Seniors Rights Victoria would like to hear from people who would like to take part in a project to looking at elder abuse and Contributory Parent visas.
The advocates working at Seniors Rights Victoria offer information and assistance to these callers, who can often be distressed. Seniors Rights Victoria currently has a Help Sheet which contains suggestions about what to do in these situations. This includes tips for the concerned family member or friend on listening to the older person with an open mind, letting them know help is available and encouraging and supporting the older person to contact Seniors Rights Victoria.
Seniors Rights Victoria frequently works with the older person and a supportive family member together to tackle their problems. From this work with concerned family and friends, Seniors Rights Victoria is aware that more support is needed.
To meet this need, Seniors Rights Victoria will next year extend their assistance for concerned family members and friends of older people experiencing abuse through a project that will produce a more comprehensive booklet. This booklet will be developed in consultation with people who can provide input into the topics and content. It will contain information on supporting the older person being abused and referral to appropriate services. The booklet is another way of achieving the commitment of Seniors Rights Victoria preventing elder abuse in the community and supporting those being abused and mistreated.
The Yarra Ranges Council project was released for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June. The video features poems written and spoken by the reference group members, about the isolation and negativity people feel while experiencing elder abuse.
Earlier this year, students read these poems and discussed the issue in a workshop, before drawing specific parts of the poems. These drawings were then animated by local animator, Al MacInnes.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Councillor Len Cox, said he hoped the video would help to raise awareness of abuse in the community.
“Elder abuse is a serious issue, and it comes in many forms, from physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual abuse, and it can include mistreatment and neglect,” Cr Cox said.
“This abuse is often carried out by people the victims know and trust, such as family members and friends, and victims rarely speak out.
“Abuse is never okay, and we cannot let this continue to happen to our vulnerable older adults in the community.
A Victorian Government funded project, the Elder Abuse Prevention Network (EAPN) will operate at 10 sites in regional, outer urban and metropolitan areas at an individual and community level, to raise awareness and educate communities about the rights of older people.
Senior Rights Victoria EAPN Project Officer Alexia Huxley said seven sites have been chosen for the networks. They are being run by different organisations including several community health services, a community legal centre and local councils.
The confidential community survey is being conducted by independent consultants Think Impact with the results to be provided to the organisations participating in the prevention work, and included in a guide to prevent elder abuse. No individuals will be identified in these documents.
The short survey is voluntary, with participants not asked to provide any personal information.
“We understand that some people may find this topic difficult. If they do not wish to answer any questions, they are welcome to leave questions blank,” Ms Huxley said.
She said the community was gradually becoming more aware about the mixture of factors causing elder abuse, including lack of respect and valuing of older people, negative media messages that portray older people as a drain on society and behaviour that overlooks or justifies elder abuse.
“These attitudes can be internalised by older people themselves who may also consider that family matters are private and should not be shared, or may feel ashamed of the behaviour of their adult children and not want to ask for assistance,” Ms Huxley said.
In an effort to address some of these issues, the networks are targeting older people’s organisations as well as service agencies, including influential community members – such as pharmacists, librarians and religious leaders – who come into contact with older people and encourage them to see eliminating elder abuse as a matter of social justice.
If this survey raises questions or causes any distress, or you would like to discuss an incident of elder abuse, please contact the free, confidential Helpline of Seniors Rights Victoria: 1300 368 821. If you need help immediately call Lifeline on 131114.
When a child’s parents separate, or when the parent who lives with the child forms a new relationship and moves away, the child’s relationship with their grandparents can be disrupted. They may see each other much less often, or not at all. In some cases of financial abuse of older people, a threat to withdraw access to grandchildren is used as a lever to get money from elderly parents.
Your grandchild’s right to spend time with you
The Family Law Amendment (Shared Responsibility) Act 2006 introduced significant changes to the Family Law Act. One of the key changes was intended to better recognise the interests of the child in spending time with other important people in their life. Under the Act, this includes grandparents.
The Act recognises that “children have a right to spend time on a regular basis with and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents and other people significant to their care, welfare and development (such as grandparents and other relatives)”. And, when a court is making orders under the Act, it has to take into account “the nature of the relationship of the child with other persons (including any grandparent or other relative of the child)”.
So while you don’t have an automatic right as a grandparent to see a grandchild, they DO have a right to see you, if that is in their best interests. And you do a have a right to have your relationship and role in the child’s life considered by a court that is making decisions about what future care and living arrangements would be best for the child.
There are a few things you can do to protect your relationship with your grandchild.
Getting included in a Parenting Plan
Grandparents should always firstly try to seek agreement with the parents about arrangements for spending time with their grandchildren. Grandparents can seek help with this from a Family Relationship Centre. All parties will be invited to attend a mediation session and if an agreement can be reached, they can enter into a Parenting Plan. Parenting Plans are written agreements which deal with issues such as where the child lives and who the child communicates or spends time with. A Parenting Plan can include a grandparent or other relative of the child, but the plan must be agreed to and signed by both parents, so grandparents can only be included if all the parties, including both parents, agree.
Parenting Plans are not binding or enforceable but the courts will consider them if the matter ends up in court.
Find a Family Relationship Centre at http://www.relationships.com.au/who-we-are/affiliated-services
Getting a court order
If there is no agreement, grandparents can seek an order from the Family Court or the Federal Magistrates Court as “a person concerned with the care, welfare and development of the child” to spend time with or communicate with their grandchildren. A grandparent would do this by filing an Initiating Application with the court together with a supporting affidavit. Each matter will be decided on the individual facts and circumstances but the court must consider first and foremost what is in the best interests of the child.
Sometimes a grandparent becomes their grandchild’s primary carer. In that case, they should seek orders that the grandchild live with them and that they have parental responsibility for the grandchild. (“Parental responsibility” means that the grandparent will be able to make long-term decisions relating to such things as health and education.) When the court decides who a child should live with, there is no presumption in favour of a biological parent. If it is decided that it is in the best interests of a child for them to live with a non-parent then the court should order that.
Many grandparents do not have the financial resources to pay a lawyer to assist them with legal proceedings. While some grandparents may be eligible for legal aid, the majority won’t because a strict means test is applied. Many older people, while income-poor, will have assets which make them ineligible for legal aid. The thought of representing themselves will undoubtedly be a daunting one for most grandparents. Some sources of information and advice are listed below.
To find your local Community Legal Centre, visit the Federation of Community Legal Centres site
How to run your own family law case
A self-help PDF kit from the Victoria Legal Aid website publication
Federal Magistrates Court website has a large number of downloadable publications about Family Law cases
For information, advice and support