Victorian mental health royal commission final report finds system operates in crisis mode


Victoria’s mental health system operates in crisis mode, has “catastrophically failed to live up to expectations” and must be rebuilt, a damning report from the state’s mental health royal commission has found.

There need to be major changes to stop hospital emergency departments being entry points to assistance and a boost to community-based services which are currently underfunded, the report says.

Among the final report’s 65 recommendations, outlined in a mammoth five-volume report, are the phasing out of seclusion and restraints treatments over the next decade, and making compulsory treatments an option of last resort.

Premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to implement all the recommendations, but is yet to work out an estimate of how much that might cost and has ruled out a special levy in the upcoming budget.

The royal commission’s chair, Penny Armytage, said more than 12,500 submissions from individuals and organisations were received over the two years.

The report said the system was “over-reliant” on medication, and the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s bushfires had highlighted the system’s failures.

Demand has now overtaken the capacity of the system, prompting the royal commission to recommend up to 60 community-based adult mental health services be established across the state, with another 22 high-level treatment services delivered in partnership with local hospitals.

The report says there should also be 13 services specific to young people who can access those services up until their 26th birthday.

All of these services should have 24-hour care and phone service available.

The commission has also recommended triple-0 calls regarding mental health crises be directed to ambulance officers instead of police, in an effort to provide a care response.

The state would be divided into eight regions, with each to have at least one top-level emergency department equipped to deal with mental health crisis and addiction treatment.

Access to services in rural and regional areas needs to be improved in order to stop people having to travel vast distances to get help.

To address the gap in services in the rural and regional areas, the commission calls for incentives to attract and retain workers in the bush.

Every year around one in five Victorians experience mental health issues.

About 3 per cent of the population — roughly 200,000 people — have a “severe” mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The report has also recommended that 2,000 of the homes being built as part of Victoria’s $5.3 billion public housing project be constructed as supported housing for Victorians living with mental illness.

The final report can be viewed in full on the royal commission’s website.

The major reform is likely to cost billions of dollars.

The report has recommended Victoria work closely with the Commonwealth and other states to properly implement change.

Mr Andrews said his government was committed to providing better care.

“These recommendations will serve as our blueprint for delivering the biggest social reform in a generation: building our mental health — from the ground up.”

In a press conference later, he said the essence of the report was that health services had to provide care much earlier and much closer to home.

“Local early, not hospital late,” he said.

“It’s all about keeping people well.”

Asked whether the government had an estimate on how much implementing the recommendations would cost, the Premier said he did not, but would provide more details about funding in the budget.

“It will take some time but this is not a cost, it’s a profound investment in a system that will be there when you need it,” he said.

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Victorian Royal Commission the final piece in solving the national mental health reform puzzle


Mental Health Australia has today welcomed the release of the final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, and the commitment to implement all recommendations, saying such action should be a further catalyst for driving national reform.

Mental Health Australia CEO, Dr Leanne Beagley says the report, and others like it, will now shape the path for an effective national agreement on how best to deliver, and pay for, mental health services in Australia.

“Less than four months after the release of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, and following yesterday’s Final Report from the Aged Care Royal Commission, we now see another important report, this time at a state level, which will further help inform generational reform for mental health across Australia,” said Dr Beagley.

“The recommendations for clear and direct action in these reports — recommendations that have been formed through extensive engagement with the sector, especially with people with lived experience of mental ill health — must now sit at the centre of a National Agreement for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

“The recommendations in Victoria, and the legislative changes that will follow, will provide a way forward to act, and solve the puzzle of how best to integrate services across the lifespan, from acute and bed-based services to community-based supports, to help improve the lives of the one in five Australians affected by mental illness each year.

“The review and reflection over the last two years has been welcomed and needed, with lived experience leadership at its heart, and it has coincided with a time in our world where the focus on mental health and wellbeing has never been higher, nor more important, especially when we consider the expected long term effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“With these reports finalised, federal, state and territory governments now have a set of recommendations on which to act, and on which to achieve true generational reform for mental health in Australia.

“The mental health of our nation, and our communities and for all Australians is of the utmost importance.

“The challenge now is to find agreement on who will do what, by when, why, and how, a process which is already underway through the Health Reform Committee that has been tasked to deliver a new agreement on mental health and suicide prevention by November 2021.”

Ends.

Media Contact:
Lachlan Searle – 0488 076 088
Email: Lachlan.Searle@mhaustralia.org

About Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Australia is the peak, national non-government organisation representing and promoting the interests of the Australian mental health sector and committed to achieving better mental health for all Australians. It was established in 1997 as the first independent peak body in Australia to represent the full spectrum of mental health stakeholders and issues. Mental Health Australia members include national organisations representing consumers, carers, special needs groups, clinical service providers, professional bodies, public and private mental health service providers, researchers and state/territory community mental health peak bodies.

 

 

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Victorian government appoints Sir David Carruthers to oversee Lawyer X royal commission recommendations


A former judge from New Zealand has been appointed by the Victorian government to oversee the implementation of all of the recommendations made by the Lawyer X royal commission.

Sir David Carruthers is a former chair of the New Zealand Independent Police Conduct Authority and former judge of the New Zealand family and youth courts.

He was knighted in 2009 for his service to the District Courts.

The appointment of the Implementation Monitor was announced by Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes who said Sir David would report annually on his progress to “bolster community confidence in the justice system”.

The royal commission, which reported on November 30, investigated the role of Nicola Gobbo, the lawyer who informed to police on her clients in Melbourne’s bloody underworld war.

The commission made 111 recommendations, all of which would implemented in full, the government said.

Among the recommendations was appointing a special investigator to determine whether Ms Gobbo and police officers broke the law, implementing new safeguards for using human sources, and requiring lawyers to speak up if they suspected other lawyers of misconduct.

Appointing an independent monitor who would assess and report on the implementation of the recommendations was one of the report’s final recommendations.

The report heard from 82 witnesses over 129 days of public and private evidence.

“The royal commission gave us a clear blueprint for restoring public confidence in the justice system by making sure these events never happen again,” Ms Symes said.

“We’re getting on with implementing all the recommendations of the royal commission and the independent monitor will play a vital role in holding this progress to account.”

Ms Symes also announced the government had appointed an independent senior counsel to report on and review the 11 human source files which were not handed given to the commission on “public interest immunity grounds.”

She did not name the senior counsel.

The legislation giving the Implementation Monitor all of the necessary powers will be introduced into the Victorian Parliament later this year.

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Aged care royal commission’s recommendations must be adopted in full, advocate say


Advocates are calling for all the recommendations in the final report from the aged care royal commission to be adopted ahead of its release this week.

Since 2014, Honorine Dowie, a 25-year veteran of the sector, has been campaigning for better staffing, facilities and building standards in regional areas.

“It’s like you have one carer for 15 residents and you have wake them up, give them their breakfast, give them their shower all that sort of stuff,” she said.

“You would have to leave one resident if the buzzer went off, because somebody else needed you and you had to check to make sure they were OK.”

She said the issues she saw included people with high care needs coming into low care buildings without the extra staff to accommodate their needs.

“People were on the floor, increased falls, increased UTIs, increased risk of depression in residents,” she said.

“All over the country, increased suicide attempts because staff couldn’t answer call bells.

“They’d press the call bells, and it would be 20 minutes before it would get answered at minimum.

Ms Dowie said a lack of additional training for staff to know how to treat residents with dementia and psychiatric needs had left staff in distress.

She said workers felt as if they were part of a system that was not giving residents the care they needed.

Last week Ms Dowie travelled to Canberra to call for political support ahead of the final report.

Ms Dowie said she wanted to see mandatory staff ratios across the private and public sectors.

She also called for funding transparency that would compel providers to tell the government how they were spending the money they were given.

About a 1,000 people in the electorate of Indi, in Victoria’s north-east, have been assessed as needing a home care package.

But they are still waiting — and independent Member Helen Haines says that is a major concern.

“I know in Bright there is a whole community of people that are very concerned that high-level aged care is not available to them in their town,” she said.

During the last federal election Dr Haines called for a maximum 90-day wait time for home care packages to be delivered.

“We know that people in their 90s are often asked to wait two to three years before they get a home care package,” she said.

“That is not good enough.

“I think that three months is a reasonable length of time for someone to be assessed, for the paperwork to be completed and for the money to flow, and then that older person and their family [will be] able to make those decisions around the providers of care into their home.”

Dr Haines described the royal commission’s 2019 interim report as “horrifying” and said she expected serious and far-reaching recommendations in the final report.

“I’ll be doing everything that I can to ensure that the government takes up those recommendations,” she said.

“Now what has to be done is to make our nation one of the best places in the world to age with dignity and respect and to have a quality of life right through until the last days of your life.”

Australian Aged Care Collaboration member and Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Patricia Sparrow said despite there having been 20 inquiries in 20 years, the major issues remained.

She said while there have been obvious failings by successive governments to act on the recommendations of those inquiries, the sector also had a level of responsibility.

“We have to take responsibility and I think we have — we’ve accepted that there are failings in the system that are as a result of things that have gone wrong with aged care providers,” Ms Sparrow said.

“We are devasted when those things happen and we have been doubling our efforts to try and stop those things occurring.”

“Currently in rural and regional facilities 78 per cent are operating at a loss.

“There is a combination of what we will need to do as a sector, what government will need to do and what we are going to need to decide as a community about how we want aged care to be delivered and what that means.”

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Split from royal life ‘unbelievably tough’, Prince Harry says in Oprah Winfrey interview


Harry and Meghan sat opposite Winfrey and side-by-side, holding hands during the interview that was conducted in a lush garden setting. The couple lives in Montecito, California, where they are neighbours of Winfrey. Meghan, who recently announced she is pregnant with the couple’s second child, wore an empire-style black dress with embroidery. Harry wore a light gray suit and white dress shirt, minus a tie.

As Meghan Markle, the actor starred in the TV legal drama Suits. She married Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and their son, Archie, was born a year later.

The brief promotional clip was one of two of that aired on Sunday during CBS’s 60 Minutes. Winfrey’s questions and comment were predominant in the other clip, including her statement that, “You said some pretty shocking things here,” without an indication of what she was referring to. Meghan was not heard from in the clips.

Harry and Meghan stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, unhappy at media scrutiny and the strictures of their roles. They cited what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who is African American.

It was agreed the situation would be reviewed after a year. Last month, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple will not be returning to royal duties and Harry will give up his honorary military titles – a decision that makes formal, and final, the couple’s split from the royal family.

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The pair, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, verified “they will not be returning as working members of the royal family”.

A spokesperson for the couple hit back at suggestions that Meghan and Harry were not devoted to duty.

“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a statement

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Australia’s aged care system set for $452 million boost following release of royal commission report



The federal government will spend $452 million to fix Australia’s aged care system as part of a first step in responding to the royal commission into the sector.

The final report of the two-and-a-half-year federal inquiry was released on Monday and includes 148 recommendations.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the inquiry’s final report has set out a roadmap that will establish “generational change” in Australia’s aged care sector.

“Australians must be able to trust that their loved ones will be cared for appropriately and the community should have confidence in the system,” he told reporters.

The first recommendation in the final report is to create a new aged care act, coming into force no later than July 2023.

Commissioners Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs wrote in the final report the current aged care system and its “weak and ineffective regulatory arrangements did not arise by accident”. 

“The move to ritualistic regulation was a natural consequence of the government’s desire to restrain expenditure in aged care,” they wrote.

“In essence, having not provided enough funding for good quality care, the regulatory arrangements could only pay lip service to the requirement that the care that was provided be of high quality.”

The royal commission was told countless tales of abuse and neglect across two years of hearings, with its 2019 interim paper urging a complete overhaul of a “woefully inadequate” system.

It found there was an overuse of drugs to “restrain” aged care residents, while younger people with disabilities were stuck in aged care.

Pay and conditions for staff were poor, workloads heavy and severe difficulties existed in recruitment and retention, it also noted.

The sector, which is predominantly funded by the Commonwealth, has come under increased scrutiny during the pandemic with hundreds of aged care residents dying from COVID-19.

More to come.

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What will the aged care royal commission recommend? We think we know, and how the government will respond


Over the past three years, I’ve examined hundreds of hours of hidden camera footage from Australia’s nursing homes.

Some showed outright physical abuse, others revealed the so-called rough handling that comes from untrained, insensitive and overworked carers.

There was one video showing the physical assault of a frail woman with dementia that was so vicious that, by the end of production I had to avert my eyes and block my ears in the edit suite.

But there is one collection of footage that remains firmly in my mind, because instead of revealing an explosion of violence it shows a type of human rights abuse that is so common in aged care that it goes almost unremarked.

It creeps up over weeks, months and years, and yet is almost impossible to prove and is never investigated by the police.

It’s called neglect.

It’s also the title of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s interim report, because it is the overriding theme in the 10,000 submissions the inquiry received.

Luigi Cantali was 80, blind, and had dementia. Despite his disabilities, the video revealed Luigi also had a great attitude to life and a cheeky sense of humour, but none of those saved him from neglect.

Luigi Cantali and his daughter Eva.

At his Sydney nursing home, Luigi was only taken from his room to go to the bathroom or shower, and that wasn’t often.

Despite soiled incontinence pads leaking on to his clothes, his chair and the floor, he was rarely changed, nor was disinfectant consistently used to clean his room.

Footage showed one carer spraying his body and his clothes with deodorant.

When it came to meals, carers promised to feed him but left without returning.

On one day, the blind man managed to find a mango on his tray, which he peeled and devoured.

Another day, the tray is left out of his reach and 40 minutes later taken away by a carer, untouched.

On other occasions, Luigi was lifted naked in a hoist, taken out to the corridor for everyone to see, with no regard for his dignity.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Luigi Cantali’s daughter hid a camera in his Sydney nursing home.

But perhaps the most common image in the footage was Luigi alone, sitting in his chair or lying in his bed.

Occasionally he called out “hello?” in case someone should pass by his room.

His questions to carers about going out for a walk ignored, the cries for his wife plaintive, and his basic desire to connect with another human being quashed.

When the hidden camera was discovered by Carino Care, the private nursing home in Sydney where Luigi lived, management reported Luigi’s daughter to police, suggesting she was violating his privacy.

The police quickly dismissed that suggestion but didn’t investigate Carino Care about conditions for Luigi.

At the time of publishing Luigi’s story, Carino Care said it hadn’t viewed the footage because it was “a police matter” and that it had provided Luigi “with the best possible care.”

But when the regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, went and inspected the nursing home days after our story aired, it sanctioned Carino Care for putting residents at “serious risk”, finding it failed 24 out of 44 quality and safety standards.

Luigi’s family moved him to a new nursing home, but he died within six days.

Overwhelming evidence of aged care issues

Luigi’s hidden camera was put in place in December 2018, a few short months after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a royal commission into aged care.

That announcement came just the day before a special two-part investigation into aged care aired on Four Corners.

Who Cares? was the result of the ABC’s largest crowdsourced investigation at that time, which resulted in more than 4,000 families and staff from around Australia telling us their stories from inside nursing homes.

We heard of an overwhelming amount of work done by too few people with too little training; sexual and physical abuse swept under the carpet; $6 a day food bills; humiliations like continence pads restricted to three-per-day; a lack of transparency about how providers spend taxpayer dollars; and a broken regulatory and complaints system.

That evidence was repeated hundreds of times throughout two years of the royal commission’s hearings and now forms the final report, which was handed to the Governor-General on Friday.

It is expected the government will release that final report today, and we already have a good idea of what will be in it because counsel assisting laid out all 124 recommendations in the final hearings last October.

More surprising for this kind of inquiry is that we also know which changes the government is likely to reject — it’s all there in black and white on the royal commission’s website in a submission by the Commonwealth, namely the Department of Health and the federal aged care regulator.

For those who are cynical about the value of a royal commission, it makes grim reading.

Of the 124 recommendations, the joint submission supports just eight entirely.

They are completely opposed to six of them, while the vast majority — at least half — are referred to as being “supported in principle”.

They reject one of the royal commission’s key proposals to have an independent body separate from the government dictating the funding levels.

At the same time, the government submission questions introducing extra reporting requirements for aged care companies to publish how they spend the more than $20 billion in taxpayer money that goes to the sector.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may try to argue that this submission from the department and the regulator doesn’t reflect the government view — an argument few would believe possible since ministers and the leadership direct their departments in policy.

Of the more than 100 recommendations, here are some of the responses.

Staffing mix agreed, but reporting shouldn’t be ‘overly burdensome’

Unlike in child care and hospitals, there are no staffing ratios in aged care.

There is not even a requirement to have a registered nurse on duty.

The staff in part one of Who Cares? talked about registered nurses being in charge of over 100 residents and skeleton staff on night duty.

Instead of suggesting minimum staffing numbers, the royal commission is recommending a “minimum staff time” for residents given by a “skills mix” of qualified nurses and personal care workers to do the hands-on work.

The aim is to ensure the average resident receives three hours of care per day plus another half an hour from a registered nurse.

That would be a vast improvement on what we have currently, with a royal commission study showing more than half of Australia’s facilities would rate just one or two stars in the US five-star rating system when it comes to staffing.

But while the government “supports the intent” of that change, it adds that the amount of time needed “varies significantly with the acuity of residents, and as a result the level and type of staff time appropriate for each facility will also vary”.

The suggestion — which echoes the industry line — is that some residents need less than three and a half hours of direct care per day.

That seems hard to believe considering most people entering aged care now do so as a last resort and are therefore older, more frail, sicker and require more assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, walking and attending to medical needs.

The Department of Health and the federal regulator also warn that reporting staff numbers on a quarterly basis as suggested shouldn’t be “overly burdensome” for aged care providers.

The government is more supportive of the need for having at least one registered nurse rostered on every shift.

Before the Aged Care Act of 1997 was introduced by then-prime minister John Howard, a registered nurse on duty 24/7 was a requirement in aged care.

Now the royal commission wants them back and, although the department and regulator say they “support the intent” of at least one registered nurse on-site at all times, they say exceptions would need to be made for rural and remote areas.

Advocates want the nurses back but are concerned with the long deadline the royal commission has given of 2024 to have the measure in place.

Mandatory qualifications ‘shouldn’t be a barrier’ for carers

In child care, staff need a Certificate III qualification to work.

However, in aged care there’s no minimum training requirement for personal care assistants who make up 70 per cent of all staff and who do the crucial work of showering, feeding and mobilising the elderly.

Training is so loosely defined in the sector: It can be one carer training another on the job over a period of days.

Throughout our many stories on aged care, the lack of training and knowledge of staff has been one of the consistent themes.

And it’s in hidden camera footage that it can be most clearly seen, such as the case of Ernie Poloni at Bupa Templestowe.

Ernie’s family installed the camera to find out why his pyjamas were consistently ripped and found the 85-year-old was handled roughly by a variety of staff.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Ernie’s family put a secret camera in his room to find out why his pyjamas were regularly torn.(Supplied)

But while the royal commission will recommend a Certificate III be the minimum training requirement in aged care, the federal regulator and the Department of Health say it “shouldn’t be a barrier to staff” who want to work in the sector and “who have the right attitude and aptitude to provide care”.

They say it should “take into account challenges posed by areas of low workforce supply such as rural and remote areas”, and that people should be able to gain the certificate while working on the job.

The peak industry groups share that view.

That’s probably because they are already struggling to attract workers and know that many people will not pay for a certificate for a job that often pays $21 an hour, just over a dollar per hour more than the minimum wage.

The government also takes exception to the royal commission’s recommendation staff should have mandatory dementia and palliative care training saying that may not be “practical or feasible” and instead should be considered part of “best practice guidance” rather than mandatory.

Considering half the residents in aged care have dementia and — realistically — almost all of them will die in there, this seems a shocking objection.

A lack of training in dementia is known to lead to the overuse of drugs and sedatives.

No support for plan to stop GPs prescribing antipsychotics

Chemical restraint, or the use of antipsychotics to control dementia behaviours, has been front and centre in our aged care stories.

The overuse of physical and chemical restraints has been described as a human rights abuse with the Australian Law Reform Commission making recommendations to stop it six years ago — reforms that were ignored by the government.

In January 2019, we broadcast pictures of Terry Reeves, who suffered after being physically and chemically restrained while on a respite stay in a Sydney nursing home.

An old man in two photographs side by side. In one he is sitting up smiling, the other he is slumped over, his head on his knees
Terry Reeves on his first day in the home and seven weeks later.(Supplied)

That case was examined at the royal commission and showed that the GP who attended the nursing home increased the dosage of risperidone at the request of staff.

The royal commission wants changes made by November this year so that only a psychiatrist or geriatrician can authorise the initial prescription of antipsychotics.

But the federal regulator and the department oppose that change, saying it is not “feasible” as there are not enough specialists to do the job and that “improved clinician education” will stop the overuse of the drugs.

That will anger many, especially when it’s known that antipsychotics are not always effective, can cause death and that GPs can be coerced by overworked staff who don’t have the numbers or knowledge to deal with challenging behaviours.

On the other hand, others say the measure is short-sighted, as GPs will find other drugs to use if antipsychotics are restricted.

The answer, they say, is more trained qualified nursing and care staff who view psychotropic drugs as a last resort.

Home care waiting list

The royal commission wants the home care waiting list — at the moment topping 100,000 people — cleared by the end of the year.

Portrait of an elderly lady clutching her teddy.
Evelyn Micallef waited more than a year for funds to be released on an approved upgrade to her homecare package.(ABC News)

We’ve interviewed families like those of Evelyn Micallef, who waited 18 months for the highest level package despite crippling dementia and her inability to walk.

The average wait for Level 4 packages is over two years, with estimates that 28,000 people died waiting between 2018 and 2020.

Clearing the waiting list is supported “in principle” by the Department of Health, which says it’s already doing that with the “progressive release of packages at a rate that the sector can implement”.

Although the federal government says it has now “funded” 50,000 home care packages, in reality, it has only “released” just over a third of those (or 17,000) which is why the waitlist remains so long.

What the government doesn’t say is that they’re holding back the packages because there is a massive shortage of home care workers.

The workforce shortage is a major problem in both residential and home care, which is why it’s puzzling that the regulator and department have rejected the recommendation that the government take charge of the Aged Care Workforce Council.

Once again, the government has a “hands off ” approach, leaving it to the industry to tackle a massive social issue as our population ages.

The federal regulator and department also warned that clearing the waiting list could put the elderly at risk because it will require more home care providers “who are inexpert” and the regulator will be busy monitoring them as they “will pose a significant regulatory uplift”.

It certainly will require an uplift.

Last year, the federal regulator did just 76 reviews of home care providers out of more than 900.

Split report expected

As for the future of funding and regulating the sector, this is the great sticking point that looks likely to split the commissioners.

A man and a woman sit in front of the royal commission signage.
Royal Commissioners the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO.(Supplied: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety)

During the final hearings in October last year, commissioner Lynelle Briggs voiced her opposition to a new statutory corporate body — away from Canberra — while fellow commissioner Tony Pagone QC was in favour of it.

It is clear the government supports Ms Briggs’ view, saying it would need to be convinced changing the regulatory body would improve the sector for the better.

The large cost of creating a new regulatory arm also seems to be on the government’s mind.

It seems likely the commissioners will disagree on other key recommendations too, judging by comments heard from Mr Pagone when speaking to the Governor-General, saying final proposals “have been difficult to reach” as the two have “different views on key measures”.

Overall, the Commonwealth submission gives a clear impression that the government is worried about the vast cost the reforms would entail.

If it is a split report, it’s easy to imagine the government implementing the least costly recommendation from either commissioner.

For example, the government opposes new Medicare benefit schedules for doctors to do three-monthly or six-monthly checks on aged care residents.

While it agrees on the need for an online rating system to allow families to compare nursing homes, it claims it already has a system in place on My Aged Care and the regulator’s website.

However, that’s not the case, with no publicly available information on staffing, complaints, assault or performance reports to assist someone in choosing the best aged care home.

It’s also opposed to extra measures to ensure increased governance by members of boards however the department has, once again, argued there should not be an extra burden on aged care providers.

The royal commission has heard from many traumatised families and staff throughout its hearings but there’s been little acknowledgement of that pain.

Dealing with literally hundreds of people myself, I can say that there are many damaged people who witnessed shocking neglect and abuse, who were further injured by providers who denied their stories and the final blow, saw no penalty meted out by the federal regulator — even when neglect and abuse were proven.

The Prime Minister’s oft-repeated claim that he called the royal commission because he wants the sector changed, rings hollow if the government is again going to ignore how to fix a broken system.

That has already happened with over 20 reports into problems in the sector gathering dust over the past decade.

The question is, will the government go so far as to ignore reforms recommended by the highest form of inquiry this country has to offer?

If the submission from its department and regulator is anything to go by, the answer is, unfortunately, yes.

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Tasmanian waters have become the newest training ground for the Royal Australian Navy


Off Tasmania’s coastline, Royal Australian Navy personnel have started to get acquainted with their newest allies.

The Navy and the Australian Maritime College (AMC), based in northern Tasmania, struck a $4.7 million three-year autonomous marine systems training deal last August.

Under the deal, up to 80 Navy personnel will study in Tasmania each year and be taught by AMC staff how to use autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), also known as aquatic robots, to enhance the country’s war fighting efforts.

The deal is now one year in and training has ramped up.

The latest Navy team to complete its training at Beauty Point, right near the top of the island state, was a hydrographic one.

Damien Guihen is teaching Navy personnel how to use AUVs.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

The AMC’s autonomous marine system specialist Damien Guihen said the team would use the device to help map the world’s oceans.

“So they use it for mapping out areas maybe around beaches or places where they might need to bring ships,” Mr Guihen said.

“Using a robotic platform such as an AUV, it allows us to make measurements where maybe you don’t want to send somebody or it allows us to get closer to the seabed, so it makes operations generally safer and it allows us to free up people to do other tasks.”

Two people stand on a boat pulling an autonomous underwater vehicle on board.
Learning how to use AUVs is one way the Navy is helping bolster Australia’s war fighting efforts.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

‘It’s finally made them cool’

The training is also helping the navy find more underwater sea mines.

Chris White, who is the AMC’s Defence and Autonomous Systems manager, used to be a Royal Australian Navy diver.

A man stands on a dock in front of a ship.
Chris White says using AUVs helps reduce the risk to Navy personnel when searching for mines.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

He said the Navy had recently started using AUVs as part of its mine countermeasures — in other words, finding underwater mines.

“They’re using that technology to either remove the risk from the operator or the person or make it faster,” Mr White said.

“Certainly as a diver, the ability of that technology to search or go and look at large areas underwater is 10 to 20 times faster than what an actual human diver could do.

“Autonomy isn’t going to remove the people. You still need the people to understand the technology and that’s really what AMC is trying to help the Navy with.

“It’s getting those skills, knowledge and experience to use those new systems safely, effectively and reliably.”

Two Navy personnel bring an AUV on board a boat.
Learning how to use AUVs will help the Navy search underwater faster.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

It is unclear exactly how many sea mines planted during world wars and other conflicts are still out there.

“They’re probably inherently safe because they’ve been sitting on the bottom and batteries will have run down, but autonomous technology allows you to go and look for those safely without needing to expose people to extra risk,” Mr White said.

“Obviously there’s still the need for the human to deal with it once it’s been found.”

The $4.7 million training deal has helped the AMC secure four jobs.

Reuben Kent, who is one of AMC’s trainers, said it was good to see other agencies using the devices.

What makes Tasmania the ‘ideal’ AUV training base?

Apart from Tasmania having the country’s only maritime college, Mr White said the state’s topography and diversity of waters helped with AUV training.

The main AUV training grounds used by the AMC and Navy this year have been at Beauty Point, Lake St Clair and Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast.

“The ability for us to access things like high tidal flows, like in the Tamar River, or deep waters up in Lake St Clair or the central highland or stratified waters, which is like layered water over on the west coast — you just can’t get that anywhere else in Australia, so Tasmania is an ideal training environment,” Mr White said.

View of Lake St Clair
The deep waters of Lake St Clair are an ideal training ground for the Navy.(Supplied: Charles Chadwick)

Royal Australian Navy Commodore John Stavridis said the Navy had been working with the AMC for some time and first worked together with autonomous systems in 2017.

“They are at the forefront of advances in this technology, so we’ve been able to work with them and they actually teach us the basics and more higher capabilities for what robotics can do,” Commodore Stavridis said.

Five people stand around a computer looking at data.
Up to 80 Navy personnel will learn how to use AUVs in Tasmania each year.(ABC News: Manika Champ)

He said the Navy was moving more toward autonomous devices to enhance its capabilities.

“This is just the advancement of technology rather than something new or a step change in what we’re doing,” Commodore Stavridis said.

“These robots and autonomous systems help us do our job as war fighters.

“The actual intent is to use robotic and autonomous systems largely to keep our sailors and our war fighters out of the minefield.

Mr White said as well as working with the Navy, the maritime college was also working with the University of Tasmania to provide short, undergraduate and postgraduate level autonomous marine systems course so the public could learn more about AUVs.

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Prince Harry gets fresh about leaving royal duties, living in California


Prince Harry said he didn’t walk away from his royal duties, in an appearance on The Late, Late Show with James Corden that aired early Friday.

Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, stepped away from full-time royal life in early 2020. Buckingham Palace confirmed last Friday they will not be returning to royal duties, and Harry will give up his honorary military titles.

Harry told Corden he decided to step away from his work as a front-line member of the royal family to protect his wife and son, as well as his own mental health.

“It was stepping back rather than stepping down,” he said. “It was a really difficult environment, which I think a lot of people saw, so I did what any father or husband would do and thought, how do I get my family out of here? But we never walked away, and as far as I’m concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away.”

WATCH | James Corden tries to convince Prince Harry to buy the Fresh Prince mansion:

Harry and Meghan moved from England to California last year.

The appearance on Corden’s show marked Harry’s first interview since his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, stripped the prince and his wife of their remaining royal duties. Corden’s segment trumped Oprah Winfrey, whose interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is scheduled to air March 7.

During the segment, Harry and Corden tour southern California in an open-top bus, at one point arriving outside the mansion where the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was filmed.

“If it was good enough for the Fresh Prince, it’s good enough for a real prince,” Corden said.

The two then proceed to sing the show’s iconic theme song.

Views on The Crown

At one point, Corden asks Harry what he thinks of the Netflix series The Crown, which delves into the personal lives and public actions of the Royal Family. At times, the show has been criticized for its depictions of real people.

“Of course it’s not strictly accurate,” Harry said, “but loosely … it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everyone else, what can come from that.”

But he noted, “I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the [media] stories written about my family or my wife or myself.”

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