Author Archives: Anupa Shah

An awareness-raising project that’s close to home

Seniors Rights Victoria was proud to help launch Timboon and District Healthcare Service’s new elder abuse prevention project, Warm Safe Home. The project focuses on one of our most treasured places, our home, in order to raise awareness of elder abuse.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2019 – No excuse for elder abuse!

une 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), officially recognised by the UN in 2011. Individuals and organisations worldwide will be participating in events and activities that empower, celebrate and inform older people, as a way of preventing mistreatment and harm occurring in their communities.

NARI launches elder abuse action plan

Victoria’s Public Advocate Colleen Pearce last month launched the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI)’s Elder Abuse Community Action Plan for Victoria at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Seniors Rights Victoria, the Office of the Public Advocate and community service providers all supported NARI to achieve this project.

“The key strength of this piece of work is that it sought to combine the insights of frontline practitioners with information about new policy contexts, existing services and cutting-edge trial projects, to come up with this plan,” Ms Pearce said at the launch.

NARI Director and co-author of the plan Associate Professor Briony Dow said elder abuse was a serious problem in Victoria, but like many issues affecting older people was often treated as a second-class problem.

“NARI research has shown that tackling elder abuse is difficult not least because older people do not want to talk about their experiences…..Many older people we have spoken to feel deep shame and fear further abuse,” Ms Dow said.

The research identified 10 priorities in the state-wide action plan to address elder abuse:

  • Clarify the relationship between family violence and elder abuse.
  • Raise community awareness of elder abuse and promote a positive image of older people to reduce ageism.
  • Increase availability of “older person centred” alternatives to disclosing elder abuse.
  • Standardise tools for recognising abuse, and develop and implement a common framework for responding to elder abuse.
  • Increase availability of family (elder) mediation services including for people living in rural areas and CALD communities.
  • Provide education and training on elder abuse for all health professionals in health and aged care services.
  • Improve data and increase evaluation.
  • Clarify whether carer stress is a risk factor for elder abuse.
  • Improve understanding and response to elder abuse in CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Improve housing options for both perpetrators and victims of elder abuse.
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    Country Women’s Association Raising Awareness of Elder Abuse

    The Country Women’s Association (CWA) in Victoria has adopted elder abuse as their main social issue to pursue in 2018 following the recommendation of their Social Issues Committee.

    CWA Social Issues Committee Chairperson Viviane Chemali (pictured) has been promoting the availability of Seniors Rights Victoria speakers to CWA branches throughout Victoria.

    About 30 women attended a presentation given by Seniors Rights Victoria Community Education Co-ordinator Gary Ferguson and volunteer speaker Jennifer Evans at the first of these talks held at Umina, the CWA State Headquarters last month.

    During the presentation, speakers cover elder abuse, risks, prevention, moving in with family and Enduring Powers of Attorney and Medical Decision Making.

    There were several questions during the presentation and some women cited examples of elder abuse of which they were aware.

    Bookings have been received for the coming months from a number of branches. For more information click on Senior Rights Victoria’s Education or CWA Victoria.

    Introducing our new community lawyer By Jessica Tighe

    Last January Seniors Rights Victoria provided a fine demonstration of their anti-ageist ethos by hiring a 25-year-old lawyer.  So with the shackles of private practice left safely behind me in Canberra, I returned to my hometown of Parkes, NSW, to load up a car and get the eight hour road-trip south underway – eager to meet this new challenge head on.

    Injustice of any kind rankles, but for me there is something particularly galling about attitudes that reduce diverse demographics to their vulnerabilities; something abhorrent in the sense of entitlement that leads to early inheritance syndrome, and the greed that overrides trust and family ties.

    The casework team at SRV sees the human face of this social problem up close and personal, every day. One thing I’ll say is that it’s rarely dull. On any given day at the Seniors Rights Victoria frontline you can find yourself at a nursing home or at the Magistrates Court; you could be breaking a client back into their home (with the help of a locksmith), or going to any lengths to keep a perpetrator out. We spend a lot of time on the phone with older people from diverse backgrounds, with a rich repository of stories and experiences to share. There has been POW survivors, eminent Order of Australia medallists, refugees from the Vietnam War and people who have simply worked steadily all their lives and were perhaps too-trusting a mother or father. They tell us their stories with a mix of resilience, humour, heartbreak, perspective and fiery determination.

    To my mind, there is nothing more motivating than working to redress a fundamental wrong against someone who wouldn’t have the means to pursue it otherwise. I don’t think I can ever go back to billing clients after this year, and I would really prefer not to have to give legal advice without the accompanying support of a social worker, like we do here at Seniors Rights Victoria. Lawyers and social workers together make a much more formidable team. Going forward, I just hope that the value of the service that Seniors Rights Victoria provides is met with the funding it needs. Because until that happy day when all our prevention measures and messaging take complete community hold, I can only see that we will need to keep expanding our specialist services.

    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.


    Our Practice – The Helpline

    There has been a substantial increase in calls to the Seniors Rights Victoria confidential telephone helpline which provides information, support and referrals on weekdays from 10am to 5pm (excluding public holidays and between Christmas and New Year’s Day).

    In 2016–17, the helpline service received 3379 calls (2696 previous year), of which 3285 were related to elder abuse or associated issues.

    Women made up more than 75 per cent of all callers. However, we recognise that elder abuse can affect all older persons and cater our services accordingly.

    The most prevalent issues raised were financial abuse at 25 per cent (28 per cent last year) and emotional/psychological abuse at 24 per cent (29 per cent last year), followed by adult children returning home at 10 per cent (6 per cent last year), physical abuse at 9 per cent (5 per cent last year), and neglect at 8 per cent (6 per cent last year). Very often a client experienced more than one type of abuse.

    A significant number of our callers were from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, with 234 advices made to clients whose birth country was not Australia, representing 35 different countries of origin.