Government heeds calls for federal inquiry into laws on elder abuse

Advocates and seniors welcome Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse.

For the long-time advocates and service providers in attendance at the 4th National Elder Abuse Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, the years of campaigning finally paid off, when Attorney General George Brandis announced a new federal inquiry into how Australia’s laws can prevent elder abuse.

Senator Brandis said he had sent a reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a new inquiry into the laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse.

“The inquiry, which will report in May 2017, will identify best practices for protecting older Australians through the legal system,” he told the audience.

Older Australians held one quarter of household wealth in Australia, which was expected to increase to nearly half by 2030, and the opportunities for exploitation of that wealth would “escalate,” Senator Brandis said.

For years, the state-based advocates and support agencies working in the area of elder abuse, as well as various legal experts, have called for a more uniform legal approach to the issue.

For instance, in late 2014 Professor Wendy Lacey, Dean of Law at the University of South Australia, called for Australia’s criminal laws to be reviewed in light of the low rate of prosecutions for elder abuse, and for the various power of attorney and guardianship laws at state level to be re-examined.

On Wednesday, Senator Brandis also released the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) scoping study he commissioned to define the nature and scope of abuse in Australia.

He said the AIFS study found that elder abuse could destroy seniors’ quality of life and increase the risk of untimely death. “We believe financial abuse and psychological abuse are the most common; we know abuse is most likely perpetrated by adult children taking advantage of their parent’s love and trust.”

Senator Brandis said the Federal Government intended to collaborate with other governments, the community sector and the private sector to raise awareness and bring about cultural attitudinal change to elder abuse.

Following the announcement, seniors groups said they welcomed the new inquiry.

Alzheimer’s Australia’s said people living with dementia were at significantly higher risk of being taken advantage of.

“We need to ensure that older people, especially those with cognitive impairment are protected against all forms of elder abuse, whether they are in aged care facilities or in the community,” said the peak’s president Graeme Samuel.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia chief executive Ian Yates said the inquiry was a good first step, but more was needed to protect older people.

Mr Yates said it was difficult to know the full extent of the issue of elder abuse as so much of it happens behind closed doors, but there has been growing evidence that it needed urgent attention.

READ NEXT: Legal inquiry welcome, but national strategy needed: Commissioner 

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2 thoughts on “Government heeds calls for federal inquiry into laws on elder abuse

  1. It is with much relief seeing the ripple in the waves for elder abuse. We have a long way to go! But it is a start. As I type this my father sits in limbo, discharged from transitional care today, financial advocacy and medical advocacy 4 hrs away. His assets are all locked down in a legal battle by the elder abuser… He has no pension he has no income. He is in a farming partnership but the abuse (financially) )continues. My father has been in transitional care since September. We all knew this day was coming. No Centre Link assessment has been done by his financial advocate. At this stage in the day we know he has no money; he needs money for a bed. He has dementia, but is not unwell so he can’t be placed in an acute bed. He can go into respite, but he needs money. Hoping that our Federal Minister for Health can see to it that my Father is granted 2 weeks emergency respite. What do you do? Keep fighting and voicing up – someone has to eventually listen.

  2. The power of attorney laws need to be re-examined as emotional and psychological abuse of the elderly in majority of cases comes from power of attorney – family member – with other family members unable to stop the emotional and psychological abuse as the law protects power of attorney especially when they have financial power of attorney. They are able to withdraw elderly parents monies without permission naturally of the elderly person who has dementia and without the permission of other family members; they do not have to justify the removal of large sums of monies for their own gain; they do not have to produce bank statements etc.

    The only way any family member can bring a power of attorney to accountability is to commence legal proceedings … I have been forced to sit back and watch it happen to my own mother; no matter where I turned for help – and that included senior politicians, the law and elder advocates – no one could do anything.

    It was a nightmare to live through … the law is on the side of the abuser … not on the side of the family member trying to prevent elderly abuse. Hopefully something will be done to protect future elderly people from elderly abusers

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