2017 – A year in review

The past year saw tremendous growth in recognition of elder abuse. For Seniors Rights Victoria this meant a hectic year due to the pace of reforms, increased government interest in elder abuse and a higher level of demand upon our services, both for assistance with elder abuse from those experiencing it and from services consulting our expertise.

Seniors Rights Victoria has been participating in high level committees and working groups as a result of the State Government’s continued focus on family violence reform, the publicity on family violence and elder abuse, the State Government’s Elder Abuse Prevention Advisory Group and the Federal Government setting objectives to tackle elder abuse. We keenly took part despite only being a small service provider. To assist us to participate in the work on family violence, the Victorian Government supported us with a grant for a part-time policy position, and funds to enable our Advocacy Coordinator to contribute our expertise in meetings and consultations. We also continued to participate in the workforce development for the Department of Health and Human Services Integrated Model of Care in partnership with St Vincent’s Health Melbourne and the Bouverie Centre. This helps keep older people in the big picture.

The Federal Government’s commitment to tackling elder abuse was demonstrated through referrals to the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into elder abuse. We contributed two submissions to the ALRC inquiry, which were quoted extensively in the final report. This greater recognition of elder abuse led to more interest from other agencies and a greater demand on our services. Our Helpline calls increased by 25 per cent and our advices grew by 42 per cent during the past year. We received more requests than the previous years to work with organisations as expert informants through consultation, meetings, partnerships and the delivery of education.

Seniors Rights Victoria provided significant support to more than 50 events across the state who participated in World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June, including a partnership event at Melbourne Town Hall co-hosted with the Office of the Public Advocate. We welcomed the Federal Government release of the ALRC’s report Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response. We also continued our community education program to professionals, educators and the broader community, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse groups and Aboriginal communities.

We were saddened by the loss of the former Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Fiona Richardson MP who passed away this year. Fiona will be remembered as a trailblazer driven by a fierce determination for change and a fearless advocate for family violence, particularly the inclusion of the abuse of older people in this context.

Our staff have been fantastic in their sense of purpose and engagement in influencing policy developments and achieving action to address elder abuse. The quality of their work is exceptional and is a source of pride. Throughout the year the Seniors Rights Victoria Advisory Committee has provided useful input on the strategic issues arising out of the developments and demands.

I thank the advisory committee, staff, peer educators for their contributions and particularly the older people who shared their stories of abuse and their efforts to achieve change. Looking forward to 2018, Seniors Rights Victoria will celebrate 10 years of our achievements. We look forward to sharing our knowledge gained from working on the front line with older people, their families and service providers so we can strengthen our partnerships and increase community understanding and responses to stop elder abuse – Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria.