Our Consultant Lawyer, Lyn Lucas, who heads our Elder Law Division, attended the 4th Annual Elder Abuse Conference at the Pullman Melbourne on the Park Hotel, organised by Seniors Rights Victoria, on 24/25 February 2016. An impressive line up of speakers addressed the issues of elder abuse which covers financial, physical, psychological, sexual abuse, mistreatment, neglect and malicious harm.
The Federal Attorney General, The Honourable George Brandis urged a national discussion, with ageing Australians having the opportunity to participate, and added that there should be legal frameworks in place to support elders to protect their assets. Senator Brandis has asked the Australian Institute of Family Studies to carry out a National Prevalence Study, and encouraged all levels of government to work together. He believes we must raise respect and awareness of abuse and listen to older people, and give them respectful support.
The Honourable Susan Ryan, Aged Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner has held this position for almost five years, her term comes to an end in July 2016. She acknowledged there were big challenges with elder abuse, that the problem was huge and will grow with increased longevity of our population. Ms Ryan acknowledged that damaging social attitudes play a part, patronising and negative coverage in the media and public discourse, where elders are portrayed as frail, depressed, grumpy and out-of-touch, and that these attitudes lead to abuse.
Ms Ryan suggested we need a co-ordinated national strategy, with a Human Rights based approach and that national efforts should include a communications campaign to raise awareness, a national help line, a one-stop shop referring to other organisations. Training of elder care workers is crucial to recognise and know what to do, and GPs, police, bank officers and financial planners all need training. We need a National Secretariat to co-ordinate and drive and enforce prevention and the involvement of all stake holders is essential, plus older Australians.
Other initiatives raised during the conference included ;
- Better training for aged care workers to understand the effects on those experiencing dementia;
- Further training for lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and bank officers in advising clients of the pitfalls that could occur in appointing an attorney, and how they can better protect their assets and keep in control of their finances;
- GPs and police should be better informed about elder abuse, and how to seek assistance for abused elders;
- Better ways to protect an elder from financial abuse including a national register of Powers of Attorney, and education of elders in ways of protecting their assets;
- Raise respect and awareness of abuse, listen to older people and give respectful support;
- All levels of government should work together on the issue of elder abuse, issue policies and drive change;
- National effort to change social attitudes of patronising and negative coverage in the media and public discourse;
- National efforts including a communications campaign to raise awareness, a national help line with a one-stop shop referring to other organisations
The conference received wide coverage in the media with radio interviews of speakers, and newspaper reports.
Read the media report on the speech of Senator Brandis here
Read the media report on the speech of Susan Ryan here