COVID-19: Royal Commision into aged care update - LGBTIQ+ Health Australia

COVID-19: Royal Commision into Aged Care Update


The Alliance has been funded to represent the views, experiences and aspirations of older LGBTI people utilising the aged care system.


Three submissions have so far been presented; one general submission, one on the workforces, and one on the design of our aged care system.

These submissions were developed through a co-design process involving the establishment of a Royal Commission Advisory Group, online surveys and a series of face-to-face group consultations with older LGBTI people, their carers, friends and family, and LGBTI aged care workers.

We presented at the special hearing that focused on diversity in aged care. 

We emphasised the need to shift the model of the aged care system itself, rather than delivering add-ons and additions.

This would directly facilitate inclusive practice, delivery and access for the diverse spectrum of needs that the ageing community requires.

Our Silver Rainbow training for the aged care sector workforce and the Rainbow Tick accreditation are some ways to work towards ensuring a safe, welcoming and celebratory environment for older LGBTI people accessing residential and home based aged care.

In October 2019 the Aged Care Royal Commission released its Interim Report, titled “Neglect”. The collective experience of many older LGBTI people would confirm this impression of aged care services.

Commissioners identified immediate action needs to be taken to provide more Home Care Packages to reduce waiting lists for higher-level care at home. Again, this raises issues specific to the LGBTI experience. Disturbingly, the report also identified significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care.

The Alliance is now embarking on a new round of consultations. We will produce submissions to address the interim report, and to review any gaps in the work we have done so far.

We will be prioritising LGBTI elders and older people in regional areas, and consulting separately with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups. We will be speaking specifically with First Nations people to reflect their experience, as well as people with a disability and those living with dementia.

Standard 1 of the National Aged Care Quality Standards emphasises consumer dignity, agency and choice. “I am treated with dignity and respect and can maintain my identity. I can make informed choices about my care and services and live the life I choose.”

This holds the promise of positive change for all LGBTI older people who use aged care services. We hope the outcome of the Royal Commission will deliver on this promise.



The Alliance is committed to representing the widest range of views from our communities – we are also committed to protecting the health and safety of all LGBTI people.

The current COVID 19 threat means that we cannot bring groups of people together, particularly older or more vulnerable people.

This means that we need to find a different way to ensure our community is fully consulted. We are currently working with our partners on some innovative ways to collect the views of the community, including a series of targeted interviews which will be written up and included in our final submissions.



The deadline for submissions to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be extended by two months to 30 June 2020.

The Commissioners suspended all hearings, workshops and group consultations of the Royal Commission for the time being, subject to ongoing review.

The Commissioners recognise that meaningful engagement with the aged care sector during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is not possible and have therefore allowed more time for their involvement in the inquiry.

Read more on the Commission website.


Access to care for older LGBTI people is impacted by experiences specific to their sexual orientation, gender diversity and/or variations in sex characteristics. Older LGBTI people have lived through a time of severe prejudice and stigmatisation, criminalisation, the  HIV/AIDs epidemic, and some continue to experience systemic violence and abuse on a daily basis.

Older LGBTI people tell us that they have faced discrimination when accessing employment, housing, social welfare, basic health and reproductive services. Access to these services is exacerbated by widespread isolation, resulting in a much-reduced social capacity.

LGBTI older people are often at risk of being excluded from participating in civic, political, social, cultural and community building activities, as they have been rejected by family and have lost the community connection which enables this participation.

Exclusion from religious institutions, health providers, businesses, government, support agencies, faith, LGBTI communities, families, friends, and individuals has resulted in a tendency for older LGBTI people to remain in, or return to, the closet. They may be reluctant to even reveal their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity, and reluctant to make complaints when they experience prejudice or discrimination.

Older LGBTI people told us that aged care services do not often feel safe to access. We heard of recurring experiences including refused service, denied visitation, being prevented from displaying pictures of partners and significant others, aged care services preventing partners from participating in decision making about care, a lack of compassion after the death of same-sex partners, breaches of privacy, disrespecting a person’s wish to dress according to their gender, and daily micro aggressions including regular, casual and unchallenged negative remarks.

 An older gay man, aged 69, told us: “You have to assess so many things…A heterosexual person says I am going to get the care I want…I think, ‘will I get the care I need’, because I’m rainbow, or will I not?”


As our campaign moved to the online space with the impact of COVID-19, we partnered with community project 55upitty to feature community members Liz and Lyn. 


For our age group, we have numbers on our side.  I’m lucky because I am financially secure and I’m very aware that many other women can’t afford what I have and don’t have enough…we need to be aware of those women, making sure they can participate.  

For me, the best is yet to come. 

I do find it frustrating when women say, I can’t do that I’m an old woman.  The body is actually very capable.  I hope I am promoting a healthy lifestyle, physical wellbeing by being physically active.

I qualified as a lawyer after I came to Sydney. I was angry. I’d been involved in a prosecution about health insurance claims, and I found that the whole legal environment leaves people powerless. They speak in words that many people don’t understand. It’s a hostile environment. I wanted to learn about it.

It made me understand that it’s the same in medicine, the doctors have the power because they have the language. That elevates them away from ordinary people. It’s about hierarchies and privilege and authority. I soon became interested in refugee protection and human rights. When I finished law I became a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal. Then to the Social Security Tribunal. 


You can’t deny you’re getting old. Things fall off, and they wrinkle. 

We lesbians really need to think seriously about a lesbian old people’s home…

After working all my life except for five years having my children it was strange not going to work every day, and it took some time to find my rhythm, but retirement for artists is a golden time and hopefully it will shine for me for a long while yet.  I still have lots to do.  Everyday I turn on my computer and I find interesting work offers, like teaching short courses in schools, or judging a lesbian photography competition.

What do we want to leave behind? We need to think about our health more than we do, as a community, and the impact of our use of drugs and alcohol. 

As featured on 55Upitty. All photography by Viv McGregor.

The project aims to record the history of women who have been, and the women who still are, involved in lesbian, feminist, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer activism and culture, but also to represent that we are still here. That age does not make us irrelevant, asexual, harmless, style-less, conservative, invisible, or insignificant. This project will create an archive, but a living archive, not to be merely relegated to dusty ‘history’, but a present-archive, mapping and representing our past, our present and our visions of the future.


LGBTI referral pages for COVID-19:

Up to date information on coronavirus is available here from the Commonwealth Department of Health.

For information on novel coronavirus use the Department of Health Coronavirus Line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1800 020 080. 

If you are experiencing distress and would like to talk with a peer please use QLife webchat here.

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ABOUT LGBTIQ+ Health Australia
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, (formerly the National LGBTI Health Alliance), is the national peak health organisation in Australia for organisations and individuals that provide health-related programs, services and research focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people and other sexuality, gender and bodily diverse (LGBTIQ+) people and communities. Dropping the “+” from our name only occurs within digital formats that do not allow mathematical symbols, such as within our domain name, handles and hashtags.
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia, their diversity, histories and knowledge and their continuing connections to land and community. We pay our respects to all Australian Indigenous Peoples and their cultures, and to Elders of past, present and future generations.