The Institute’s project on the 'Human rights of older persons: International and national dimensions' engages with current issues relating to the human rights of older persons or human rights in older age.

On an international level the momentum to better ensure the human rights of older persons has increased in recent years, reflecting in part the ageing of populations around the world. It has been argued that the United Nations should adopt a new international UN treaty on the human rights of older persons or in older age.

At the national level in Australia there has also been growing concern about issues such as elder abuse, the inadequacies of the aged care system, and discrimination in employment. While it has affected different groups, the impact on older persons from the COVID-19 pandemic (and social responses to it) have added new urgency to the need to address ageism and structural discrimination against older persons in our society.

A major focus of the project is the exploration of the adequacy of the protection and enjoyment of the human rights by older persons or in older age at the international and national levels, as well as the identification of legal, policy and other strategies for improving the current situation. The project closely follows and contributes to discussions about the desirability and content of a new international treaty on the human rights of older persons. However, the project is open to exploration of other topics relating to human rights and ageing, and welcomes approaches by academic colleagues or students who wish to undertake research or other activities in the area of human rights and ageing, as well as by non-government organisations working in the field of ageing and human rights. 

Research team

Emeritus Professor Andrew Byrnes (Project Director)

Refereed journal articles and book chapters

Byrnes, Andrew 2022, ‘‘The human rights of older persons’ in Manfred Nowak, Jane A Hofbauer, Philipp Janig and Christina Binder (eds), Elgar Encyclopedia of Human Rights (Edward Elgar Publishing) (forthcoming, 2022)

Mitchell, William, Byrnes, Andrew, Bergmann, Anneliese and Peisah, Carmelle 2021, ‘The human right to justice for older persons with mental health conditions’ (2021) American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (forthcoming, 2021)

Byrnes, Andrew 2021, ‘Poverty, older persons and human rights’ in Martha F Davis, Morten Kjaerum and Amanda Lyons (eds), Research Handbook on Human Rights and Poverty (Elgar, 2021) 125–140

Herro, Annie and Byrnes, Andrew 2021, ‘Transcending framing contests over the human rights of older persons’ (2020) 38 Australian Yearbook of International Law 253-284

Byrnes, Andrew 2020, ‘‘Human rights unbound: An unrepentant call for a more complete application of human rights in relation to older persons - -And beyond’ ’, (2020) Australasian Journal on Ageing 1-8 (Early view), pp. 1-8, [3]

Peisah, Carmelle, Byrnes, Andrew, Doron, Israel (Issi), Dark, Michael, and Quinn, Gerard 2020, ‘Advocacy for the Human Rights Of Older People in the COVID Pandemic and Beyond: A Call to Mental Health Professionals’ (2020) (32)(10) International Psychogeriatrics 1199-1204, doi:10.1017/s1041610220001076

Herro, Annie 2017, ‘The Human Rights of Older Persons: The Politics and Substance of the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing’ 23(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights 90

Herro, Annie 2018, ‘Domestic interest groups and rights mobilization: explaining the case of Slovenia's support for the proposed Convention on the Rights of Older Persons’, Global Networks, vol. 18, no 4, 625–643

Herro, Annie 2019, ‘The Pre-Negotiation of UN Human Rights Treaties: The Case of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’. International Negotiation 24, no 2, 240–65

Vines, PrueAboriginal Wills Handbook: a practical guide to making culturally appropriate wills for Aboriginal people, 3rd ed., (NSW Trustee & Guardian, ISBN 9780646587769, 2019).

Brown K, Cameron ID, Keay L, Rogers K, Nguyen H, Vines P, Ivers R.  ‘Factors influencing duration of compensation following road traffic crash injury in older versus younger adults’   2020  Australasian Journal on Ageing Accepted 3 June, 2020

Prue Vines ‘Testamentary Freedom and Customary Law: the impact of succession law on the inheritance needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’ (2017) 91 Australian Law Journal 360-364.

Vines, P, ‘The NSW Project on the Inheritance Needs of Aboriginal People: solving the problem by making culturally appropriate wills’(2013) 16 (2) Australian Indigenous Law Review  18-32

Other reports or papers

Byrnes, Andrew and Titti Mattsson 2021, Background paper: The human rights of older persons, 20th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, February 2021,

Byrnes, Andrew 2021, ‘Building forward better with human rights law and procedures and law reform’, paper presented at United Nations Expert Group Meeting (virtual), Building Forward Better for Older Persons post COVID-19, organised by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2-5 March 2021 (PaperPresentation)


Bennett Moses, Lyria, Churches, Genna, Zalnieriute, Monika, Byrnes, Andrew & Leach Scully, Jackie et al. 2020, ‘COVIDSafe App - Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights’,

Mitchell, William (principal co-author), Byrnes, Andrew, Doron, Israel, Georgantzi, Nena, Sleap, Bridget 2020, ‘’Access to Justice: A discussion paper for the 11th session of the United Nations General Assembly Open-ended Working Group of Ageing (6 to 9 April 2020)’ ’, paper on access to justice January 2020.pdf

Byrnes, Andrew (principal co-author), Doron, Israel, Georgantzi, Nena, Mitchell, William & Sleap, Bridget 2019, ‘The Right of Older Persons to Work and to Access the Labour Market (December 16, 2019), Submission to the eleventh session of the United Nations General Assembly Open-ended Working Group of Ageing (6 to 9 April 2020), UNSW Law Research Paper No. 19-101’,

Sleap, Bridget (principal co-author), Allen, Robin, Byrnes, Andrew, Doron, Israel & Georgantzi, Nena et al. 2019, ‘’Social security and social protection, education and lifelong learning: A discussion paper for the 10th session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing”, protection and social security, education and lifelong learning A discussion paper.pdf [5]  *

Sleap, Bridget (principal co-author), Allen, Robin, Byrnes, Andrew, Doron, Israel & Georgantzi, Nena et al. 2018, ‘‘Autonomy, independence, long-term care and palliative care: A discussion paper for the 9th Open-ended Working Group on Ageing’, submission to the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing also submitted to the Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety as an annex to the submission of the National Association of Community Legal Centres, 15 April 2019’, and

Other activities

Andrew Byrnes