Reparations for Harms Experienced in Residential Aged Care

By Dementia Justice researchers Linda Steele and Kate Swaffer

Today, my blog is to share a newly published journal article I co-authored with my friend and colleague, Dr Linda Steele on the human rights case for reparations for people living in aged care, with a focus on people living with dementia: Reparations for Harms Experienced in Residential Aged Care – Health and Human Rights Journal (


This paper explores the possibility of reparations for harms suffered by people in residential aged care, focusing on experiences of people with dementia. We first explain how systemic and structural harms occur within residential aged care and outline how they constitute human rights violations. Using Australia as a case study, we then consider the limitations of court-based approaches to pursuit of redress and the current absence of redress from policy responses. We then propose an expansive and multifaceted notion of redress as reparations, where governments, residential aged care operators, medical and legal professionals, and civil society engage in ongoing recognition of harms and specific actions to prevent recurrence. By drawing on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Van Boven Principles, we consider the application to aged care of the framework of access to justice and reparations for human rights violations. This framework encompasses inclusive and accessible processes to access reparations for individuals in such forms as compensation and rehabilitation, and collective reparations, including apologies and public education. In order to ensure that reparations support the prevention of further harm in aged care, the design of redress could form part of broader government strategies directed toward increasing funding and access to community-based support, care, and accommodation, and enhancing the human rights of people with dementia.

The journal article is the first publication from our project on redressing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people living with dementia in residential aged care. Using Australia as our case study, we are currently developing a set of dementia redress principles, informed by international human rights norms, lived experiences of other redress schemes, and empirical data from focus groups with people living with dementia care partners and family members of people with dementia who have been harmed in aged care, and advocates and lawyers. Our final project report containing the principles will be released later this year. The project is funded by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation, and Dementia Alliance International and People with Disability Australia are organisational partners on the project.

There is more information on our project here: Dementia Justice | Dementia Redress Project.

Footnote: I’d especially like to thank Linda Steele, as she is exceptional to work with, and truly values me as an equal, and also thank the Health and Human Rights Journal which is published by Harvard University, particularly Carmel Williams, for the attention to detail, and for being such excellent publishers to work with.

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