to 2017 and was appointed to this new role on 1 July 2019, just seven weeks ago. 

 “All forms of abuse are now being exposed,” he said.