Aged care inquiry chair 'was remarkable'


Aged care royal commission chair Richard Tracey QC's passion and commitment never wavered after he discovered he was dying seven weeks ago.

In "true Richard style" he chaired a commissioners' meeting moments after sharing the shocking news with a few colleagues.

He spent his final weeks working on the inquiry's interim report, while receiving treatment in the US for terminal skin cancer.

MORE NEWS >> Aged care commissioner dead after sudden diagnosis

Mr Tracey and commissioner Lynelle Briggs finished writing the report before the retired Federal Court judge died in California on Friday, aged 71.

Ms Briggs said few people ever had the privilege to be a royal commissioner but Mr Tracey was made for it.

"He was experienced. He was wise. He was admired," she said on Monday.

"He knew the law like the back of his hand.

"He was prepared to take a punt if it meant getting a better outcome for older Australians."

Mr Tracey only stepped into the role of chair in December, when Justice Joseph McGrath stood aside for family reasons.

He was a fundamentally decent human being, senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Rozen QC said.

Mr Tracey's humanity shone most brightly when he dealt with the people sharing their often traumatic and distressing experiences with the royal commission, Mr Rozen said.

"Richard was passionate about the work of the royal commission and the need for change in the Australian aged are system," he said.

As Ms Briggs recalled, it was Mr Tracey who labelled aspects of the aged care system as cruel and unkind.

Recently-appointed third royal commissioner and now chair Tony Pagone QC described Mr Tracey's work on the inquiry as solid, selfless and significant.

"He had a selfless drive and energy which he blended with good humour and compassion," Mr Pagone said.

"It is no small mark of the man's character that he worked solidly as a judge, despite at the time carrying an illness which might have crushed others until remission seemed to have lessened the danger."

Mr Tracey retired in August last year after 12 years as a Federal Court judge.

Mr Tracey, who spent four decades in the Australian Army, was also a former president of the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal and judge advocate general of the Australian Defence Force.

He was a man of the highest integrity, Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses SC said.

"I appeared before Justice Tracey numerous times in both the Federal Court and military tribunals and admired his commitment to upholding the rule of law and commitment to the pursuit of justice," Mr Moses said.

He was also a great family man who lived a full and rich life, Ms Briggs said.

"He was the kindest of men. He was a lovely man."

A number of judges and family members sat in the Melbourne courtroom on Monday as the royal commission honoured Mr Tracey with a minute's silence.

"He was a remarkable man, as everybody who knows him can testify," Mr Pagone said.

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