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I was horrified a few weeks ago to learn that the administrators of one of the local retirement villages here in Canberra had been reprimanded because the residents had been found to be suffering from dehydration and malnourishment. They were told to improve conditions and would be inspected daily for the next 6 months. I couldn’t help comparing this with the situation where animals are found in the same condition. In both situations comparable media adverse publicity is given but in the latter case the perpetrators are fined and have a criminal record against their name. In some cases they are banned from owning pets again.

Why are the two situations dealt with so differently and why is the offence against older humans considered of less importance than that against animals? Does it mean that here in the ACT older humans are thought to be of less importance than animals and have less rights? Does the fact that the offences against humans were perpetrated by the Anglican church make them lesser offences?

My concerns have been heightened by the fact that a hostel on the same site, run by the same church, has now been found to have failed government standards and it will also be monitored for 6 months.

Is this laxity in enforcement standards because a church is involved or is it automatically assumed that humans have fewer rights than animals? Both groups of victims here are often equally vulnerable and bereft of speech.

It is high time that we stopped treating older people as second class citizens with fewer rights than their younger brothers and sisters. I have long complained that the two major organisations which purport to represent older Australians, both given huge government grants, have their own agendas which don’t really have much to do with older people but a lot to do with their own ambitions. One openly admits that it is only concerned with the 50 – 65 year old age group i.e. the pre-ageing. We really need a genuine organisation which represents us and which would push for legislatory action in the case above to genuinely protect those in the later stage of life, particularly those no longer able to defend themselves. Merely giving these organisations a reprimand will not prevent it happening again.