Australia urgently needs a national framework and improved standardisation to ensure cities and communities are age-friendly in order to protect all of our rights, including the 3.6 million Australians who are aged 65 years and older.
That’s the advice of ANU College of Law lecturer, Christie Gardiner, whose research into ageing and human rights features heavily in a new Australian Parliamentary report, Building Up & Moving Out, into the federal government’s role in the development of cities.
“With a Royal Commission into Aged Care recently announced, this report couldn’t be more timely," Ms Gardiner says.
"In the coming two decades, over 20 percent of Australia’s population will be aged 65 years or older and a majority will prefer to live in their own homes. The UN has long recognised that urbanisation can only be a force for positive transformation if it respects and promotes human rights.
"This report recognises that urban development has not traditionally occurred with ageing populations in mind, and that needs to change – for the good of the country and the rights of its citizens."
Ms Gardiner’s submissions directly informed recommendations 7 and 8. The first recognised that master planning under a national plan of settlement, which was the primary recommendation of the Committee, requires “nationally consistent policies which establish minimum standards for age-friendly urban development”.
The second recommends the government work with the states and territories “to ensure that nationally consistent age-inclusive standards for urban development are put in place, informed by community consultation and the reviews of international and Australian best practice.”
In her submission, Ms Gardiner wrote that the benefits of best practice, age-friendly urban development were national as well as global.
“With Australia on the doorstep of a rapidly ageing Asia, becoming a leader in age-friendly urban development enhances export opportunities, including within the aged-care and technology sectors” Ms Gardiner wrote, encouraging a shift in public policies which commonly view ageing as a burden rather than a benefit.
Asked what it means to have her work cited by the Committee, Ms Gardiner said “drawing connections between my research and matters of public policy is important to me and is something the ANU encourages. To contribute in some way to national agenda setting is rewarding for any academic.”
“My goal was to ensure that ageing populations were on the Committee’s agenda for this inquiry. My key message is that age-friendly cities and communities must become a political priority if urbanisation is to be a force for positive change, and that requires a national vision.
"Australia is becoming a world leader in local and state-level age-friendly initiatives and it is time to bring these lessons together under the umbrella of a national strategy. Of course, our university campuses have a role to play in achieving this vision too,” Ms Gardiner added.
The Government has six months to provide a written response to the Committee, but may act on the information and recommendations of the report immediately.