Speech from The Hon Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner

7 November 2013

The Hon Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, launched Transition to Retirement in Sydney on November 7.

This is her speech:

Transition to Retirement: A Guide to Inclusive Practice, is co-authored by Roger Stancliffe, Nathan Wilson, Nicolette Gambin, Christine Bigby and Susan Balandin. Two of these authors, Roger Stancliffe and Nathan Wilson are from theUniversity of Sydney's Centre for Disability Research and Policy, an organisation at the nexus of research, teaching, policy and practice that has an important role to play in innovation and knowledge translation in the field of disability in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region.

We are all living longer, a lot longer than our grandparents, on average about 30 years longer. We all want these extra years to be a time of added value, for ourselves, for our community and for the economy.

To accompany these increased years of life we have achieved many advances in our knowledge and understanding of the ageing process. Some things that indicate a satisfying later life are clear.

We know that people who are active through their retirement years are happier and have better health than those who find themselves cut off and isolated from the rest of the community.

To make sure we can all add value in our later years, our strategies for positive ageing need to be inclusive, so that every individual can continue to contribute and maintain friendships and social contacts after they retire.

As Age Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, my guiding principle is the theme that human rights are for everyone, everywhere, everyday.

Everyone includes all of us at whatever age we reach. It includes all of us who live with a disability.

Much of my work is aimed at reducing age discrimination that prevents people from working as long as they wish to and are able to, including people with a disability.

This is a huge challenge, but I can see some progress.

Even with longer working lives there will come a time, for all of us, when we will end our paid employment. The next step is to retire. But we want to retire in a way that enables us to continue to enjoy our lives and to make a contribution to our families and communities.

Transition to retirement needs to be done well. There are so many changes and quite a few hazards: in financial matters, in our daily schedules, and usually in our access to our network of friends and contacts. There may be physical changes that mean we can't manage all the things we used to.

These changes apply to all of us. We all need to maintain our friends and networks and we all want to find meaningful and enjoyable activities to replace paid work.

This transition is a big challenge. If not handled well, the retirement years could be a time of disappointment, of losing connexions we value, and of a declining sense of self-worth.

We all can transition successfully but to do so we need to give this stage of life a lot of thought and spend time planning.

It is at this stage that we need guidance and ideas, and this is where the Transition Guide comes in.

As this excellent Guide to Inclusive Practice points out, people with disability moving to retirement have even more things to think about and to plan. The guide will give people in transition and their families and carers a lot of useful information and plenty of practical ideas.

I congratulate the authors Professor Stancliffe and his colleagues.

Their guide is full of sensible advice and useful suggestions. By referring to the experience of real people, going through real transitions, spelling out the opportunities and risks, the guide shows readers what to expect, where the possible negatives might arise and how to find the positive situations.

I particularly like the section on mentors. Many people would like to mentor those transitioning with a disability, and the guide sets out how to do this. Although our community is becoming more inclusive of people with disability, this inclusiveness needs to continue through the retirement years. Would be mentors need guidance and this book provides it.

The section on travel training is important and I especially like the section: when things go wrong.

We don't want things to go wrong but they do, and when this happens, all involved need to be prepared to get the travel back on track.

Most of all, I like the ways in which the guide emphasises community participation and aims at maximising the independence of the retired individuals. This approach builds on what we have learnt in the development of the NDIS, and indeed fits well with the new support and choices that NDIS will provide.

Ageing is inevitable but it should not be a negative. As I noted, in recent years we have seen big increases in life span, especially for some disabilities such as Down Syndrome. These improvements are a triumph of medical science and of the human spirit.

The five authors of this useful road map, Roger Stancliffe, Nathan Wilson, Nicolette Gambin, Christine Bigby and Susan Balandin have done a great job of utilising findings from their research project to pull out the practical applications. The result provides strong evidence for the social value of academic research.

The material in the guide is based on excellent research and the work over many years of distinguished academics in the area of disability. I welcome the fact that this important research is not limited in its impact to academia. It has been translated for wider use into this accessible and well-targeted Transition Guide.

I know many people with disability will have happier retirements because of this guide and again I congratulate all involved.

Thank you.

Contact: Jenny Eather

Phone: 0478 303 173

Email: 09134109165e341316190219275c3c35230e2f0517523964084d