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Research Report: The legal needs of older people
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The legal needs of older people  ( 2004 )  Cite this report



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Chapter 7. Discrimination


Introduction


Older people, like other age groups, experience discrimination on the basis of their age in a variety of contexts in their everyday lives. Just as people under 16 cannot apply for a driver’s licence, people aged 85 and over must successfully complete yearly driving tests to retain their licences. Although this is a discriminatory practice, it is not unlawful. It is reasoned that these decisions further public safety and are therefore justifiable policies.

These lawful regulations determining eligibility for participation in certain areas of public life are distinguishable from other forms of discrimination. In Australian society older people can be made to feel like they are a burden on their families, on the labour market, on health and social services, and on the economy generally.1 From this broader social context, aged individuals can find themselves being forced out of the workforce or shunted into menial jobs, which are not indicative of their skills or capacity for re-skilling. They can be marginalised from the consumer culture due to fixed, low incomes, and they may be denied full citizenship in society as their political power is calibrated to diminish with age. The law attempts to address these issues by outlawing age discrimination in certain public arenas.

Anti-discrimination legislation renders age-discriminatory treatment unlawful in the areas of employment, education, the provision of goods and services, accommodation and registered clubs.2 Like younger people, older people can also experience discrimination based on other grounds, such as sex, race, disability and so on. These other grounds of discrimination can intersect with age and can result in compounding disadvantage. However, this chapter will focus on age discrimination.

In the work context, many people experience the effects of age discrimination at a much earlier age than 65. As the bulk of this chapter deals with age discrimination in the area of employment and many people over the age of 65 are retired, the definition of older people (65+) was extended to include those in the latter stages of their working life.



It should be noted that some cultural groups, represented within Australian society, are known for having a more respectful attitude toward the elderly.
There are various legislative exceptions to the ground of age discrimination set out in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). See, for example, ss. 49ZYI and 49ZYJ.

 It should be noted that some cultural groups, represented within Australian society, are known for having a more respectful attitude toward the elderly.
 There are various legislative exceptions to the ground of age discrimination set out in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). See, for example, ss. 49ZYI and 49ZYJ.


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Ellison, S, Schetzer, L, Mullins, Perry, J & Wong, K 2004, The legal needs of older people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney