The royal commission into aged care is a crucial step in revealing the full extent of problems across the sector and understanding the challenges to delivering quality care, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt says.
Mr Wyatt says the near year-long investigation, which opens in Adelaide on Friday, will examine the structural reforms required and where Australia needs to make substantial changes.
"Ultimately, I want it to help build a national culture of respect for ageing and senior Australians," Mr Wyatt said.
The Council on the Ageing said the investigation was a "watershed moment" for older Australians and their families.
"Every single resident in a nursing home and every person receiving aged care at home has the right to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect," chief executive Ian Yates said.
"Our aged-care system has been plagued with issues for many years."
The royal commission will examine the extent of sub-standard care and will consider how services can be improved.
It will also look at dealing with dementia, people who want to live at home, and a sustainable funding model for care and facilities.
It was sparked in part by the revelations of abuse and poor treatment of dementia patients at Adelaide's state government-run Oakden nursing home.
One of the Oakden whistleblowers, Stewart Johnston, said he expected the inquiry to reveal the ugly truths about what was happening in some aged care facilities.
"I've been privy to some horrendous stories, and that's continued for the past two years," Mr Johnston told AAP.
"I know for a fact we haven't heard the worst yet."
Mr Johnston's mother Helen was a patient at Oakden, which was closed after its poor care and abuse were revealed.
Investigations found failures in clinical governance as well as incidents of rough handling of patients, excessive use of restraints and a high level of injuries.
The aged-care industry said it does not fear the scrutiny of the royal commission.
"We have zero tolerance for abuse and neglect where it occurs, and we are committed to continuous improvement to address problems as they arise," Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Pat Sparrow said.
Australian Associated Press