Australia’s aged care sector witnessed an estimate of 50 sexual assaults each week, a national inquiry has heard.
Since 2019, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has uncovered widespread elder abuse and mistreatment.
On Thursday, investigators said about 2,520 sexual assaults had happened in residential nursing homes in 2018-2019.
“This is a national shame,” counsel Peter Rozen QC told.
“As disturbing as these figures are, the evidence of the lack of follow-up by the Australian government department that receives the reports is, if anything, worse.”
Failures in the sector have drawn great scrutiny this year – more than 75% of Australia’s 903 Coronavirus deaths have been aged care residents.
But Mr Rozen said evidence showed that ‘unlawful sexual conduct’ had long been a concern, adding it was believed to affect 13-18% of aged care residents.
Many people had placed their older or vulnerable relatives in care homes in the belief it would be safer for them, he added.
“It is therefore entirely unacceptable that people in residential aged care face a substantially higher risk of assault than people living in community,” Mr Rozen said.
Overall, investigators estimated that over 32,000 assaults – physical, sexual and emotional – had occurred in a year in such homes.
The abuse perpetrated by carers as well as other residents.
Australia’s top form of inquiry established in 2018 after a series of scandals in government-subsidized homes.
It received more than 10,000 public submissions which detailed concerns of staffing problems, inadequate care, and other matters.