October 14, 2019 17:41:57
The chair of the royal commission into aged care, Richard Tracey QC, has died seven weeks after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
- Mr Tracey died aged 71 in California where he had been receiving cancer treatment
- Commissioner Lynelle Briggs said the news was a “complete shock”
- She paid tribute to Mr Tracey’s wisdom, kindness and deep legal knowledge
Commissioner Lynelle Briggs announced the news this morning during the opening of the third week of hearings in Melbourne.
She described the news as a “a complete shock and absolutely shattering”, and paid tribute to Mr Tracey as someone who was prepared to “take a punt” to help older Australians.
Mr Tracey, 71, died on Friday in California where he was receiving cancer treatment, Ms Briggs said.
He had not attended a hearing since September.
Ms Briggs said while undergoing treatment in the United States, Mr Tracey had continued working on the royal commission’s interim report, which will be presented to the Governor-General at the end of the month.
“It gave us all hope that he would return fit and healthy in the new year,” she said.
Ms Briggs recalled how Mr Tracey had labelled aspects of the aged care system “cruel and unkind” and had encouraged her to “drive our policy agenda beyond change at the margin to transformative change, given the degree of substandard care that was apparent to us”.
“He was a thoughtful and considerate man,” she 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.
“I loved working with him.
“It was a genuine partnership.
“You could say that we bonded over morning teas, simple sandwiches, great fish meals, and Iced VoVo biscuits, which Richard lavishly shared with all the staff in the royal commission.”
Ms Briggs said Mr Tracey was experienced, wise and admired.
“He knew the law like the back of his hand,” she said.
‘Fundamentally decent human being’
Commissioner Tony Pagone, who will now take over as chair of the royal commission, said Mr Tracey’s work on the commission had been “solid, selfless and significant”.
“He had a selfless drive and energy which he blended with good humour and compassion,” he said.
“He was a man who enjoyed life, including at least some wicked pleasures.
“He would enjoy a glass of red wine and I can say the he even enjoyed the occasional wicked cigar.
“I will miss his wise counsel and his warm companionship.”
Senior counsel assisting the royal commission, Peter Rozen QC, said Mr Tracey was a “fundamentally decent human being” and his death had affected all of the staff involved in the commission.
Mr Tracey was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1991 and went on to serve as a judge of the Federal Court from 2006 until 2018.
He also served in the Australian Army from 1975 until 2014, reaching the rank of Major-General.
A minute of silence was observed for Mr Tracey.
The commissioners passed on their condolences to Mr Tracey’s wife, Hilary, their son Jack, who was in the hearing, as well as their other children Philip, Fiona and Rosie.
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October 14, 2019 09:41:48
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