Royal Commission loses passionate champion for reform

Aged Care Royal Commissioner Richard Tracey has died after a short battle with cancer.

Aged Care Royal Commissioner Richard Tracey has been remembered as a “fundamentally decent human being” who was passionate about reforming aged care and was always prepared to take a punt to get a good outcome for older Australians.

Royal Commissioner Richard Tracey(AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

Commissioner Tracey died on Friday October 11, at the age of 71, in California, where he had been undergoing treatment for cancer, his colleague Commissioner Lynelle Briggs told a hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Melbourne this morning.

She said that although he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just seven weeks earlier he continued to work on the commission’s interim report during treatment.

She described his death as “a complete shock and absolutely devastating” but said his recommendations for change in aged care would be his legacy.

Kind works and gentle guidance

Commissioner Tracey, who had maintained an empathetic, measured and compassionate presence during hearings, had labelled aspects of the aged care system as cruel and unkind.

“He was prepared to take a punt if it meant we got the best outcome,” Commissioner Briggs said.

“His kind words to our witnesses after their presentations gave them comfort and let them know that they had been heard. His gentle guidance and direction to Royal Commission staff always helped, and made our collective lives so much easier.”

Commissioner Briggs said he had encouraged her to drive the policy agenda beyond change at the margin, to transformative change. The intern report, due to be handed down on October 31, would be his legacy, she said.

Fellow Commissioner Tony Pagone, appointed in mid September, also paid tribute to his colleague, saying it was a reflection of Commissioner Tracey’s character that he worked solidly as a judge despite “carrying an illness which might have crushed others”.

Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Rozen said Commissioner Tracey’s death was keenly felt by counsel assisting, legal teams and all Royal Commission staff.

“Richard was passionate about the work of the Royal Commission and the need for change in the Australian aged care system,” he said.

Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs (AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

Commitment to hearing the truth

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said Commissioner Tracey and demonstrated a strong commitment to hearing the stories of all those who are engaged in aged care.

“LASA agrees with commissioners that the upcoming interim report will be an important part of his legacy,” he said in a statement.

A federal court judge between 2006-2018, Commissioner Tracey was appointed to the Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety on December 6, 2018.

He had previously serviced in the Australian Army from 1975 to 2014 , achieving the rank of Major-General, and held the positions of Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force and Defence Force Appeal Tribunal president.

Commissioner Tracey is survived  by his wife Hilary and their children Jack, Philip, Fiona and Rosie.

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